iCASE: Canadian Academy of Sports Excellence opens in Stratford in 2013
* Quebec has 16 high school sports schools, with three colleges in the same like. Alberta has five and BC has three … now Ontario has a high school sports academy ….
By Steve Howe
Stratford – It doesn’t quite roll off the tongue like “Tinker to Evers to Chance”, but the newly-formed, dynamic triumvirate of the Avon Maitland District School Board (AMDSB), Stratford Northwestern Secondary School, and the international Canadian Academy of Sports Excellence (iCASE) will become a rather formidable lexicon in itself.
The unique idea of creating Ontario’s first student-focused, full-time baseball academy was struck when iCASE general manager Tom Valcke, the former president & CEO of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame whose full-time baseball career now spans 25 years, met with Ted Doherty, the AMDSB director of education, and Martin Ritsma, the principal of Stratford Northwestern.
“They were seeking to broaden the student base at Northwestern, including recruitment in the international marketplace, and I was looking to coach baseball in an academic environment, where student-athletes could obtain baseball and fitness training credits toward their Ontario Secondary School diploma, and the formation of iCASE grew from there,” said Valcke, whose resume includes teaching baseball in more than a dozen countries.
iCASE, which will open its doors in September, 2013, will be the first academy in Ontario to combine rigorous baseball training with a full-time academic education for high school students in grades 11 and 12. On the field and in the classroom, the iCASE program will groom each student-athlete’s program based on their individual stage of development.
On-going physical assessments, proper nutrition, embracing cultural diversity, and supporting anti-bullying are all key elements in the iCASE formula for success. For the student-athletes that may have the potential for a baseball scholarship or who possibly might be selected in the annual Major League Baseball draft, additional training will be provided regarding college entry procedures, SAT testing, what scouts look for, where agents come into play, what an MLB contract consists of, how the draft works, etc.
While the iCASE program will be centered at Stratford Northwestern Secondary School, the outdoor training and playing facilities will mainly be the two diamonds on campus and Stratford’s National Stadium, while the indoor training will take place in the school’s large gymnasiums, full weight training facilities, the 8,500 square foot baseball training centre located in the Stratford’s Cavalier building, and London’s Centre Field Sports, operated by former Major Leaguer Adam Stern.
Valcke, who will serve iCASE as its general manager as well as field manager, has an extensive baseball resume. The Windsor, Ontario native, who graduated in mathematics/computer science from the University of Waterloo, worked ten years for the Commissioner’s Office of Major League Baseball, establishing the MLB Central Scouting Bureau in Canada.
For 20 years and counting, he has been intricately involved as the head coach of the largest baseball clinic on earth, the annual World Children’s Baseball Fair. He currently sits on BasebHe all Canada’s Long-term Athlete Development Committee, is certified as a Master Course Conductor with the National Coaching Certification Program, has co-authored three baseball coaching manuals, and is a member of the Baseball Ontario Rules Committee.
He was the TV analyst for the Montreal Expos in their final season, and for the past twenty years has been acting as a chair/commissioner with national and international championships, including the World Baseball Classic and the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing. Valcke also created the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s “Kids On Deck” summer camp program.
Five years into his decade with the MLB Scouting Bureau, Valcke took on the position of general manager of the Triple-A Calgary Cannons franchise, before relocating to California the following year to continue his scouting career. As an amateur, he played or coached on five national championship teams and seven provincial championship teams. He began his full-time career in baseball as the provincial coach for the Saskatchewan Baseball Association, and moved on to run Baseball Canada prior to joining Major League Baseball. He coached five teams in 2012, including the Stratford St. Michael’s Warriors, who qualified for OFSSA.
He just celebrated his 25th wedding anniversary, and he and his wife Paula have three children, Alanna, Jaxon and Mia.
“Tom is perfectly suited for this exciting partnership,” said Doherty from his office in Seaforth, Ont.
“He not only has a wealth of knowledge and experience in baseball that is unparalleled by any Canadian, but he has the gift of being able to pass it on to young players and a proven track record of getting results. His scouting background enables him to identify and improve baseball mechanics in short order, and his passion for the sport is contagious.”
Ritsma was thrilled with the opportunity for Stratford Northwestern to host iCASE.
“We not only look forward to the addition of this exciting program, but very much to the idea of adding more students from more corners of Canada, and around the globe, to our hallways. That can only enhance our learning environment,” added Ritsma.
For additional information, please contact:
Director of Communications
International Education Administrator
Avon Maitland District School Board
519-527-0111 ext 132
General Manager, iCASE
international Canadian Academy of Sports Excellence
Tel: (519) 703-4088