The Prairie Baseball Academy is excited and humbled to be celebrating 25 years.
Although the program has faced adversity, it has grown into an incredible success story for our community. Countless people have volunteered their time to grow the program and expand the facility.
It is with great pleasure that we introduce the Prairie Baseball Academy Hall of Fame (HOF) to recognize these individuals. Without their support, we would not have been able to provide over 700 players with the opportunity to pursue baseball at the collegiate level.
A committee has been created to assist with processing nominations for eligible coaches, players, board members or community volunteers. These seven men, with the exception of Mr. Secretan are alumni of the program and are excited to be able to help elect the first members into our Hall of Fame on February 1st, 2020 at our annual Celebration of Baseball Banquet.
The committee includes the following members:
· Glenn Secretan - Current PBA President
· Denny Puszkar (1996-98)
· Myles Fletcher (1998-2000)
· Craig Paskal (2001-04)
· Omar Kadir (2003-05)
· Jesse Sawyer (2006-08)
· Evan Comeau (2011-13)
This year’s inductees are notable for their commitment to building the game, both on and off the field. We will be unveiling all 2020 inductees as we lead up to the banquet on February 1st.
It is with great honor that our first inductee into the PBA Hall of Fame is none other than our first coach, Blair Kubicek.
Coach Kubicek moved to Lethbridge in the summer of 1995 and began working on recruiting the first ever PBA team. The Academy took to the field at Henderson Stadium on September 4th, 1995 with 52 players eager to show off their skills. The first year of the program had many hurdles to overcome and Coach Kubicek was determined to make Prairie Baseball Academy into a powerhouse college baseball program that could compete with similar programs across North America. Under Kubicek’s reign as head coach from 1995-2010 he compiled a 353-279-3 record. During his fifteen years with the program 110 players went on to 4-year institutions, and 27 players were drafted or signed into professional baseball. Coach Kubicek’s blue collar mentality has stayed with the Prairie Baseball Academy to this day and is one of the many reasons PBA has been so successful over the last 25 years. Coach Kubicek spoke on attitude and mentality all the time. We would like to leave you with a passage that Coach used at PBA for many years:
The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a team, a company, or a family. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for the day, in school and at the yard. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it. So, it is with you and your teammates, we are in charge of our attitudes. If we think we “can” or if we think we “cannot” we are right.
Committee member Omar Kadir had the privilege of contacting Coach Kubicek to inform him of his induction, and had this to say about their conversation:
“Coach Kubicek was very honoured to be receiving this Hall of Fame induction. He spoke highly of his time at PBA and really values the relationships he made with players and staff.” Congratulations Coach Kubicek on being the first member named to the PBA Hall of Fame!
Our second inductee into the PBA Hall of Fame will be Keith Jorgensen. Unfortunately Keith passed away after a long battle with cancer in 2016. Keith will be honoured posthumously by his wife Beverley Jorgensen at this years banquet. The PBA staff would like to thank Bev for writing the following passage about Keith and his influence on the Prairie Baseball Academy from the very beginning:
Prairie Baseball Academy was truly a dream program for four visionary men. In the summer of 1993 Doug Jones (President of Alberta Baseball), Blair Kubicek (Coach at Edmonds College) , Reed Spencer (Scout for Colorado Rockies) and Dale Tilleman (Scout for the New York Yankees) had an inspiring conversation in regard to a Canadian College Baseball program. From this simple but profound idea they then approached Alberta Sport Council for support and the sport council responded quickly with a great deal of enthusiasm. Doug, Dale and Reed added a new recruit, Keith Jorgensen to their roster and they headed to Medicine Hat to meet with Wayne Schlosser, Lovell McDonnell and Kevin Friesen. In October 1994, Keith was elected the first President of PBA, Doug, the Vice-President, Dale, the Secretary-Treasurer and Board members were: Reed Spencer, Wayne Schlosser and Wayne Guenter. And Prairie Baseball Academy was established.
Keith served as President from 1994-2001. Many challenges were forthcoming in the early years as the program took shape. Keith was instrumental in drafting the PBA Constitution and PBA Mission Statement. As partnerships were formed with the University of Lethbridge and the Lethbridge Community College educational needs of the students were met. Between these two institutions, student athletes are able to receive excellent training in almost any field that they might choose to enter. Many meetings were held with the City of Lethbridge to develop a plan for a much needed facility. Construction was soon underway and Lloyd Nolan Yard became a reality with a grand opening in September 1999. PBA sponsored many winter and summer Instructional, Conditioning, Hitting and Pitching Seminars and Camps for youth in Southern Alberta. Coaches and Umpires Conventions were offered in conjunction with the annual PBA Awards Banquet.
Keith served on the Board of Directors from 1994-2016 as the Business/Promotions manager. He had a variety of responsibilities: player registration, fund-raising, media guide program, awards banquet chairman, tournament organizer, and could almost always be found during home games at the barbecue or helping out in the concession.
