Al­dana jumps to col­lege ball with Mariners

The Prince George Citizen - - SPORTS - Ja­son PETERS Cit­i­zen Sports Editor jpeters@pgc­i­t­i­zen.ca

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.

HAND­OUT PHOTO

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.

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