Future prospects on the diamond for Bridgewater's Brandon Wentzell take a big step as the outfielder/catcher heads for Alberta to attend the Badlands Baseball Academy.
"They want you to be the best you can be," Brandon, 16, told LighthouseNOW. "And they'll turn you into the best player they can."
Located in Oyen, AB - about a three-hour drive from Calgary - the Badlands Academy prides itself on the importance of on-the-field skills and quality of education. Brandon will be a Grade 11 student at South Central High School, but he'll also have a steady daily diet of baseball athletics before school, hitting the gym after school, followed by more baseball in the evening.
The current commitment to Badlands is for one year, but he hopes the opportunity leads into his Grade 12.
He hopes to play elite division college ball in the U.S. one day, while studying sports management or another program leaning towards athletics. He's also considered prospects of being a professional firefighter (he's been a junior in the Bridgewater volunteer fire department where his dad, Andy, is deputy chief).
What about the professional baseball draft? Brandon's trying to be realistic.
"That's every ball player's dream," said the 6'0', 190 lb-er, who bats left and throws right. "But I can only do my best, and hopefully good things go my way."
He credits hard work that got his abilities noticed by the Badlands Badgers head coach. Taking a lead from some of Brandon's friends who played for the Badgers, the coach reached out to the teen and asked for videos of his hitting, fielding, and other skills. Brandon has played nearly all of his amateur ball in Bridgewater.
"I've always known about this [Academy] and I've always wanted to go out west for baseball," said Brandon, who played Midget AAA in Halifax last season. "I always wanted to give it a try."
The Badgers were all-in on Brandon and offered him a spot on the team. Between the sending of the highlight reel, a heart-to-heart talk with his parents, Andy and Kelly Wentzell, Brandon signed a deal sending him to wild rose country.
"Andy and I are very proud of him and support him 100 per cent," Kelly told LighthouseNOW. "He has worked very hard and his work ethic and determination has certainly played a big part in getting him to this point."
"Pretty excited," is how Brandon described his feeling about the move. "I've wanted to do this for a long time."