As the program grew and young men came from all across Canada to hone their baseball skills with a desire to gain an education in their chosen career paths, Keith envisioned a Scholarship program that would encourage and help them to achieve both of these goals. And so the PBA Caddie Classic was formed. His goal was to bring together a community of like-minded golfers, to introduce them to PBA Baseball players and have a fun and rewarding day playing golf. To Keith’s delight the first PBA Golf Tournament was a great success which resulted in a very successful Scholarship program too.
Prairie Baseball Academy was the perfect venue for Keith. He loved children, teaching, baseball, golf and being involved in his community. The Academy certainly provided Keith the opportunity to do all that he held dear to his heart and more.
As his family we feel a deep sense of pride that Keith will have a place of honor on the Wall of Fame for Prairie Baseball Academy. We know how much he loved baseball and especially this program, so we thank you for this tribute to his legacy.
Beverley Jorgensen and Family
Prairie Baseball Academy would like to recognize Rick Paskal as the next inductee into our Hall of Fame. Rick was one of the original gold sponsors of the PBA program. Rick served as the second President of PBA from 1998-2002. It was clear from day one that Rick valued the community and had a vision to produce a state of the art facility at Lloyd Nolan Yard. Rick spent countless hours working with contractors and the City of Lethbridge to create a baseball facility that could be home to a Canadian college baseball program. Rick did all of this work while running his own successful trucking, cattle and feedlot business.
Rick was a firm believer that academics must come first for PBA to thrive. He always made sure to acknowledge both post-secondary institutions and the vital role they played in the success of the program. All three of his sons: Kurtis, Kevin, and Craig played for PBA and have since joined the family operation out in Picture Butte, AB.
Rick and the Paskal family have remained incredibly supportive of PBA through the years, donating thousands of dollars at fundraisers and banquets. The Paskal Family purchase the PBA Work Package in our live auction at the PBA Banquet almost every single year. The players come out to the farm for a day and pick hundreds of rocks out of the fields. Waiting for them at the end of the day is one of the best steak dinners you can imagine, all the fixings, for thirty or more hungry young players, it is a sight to see. Simply said, our program would not be the same without Rick’s commitment, leadership, and strong values. We appreciate your dedication to our community and belief that pursuing a career in baseball is best paired with strong values and a quality education.
Two of our Hall of Fame Committee members (Picture Above from left to right: Craig Paskal, Rick Paskal, Denny Puszkar) along with Coach Hubka were able to get out to Picture Butte before the holidays to speak with Rick about what this honour means to him. As always, Rick was hesitant and humbled by the praise he was receiving. Rick continued to say “He was a little unsure what he did to deserve such a big honour, he was just being a dad.” Which sums up what an amazing person Rick is.
We at the Prairie Baseball Academy cannot thank Rick enough for being an amazing father, and literally helping build Lloyd Nolan Yard. Congratulations Rick Paskal on being named to the PBA Hall of Fame!
The Prairie Baseball Academy is excited to announce our next inductee into the PBA Hall of Fame. Doug Jones commitment to baseball in Southern Alberta has been unbelievable over the last 25 years. Not only did Doug help start the Prairie Baseball Academy, he was involved in the start of the Vauxhall Academy of Baseball and The Badlands Baseball Academy. To top it all off Doug was instrumental in the expansion of the Alberta teams to the Western Major Baseball League in 2001 (Since re-named the Western Canadian Baseball League WCBL). Doug is a true visionary in every sense of the word. We at the Prairie Baseball Academy are honoured to be able to induct Doug into our Hall of Fame.
(From left to right: Myles Fletcher, Doug Jones, Jesse Sawyer)
The vision of PBA began in the summer of 1993. Doug Jones and Blair Kubicek were standing behind the backstop at Optimist Park in Calgary watching a Midget AAA Provincial Tournament game. Doug was there as President of Baseball Alberta and Blair was there scouting for the Cleveland Indians. As they talked Doug discovered that Blair was also the Head Coach of the Edmonds Community College Baseball Team and he asked Blair if he thought a Junior College program could survive in Canada. The game they were watching suddenly became of little importance and college baseball in Canada became the only topic of conversation. By the end of that Saturday they were sure they could start a program; of course nobody knew where it would be based or where the money was going to come from but they knew it could be done. Over the next few months Lethbridge was selected as the location to form this new academy and in the Fall of 1995 the first 50+ PBA players took to the field at Henderson Stadium.
PBA Alumnus Aaron Lavorato had this to say about Doug:
"These baseball programs have created pathways for players and coaches and have provided exposure to priceless and instrumental life experiences. These experiences would not have been available without the dedication and tireless commitment of Mr. Jones."
Congratulations to Doug Jones on being named to the PBA Hall of Fame!
