March 7, 2018
By Dustin Saracini
Okotoks, AB – The Dawgs Academy is proud to announce two standouts, Cesar Valero and LaRon Smith, have been named to the Canadian Junior National Team spring training roster for their camp at the Walter Fuller Complex in St. Petersburg, Fla.
“It creates a great environment when your hardest workers are your best players. That’s the culture these two young men are leading, they truly do lead by example,” Academy head coach Allen Cox said.
“They have really went above and beyond and are always the last ones to leave. Both of them are here for 5:45 a.m. practices, then they are back at 3 p.m. and are present for all of the optional workouts.”
Smith (Spruce Grove, Alta.), a 6-foot-1, 200-pound infielder/pitcher has committed to top-tier Indian Hills, a NJCAA Division 1 school in Iowa. Smith produced a quality performance at the T12 showcase at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, finishing the tournament with a .462 batting average, the highest on Team Alberta. He capped off the four-day event with a pair of multi-hit games and three RBI, and is now in his final year with the Academy before graduating.
“To wear the Canadian colours has always been a dream,” Smith said. “Ever since my older brother (Kobe Hyland, former Okotoks Dawgs infielder) was invited, I’ve wanted to play for my country, just like him.”
Valero (Okotoks, Alta.), a 6-foot-2, 185-pound infielder/outfielder has committed to Oregon State University, the Pac-12 champion and No. 1 ranked team in the NCAA. Before committing to the Beavers, Valero had four Division 1 NCAA schools tracking him. With still a year before he graduates, Valero has been a highly touted prospect since he was 13 years old, the year where he made his debut at the T12 showcase.
“It’s incredible, Cesar and me are like brothers, so it’s great to have him with me,” Smith added.
You may want to circle March 17, as the Junior National Team will take on a split-squad Toronto Blue Jays club in Dunedin. The event will be televised on Sportsnet.
The camp will ultimately run from March 15-24 and will include a six-game professional schedule against minor-league prospects from the Baltimore Orioles, Detroit Tigers, Tampa Bay Rays, and Blue Jays, with two intrasquad games and an exhibition contest against the Fort Lauderdale Stars.
The announcement comes as the Dawgs begin to ramp up their offseason workouts. Fresh off a day training with Purdue, the U18 Academy begins their schedule on March 17 with a pair of doubleheaders against the college program Prairie Baseball Academy in Lethbridge.
Around the Academy
2015 Academy alumnus and University of Pittsburgh junior catcher Cole MacLaren has been named to the 2018 Johnny Bench Award Watch List, as announced by the Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission on Tuesday. The award is given annually to the nation’s top NCAA Division 1 catcher and features 97 backstops. MacLaren is one of 10 ACC catchers to make the initial list.