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Former MLB pitcher Andrew Albers shares journey from small town Saskatchewan to the big leagues

Posted on March 7, 2024 by Vauxhall Advance
Advance Photo by Brylan Span JOURNEY: Former MLB pitcher Andrew Albers was a guest speaker at the VAB’s banquet on March 2.

By Brylan Span
Vauxhall Advance
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

As a guest speaker at the recent Vauxhall Academy of Baseball Banquet on March 2, Andrew Albers shared his remarkable journey from the prairies of Saskatchewan to the bright lights of the Major Leagues. The North Battleford native reflected on his path to professional baseball.

“I had some arm talent early on and played growing up in North Battleford, not even the highest division in Saskatchewan, so you can imagine what that baseball was like,” said Albers. “For those of you that get to come here and watch the Vauxhall high school kids play, I can promise you that we were no where near that level.”

Albers joked about his high school playing days in small town Saskatchewan saying, “We would go to big metropolises like Wilkie and Glaslyn, I think Glaslyn’s field was literally just a farmer’s field that had some dirt cutouts, and there were gopher holes in the outfield.”

Growing up in North Battleford, Albers initially pursued hockey like many Canadian kids, only to discover his talent and passion for baseball. Despite the modest level of competition in his hometown, he honed his skills and eventually earned a spot on the Canada Cup team, marking a pivotal moment in his baseball journey.

Reflecting on his decision to forgo a 12th round draft selection in 2004 from the Milwaukee Brewers after high school, Albers credited his advisors and emphasized the importance of education in his life. Opting instead for the University of Kentucky, he thrived in the highly competitive environment of college baseball, leaving a lasting legacy as one of the Wildcats’ top pitchers. He finished his college career fifth all time in appearances at Kentucky, fourth in wins, and third in saves for the Wildcats in their 104 year history.

After being selected by the San Diego Padres in the 10th round of the 2008 MLB draft, Albers faced adversity with injuries and setbacks while transitioning to the minor leagues, including Tommy John surgery, which tested his resilience and determination. Despite the challenges, he persevered and eventually made his mark in the majors, playing in 31 MLB games.

Albers reminisced about the surreal experience of his first two nights in the big leagues with the Minnesota Twins, where he dominated on the mound with back-to-back scoreless outings where he went 8⅓ and 9 innings. 

“You dream of things like that but you don’t think it will actually happen,” he admitted, “and for me, I was fortunate to actually be able to live that dream.”

He cherished his time alongside baseball greats like Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer while in Minnesota stating, “It’s good to see a couple guys go about their business like that. They put in the extra work, and it’s easy to see why they were so successful.”

Albers also recounted his brief stint as a big leaguer with the Blue Jays, where he got notice that he was called up the morning of his only appearance. 

“They sent a car and picked me up for a three to four hour trip to Cleveland. Got there at about 1:00, got in the locker room and settled in, watched some video, figured out who was in the lineup. Mark Buehrle struggled that day, I came in in the fifth, gave up a three run homer to the first guy I faced. Can’t do that, the rest of the appearance goes good. Got called into the office after the game, and they said I was going back down to AAA, they needed a new arm for the next day. So I was fortunate enough that I got to play my one game with the Jays. I was a Blue Jay in the big leagues for 10 or 12 hours and it was great. I got to be there, there’s a picture and everything, there is proof.”

While explaining the difference between AAA ball and the MLB, Albers talked about how you have to play the best of the best, that there are no Mike Trout’s in the minor leagues. He joked, “Mike Trout didn’t scare me, just to point out he’s about 0-6 lifetime on me, so I brought that average down a bit. Few fly balls to the warning track but luckily they didn’t get out.”

Albers also represented Canada in three World Baseball Classics, the Pan-Am games, and many other events, which he holds dearly to his heart. 

“I got to pitch in 2011 in the Pan-Am games when we won our first gold medal,” said Albers. “That was pretty special because I think Cuba had won it for about 40 years straight. That with the big league debut are my fondest memories of playing baseball.”

Beyond his playing career, Albers is poised to make an impact as a coach, joining the Saskatoon Berries and contributing to Team Canada and the Blue Jays showcase. With a desire to mentor young athletes and instil values of resilience and character, he aims to emulate the community-oriented approach of programs like the Vauxhall Academy of Baseball.

In offering advice to the Vauxhall Jets players in attendance, Albers emphasized the importance of perseverance and resilience in the face of adversity. 

“You just never know how close you are,” he remarked. “Sometimes it’s just one little thing that clicks for you.”

As Albers continues to inspire the next generation of Canadian baseball talent, his journey stands as a testament to the power of perseverance, passion, and the pursuit of dreams, proving that with hard work and determination, anything is possible.

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