The Prairie Baseball Academy is proud to next induct Larry Nolan into our Hall of Fame.
Prairie Baseball Academy owes an overwhelming debt of gratitude to Larry Nolan for his generous support from the very beginning of the PBA program.
Larry was first introduced and fell in love with the game of baseball as a youngster. He and his cousin, Keith Jorgensen (also inducted into the PBA HOF in 2020) played on the same Little League team in 1955. When the boys got a little older, Lloyd Nolan, Larry’s older brother coached them and shared the same passion for baseball as the two young men.
In 1996, Keith Jorgensen and Coach Kubicek met with Larry at his home. The group of men sat at the kitchen table and Larry was asked if he would become a Gold Sponsor of PBA. Larry said yes and was elated that he had an opportunity to give back to a baseball program in Southern Alberta. This was the beginning of an incredible relationship between Larry and PBA that has lasted through to this day.
Fast forward to 1997, Rick Paskal and Coach Kubicek approached Larry in regard to a donation towards the construction of a new facility for PBA. Once again Larry answered with a resounding yes! The wheels were set in motion, The City of Lethbridge was on board, a location was determined and construction began under the expertise of Rick Williams. Coach Kubicek and Rick Paskal were the driving forces behind getting the facilities built: Blair had the vision, and Rick was the “man who walked with a big stick.” Larry was so pleased to see the speed with which the facility took shape. Not long after breaking ground on the North Side of Lethbridge was the facility complete, the only detail left was to add a name to the facility. The Nolan family was consulted and it was determined that this baseball complex would be named “Lloyd Nolan Yard.”
Recently, Larry was asked “Why would you choose to contribute in such a large way?”
Larry replied “In my business I have had an opportunity to help others and I am grateful that I could.” Larry expressed how special it is to have had baseball players approach him, shake his hand and say thank you. These special moments to Larry are what have made it all worthwhile. Baseball has always had a tender spot in Larry’s heart and he is so pleased that PBA has brought the best to Southern Alberta. A closing thought from Larry and a quote:
“Baseball has grown so much over the last 25 years, and it is clear the role that the Prairie Baseball Academy has had contributing to that growth.”
(Left: Larry Nolan, Right: Denny Puszkar)
Congratulations Larry Nolan on being inducted into the PBA Hall of Fame!
Our 6th and final inductee into the PBA Hall of Fame for 2020 is Dustin Molleken. Dustin is the first and only player from PBA to play in the MLB. Originally from Regina, Saskatchewan, Dustin came to PBA in 2003 after playing with the Canadian Junior National Team. Dustin had a successful year with PBA and was drafted in the 15th round by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Dustin was 18 years old in 2003, he is 35 years old now, still competing at the highest level. Dustin will represent Canada at the 2020 Olympic qualifier in Arizona this March and hopefully at the Olympics in Tokyo, Japan this summer. Dustin has had an incredible career spanning close to two decades in the game of baseball and we are proud to say that PBA was one of the early stops on Dustin’s journey.
The PBA coaching staff is extremely proud to boast about Dustin’s success. The following list is a glimpse into what this man has accomplished and where Dustin has been in his baseball career:
2002 Played for the Canadian Junior National Team
2003 Played at PBA. Drafted by the Pirates in the 15th Round
2003-2011 Played in the Pirates organization
2011 Signed with the Colorado Rockies (AA, AAA)
2011 Competed with Team Canada at the Pan Am Games. Won Gold.
2012/13 Signed in Japan for the Nippon Ham Fighters.
First ever Canadian player to pitch in the Japan World Series.
2014 Signed with the Milwaukee Brewers (AAA - Nashville Sounds)
2015 Signed with the Cleveland Indians (AAA - Columbus Clippers)
2016 Signed with the Detroit Tigers (AAA - Toledo Mud Hens)
2016 Made his big league debut on July 4th Vs. Cleaveland Indians
Pitched against the Toronto Blue Jays @ Rogers Centre
2017 Played with the Toledo Mud Hens
2018 Played with the Somerset Patriots in the Atlantic League
2019 Competed with Team Canada at the Pan Am Games. Won Silver.
2020 Will compete in the 2020 Olympic Qualifier
2020 Hopefully Team Canada qualifies and Dustin is in Tokyo for the Olympics.
Coach Hubka had this to say about Dustin and what he means to PBA:
“Dustin was only with us for one year, but he was one of the best teammates and players a coach could ask for. The guy would give you the shirt off his back in a snowstorm, it's just the kind of person he is. The Prairie Baseball Academy is proud to have Dustin as an alumni and a role model for our current players to look up to. Dustin has accomplished a tremendous amount in his life because of baseball, including his beautiful family that we are so very excited will be joining us at the banquet on February 1st to receive this honour.”
Congratulations Dustin on being the first former PBA player to be named to the Hall of Fame!