Sports & Recreation(Archives)
Minor Mentor Brings the Pro to Local Baseball
He waits in the parking lot of the new Comiskey Park in Chicago, reminiscing of his younger days spent walking past the old stadium where he daydreamed of the announcer calling his name on the field. In 2002, it happened. The crowd chanting, bright lights with a childhood dream becoming a reality.
“I remember when I pulled up to the stadium thinking, I don’t have to go through the gates. I get to go through the entrance of the players and walk into the opposing locker room. I was playing against the White Sox… the team I grew up rooting for,” explains former major leaguer for the Anaheim Angels Lou Pote, as he finishes up a training session with members of the Fort McMurray Minor Baseball Association (FMMBA) at MacDonald Island Park. “It was an unbelievable experience. I was more nervous for that than I was any game I ever pitched in.”
Later that season, the Anaheim Angels won the 98th World Series against the San Francisco Giants. Today, Pote is Executive Director of Player Development for the FMMBA and has been helping the young baseball players of the Wood Buffalo community follow that same big league dream.
With over 20 years of game experience, Pote ended his professional baseball career after winning the Northern American Baseball League (NABL) Championship with the Edmonton Capitals and getting honours for the series’ most valuable player on September 13, 2011.
Rewind several months earlier to April and Pote already had Fort McMurray on his mind as he was making trips up from his family home in Sherwood Park to help coach the midget Fort McMurray Oil Giants for the first series. Once the Capitals’ pitcher wrapped up his last season with the NAL, he took on the ED position for the FMMBA.
Taking a turn to the other side of the game is a common trend for former pro players. And Pote had long decided having baseball completely out of his life after retiring wasn’t an option.
“I always wanted something in baseball after,” he says about coaching. “Anything I could do in baseball and make a living out of it was great.” And he’s proud Fort McMurray gave him the opportunity. “It’s a great place. People give. People get involved,” he continues with mentions of the FMMBA. “Just the board in general, they all work together to try and get better facilities. It doesn’t happen in every community, but everyone here has the same thing in mind: How can we make this place better?”
With past coaching experience in baseball camps throughout Alberta, Pote says he’s still learning his role as ED for player development and is quick to share that making it pro doesn’t make you an expert with the minors. He explains how the dedicated association members are helping him develop leaders.
“It’s not because I played professional baseball that I know everything,” he humbly remarks. “There are a lot of coaches that put a lot of time into it. I’m learning things from them. I had good coaches growing up and now I’m always trying to think back.”
Thinking forward, the future of Fort McMurray baseball has many prospects as the highly-anticipated professional baseball stadium is undergoing construction as part of MacDonald Island Park’s Shell Place $127-million expansion. And with talks of the province forming a new professional league, Pote believes the pro stadium experience can only benefit the youth players.
“You just look at it and you dream about playing there,” he says, reminiscing on his days back in Chicago as a young hopeful. “If we get players that are playing at a higher level, our kids can go out to the games (and watch players) that grew up in the same community. The kids themselves can play for either a professional team or college team. And now, instead of wishing they could meet the Jose Bautista they see on TV, they’d have their own version of Jose Bautista in their backyard.”
The community having their very own version of Lou Pote is a great addition and the FMMBA is dedicated to recruiting more employees with credible baseball resumes.