Hutzal worth the hype
By Matt Betts
Canadian Baseball Network
If you are ever watching the Okotoks Dawgs or Canadian Junior National Team and hear a voice coming from the field that isn’t talking to anyone in particular don’t be alarmed, it’s probably just Peter Hutzal.
“He is always talking to himself,” Allen Cox, head coach of the Okotoks Dawgs program said. “He does it quite a bit actually.”
Hutzal has grown up in the Okotoks program, beginning there in his bantam year and developing into the standout that he is now. Initially, he came into the program as a catcher but was soon after transformed into a shortstop. Coach Cox wanted to utilize his speed, quickness and strong arm in the middle of the infield.
“He can get it up to 90 (mph) across the diamond,” Cox said. “He has a great arm, we have even used him off the mound before.”
Although he won’t grab your attention with his stature, you are sure to notice him based on his style of play. He is known to the Okotoks coaching staff as being “like the energizer bunny” as he is always buzzing around, making plays and picking up his teammates.
“You can definitely tell when he is around,” Cox said. “It is a totally different feel from when he is here to when he is not.”
He has even been described as one of those love/hate players, everyone has played with one or against one.
“He is one of those guys that when you play against him you probably don’t like him very much,” Cox said. “He is always talking and making plays. Also you probably don’t like him very much because you know there is a good chance he is going to beat you.”
The 2016 Washington State commit also participated in the 18U World Cup in Osaka, Japan. The energy he brings, along with his strong defensive play must have been something that caught the eye of the Junior National Team coaching staff.
“When he goes, we go,” Cox said about his Okotoks Dawgs when Hutzal is in the lineup. “He is going to bat lead off for us when he is here and not away.”
Coach Cox believes Hutzal is one of the best at coming to get the baseball on defence. He is also very strong making plays in the hole with his strong throwing arm. A lot of guys can make the backhand plays but with his arm it allows him to make some extraordinary plays.
Offensively, Hutzal is nothing to scoff at either. Although his power is not like it was when he was young when the dimensions were a little smaller, he has transformed his swing more into a gap to gap hitter. That is something most coaches will take with spectacular defence from their shortstop.
Hutzal was also given the honour of being a top five selection to the Alberta Red team for this year’s Tournament 12. A car accident prevented him from appearing, but coaches say he is back to normal. This should be no surprise as he is seen as a leader on the field. He also participated in the tournament a year ago.
“He never takes a play off,” Cox said. “We could be doing a drill inside in December and he is the player who runs down a guy in a rundown. If anything we have to slow him down a bit. That is a good problem to have.”
The ability to move on from a mistake can be challenging. Having the mental toughness to learn from an error without it affecting you is something even the top baseball players can struggle with from time to time. For Hutzal, he uses his energy to help him recover from a bad play or game.
“I definitely think his energy allows him to pick himself up from having a bad at bat,” Cox said. “He simply is an energy guy, he has been that way forever. If he has a bad at bat, there is a pretty good chance he is going to go out there and make a spectacular play on defence. He doesn’t take his at bats out into the field with him”
Playing in such a high profile tournament certainly is something to be proud about. Again this year the pride stretches out to Alberta and the Okotoks Dawgs family.
“We thought it was awesome (when they heard the news of Hutzal’s selection),” Cox said. “It is the best tournament in Canada.”
Hutzal will get to showcase his abilities under the bright lights of Rogers Centre yet again. His energy will be on full display.
Just remember, that voice you hear is totally normal.