Aldana jumps to college ball with Mariners
The fun isn’t over for Dustin Aldana. As a member of the Lomak Midget Knights baseball team this summer, Aldana won a pair of provincial championships and a silver medal at westerns. Now, with those highlight moments fresh in his mind, he’s swinging a bat for the Vancouver Island Baseball Institute Mariners of the Canadian College Baseball Conference.
Aldana, a 17-year-old third baseman and pitcher, had long been eyeing a college baseball career so he was understandably thrilled when he got a text message from a Mariners coach last December. The expression of interest by the Nanaimo-based Mariners led Aldana to make a one-year commitment to the team.
“I’ve been wanting this for a while,” Aldana said before he left Prince George for the Vancouver Island city at the end of August.
“I was hoping for the States but there’s not much exposure up here so when I got the text I knew I had the opportunity.”
In the CCBC, the Mariners compete against three other B.C. teams – the Okanagan College Coyotes of Kelowna, the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack of Kamloops and the Abbotsford-based University of the Fraser Valley Cascades. The league also features the University of Calgary Dinos and the Prairie Baseball Academy Dawgs of Lethbridge. All the clubs are currently in training mode and will play spring seasons from February through May. For the Mariners, exhibition games against U.S. college teams are also common.
After playing such high-level games with the Knights this summer – especially at westerns, where Prince George fell 4-1 to Saskatchewan in the final – Aldana expects to make a smooth transition to college ball. One of his coaches with the Knights, Dylan Lukinchuk, has every reason to believe that will happen.
“His work ethic is something that a lot of people don’t have,” Lukinchuk said.
“It’s amazing because he spent a lot of the off-season working out and practicing and such. And his skill on the field has elevated a lot over the last couple years. He was one of our best hitters this year, one of our best pitchers, throwing about 80 to 83 (miles per hour) right now. On the field we’ve got him on the hot corner at third base and he’s just fine over there. He’s making those throws all day. He’s really a well-rounded player.”
Aldana started developing his game at a young age. He was just three years old when his grandpa, Mel Springall, introduced him to baseball. A few years later, he was playing in the Prince George Youth Baseball Association and, by age 10, was running the bases at the all-star level.
In July, the PGYBA presented Aldana – a D.P. Todd secondary school graduate – with a $500 scholarship. At VIU, he’s enrolled in a one-year engineering program, with a focus on aeronautics. For 2018-19, his goal is to be attending school and playing baseball south of the border.
A second member of the Knights, Michael Taylor, earned a tryout with the CCBC’s WolfPack but didn’t make the team. Taylor got a shot with the club after his exceptional play at westerns, which were held in Kamloops.
Michael Taylor, left, and Dustin Aldana pose with provincial gold medals they won this summer while playing for the Lomak Midget Knights baseball team. Aldana is now suiting up for the Vancouver Island Baseball Institute Mariners.