Boston Red Sox prospect, former collegiate Okotoks Dawg and current Academy catching coach Jordan Procyshen sat down with Dustin Saracini to discuss all things Dawgs baseball, being drafted, coaching philosophy, and working with Jim Henderson.
DS: Let’s take a look back at how and when you first began your journey with the Okotoks Dawgs, what was the story behind you becoming a member of the red and white and how old were you?
JP: I grew up in Calgary playing baseball and hockey, and I found out that the Dawgs were holding open tryouts and I was like ‘You know what, I might as well go check out and see what’s going on there.’ I came to the tryout as a middle infielder/pitcher, and I left the tryout as a catcher. That was when I was 13, 14 years old .. Look where I am now!
DS: What was it about the Academy program that caught your eye?
JP: I knew that if I wanted to take the next step in baseball that this was what it was going to have to be. I honestly did not know that much about the Dawgs itself because they just started (the year before I tried out). I played with a couple of the guys that were on the team already, so I knew it was relatively high-level baseball. I learned more about it as I talked to Vince (Ircandia), coach at the time, about their travel schedule and how intense the schedule is yearly, and I kind of knew from that basis that if I wanted to be serious about baseball this would be the next step I had to take.
DS: From there you obviously moved your way onto the collegiate team from 2010-13, in your opinion, how did this team, along with the Academy, get you set up for not only school, but your professional career?
JP: I was on the college team as a junior in high school, me and Tyler Hollick were on the team that year - me mainly because of injuries … I was fortunate enough to play for the college team in high school, and then again after my freshman and sophomore year at college, and it was coming home for me. This place is my home and that’s why I come back here every single winter, it’s the best facilities in Canada. It allows me to not only make my game better in the offseason, but to also bring on that next group of catchers.
But, the Academy itself prepares all of our kids for college. When I went down to the States, I already had the baseball IQ that some of the kids didn’t realize, and that’s just the little things that we emphasize with the Academy - the baseball IQ aspect. Yeah, you can be good at baseball, but, if you don’t know the other side of it, the reason behind certain plays or being in a certain position, there’s a whole ‘nother learning curve. So, that’s something we really take pride in here, we really do get our kids ready for college, that way, on day one when they step onto the college baseball field, they’re not overwhelmed.
DS: You’re in the Boston Red Sox system, drafted in the 14th round of the Rule 5, you made the jump to AA with Portland, what has this process been like for you? Was this something that was always a part of your plan?
JP: Absolutely, my goal since I was three years old was to play professional baseball and to make it to the major leagues, and my goal isn’t complete. But, I’m one step closer. I remember when I got drafted back in 2014 by the Red Sox and it was like ‘Alright, you made it this far now, I’m at the bottom and I have to work my way back up again.’ The Academy prepared me for that. Obviously, you never know what you’re getting into when it comes to pro ball, and the jump this past year to AA was a pretty big jump. My offensive numbers weren’t where I wanted them to be but I felt like I belonged there. I felt like I wasn’t an outcast. I feel like I know I can play at that level, at a higher level. The fact that now I’m saying ‘I’m playing professional baseball, I’m up in AA,' it’s a pretty cool feat.’I have to remind myself that my goal isn’t complete, every single day I’m working to make that step, eventually to have my name called to the major leagues.
DS: Where were you when you got drafted and what do you remember?
JP: I was actually at Crystal Ridge Golf Course here in town. I was golfing with one of my buddies and my brother and one of his buddies. I think we were on the sixth or seventh hole, I can’t remember the exact hole, and all of a sudden I got a phone call saying ‘Hey, you’re a part of the Boston Red Sox.’ And all of a sudden I look up, and it’s my brother running across in the cart, looking at his phone, and he’s running across the fairway and comes and tackles me. He just found out I got drafted. And then obviously I was still here in town, so I went and celebrated with my family, I went to the Dawgs game that night. It was kind of fitting for me to be at home, to be able to go to a Dawgs game, be with my family to celebrate the day that changed my life.
DS: I was in Okotoks this summer, and Crystal Ridge is a nice course, but I’m sure it gets nicer when you find out you get drafted by the Boston Red Sox.
JP: (Laughs) Yeah, exactly, it definitely holds a big place in my heart. I’ll never forget that day.
DS: All of this kind of accumulates into spring training with the Red Sox last summer, just another step in the right direction toward your ultimate goal. Being with everyday pros, were you able to pick their brain at all? Catching at the big-league level, what was that like for you?
JP: That was awesome. I was talking to some of the guys here today about big-league camp last year. And that’s always been a goal of mine also. Another step in the right direction, like you said, to eventually making it to the big leagues. Getting that call just shows the Red Sox have that faith in me to bring me up to major-league camp. Obviously, it wasn’t to try and make the team and I understood that, but I picked as many brains as I could. I was working daily with the other big-league catchers. Jason Varitek was working with us a bunch so I talked to him a lot when we were on the bench, during the game, he’s like ‘Hey, if you have any questions, don’t be afraid to ask.’ So I definitely picked their brains as much as I could, whether it’s about game-calling, or a certain way to present a pitch, talking to a certain pitcher this way or that way, and being around those big leaguers every day, it makes you hungrier. It makes you want to get to that level and understand where you need to bring your game up to in order to be, not only a big leaguer, but stay a big leaguer. It’s one thing to make the big leagues, it’s a whole ‘nother thing to stay up there.
DS: How much of climbing the minor leagues is based on mental toughness? Is this something you can relate to in your coaching, knowing you and the kids you teach both have the ultimate goal of reaching that next level. Them being college and you obviously the pros.
JP: I mean, it definitely takes a toll. The more you think about things that are out of your control, the worse it gets. At the end of the day, you have zero control over your fate. I could be going and having an unbelievable year and not get called up, or have a really bad year and get a call … Mental toughness is a huge component - that’s something I like to instill with these guys here. ‘Hey look, I know you guys see the glitz and glamour of the big leagues, the big contracts and all that, but it’s not all flowers in the minor leagues. You’re going to have bus rides where you get in at 5, 6 in the morning. And then, you’ll go to bed at 6 in the morning, wake up, and go and play a game that night. You’re in towns that you don’t even know how to spell the name of, some places you get 20 fans, some places you get 10,000 fans.’ Especially for some of our kids that have a serious shot of becoming a professional baseball player, just to have that little reality check for them. Because, a lot of these kids don’t know, and then they sign and then they think ‘Oh, great, I’m going to the big leagues right now’ or ‘Perfect, I’m going to be playing in front of big crowds and life is going to be perfect,’ when really, like you said, you have to climb all the ladders. It’s definitely a tough task, but at the same time, I’d rather be playing baseball for a living than sitting at a desk.
DS: That’s something you come back with - a wealth of experience, you come back with the ability to instill some of these life lessons that otherwise they wouldn’t know. What was it about this program that made you want to come back to the Okotoks community, and how much does this program continue to innovate and continue to find ways to get better? It seems every year there’s something new, and there’s more kids being signed.
JP: That’s exactly it. This place, it just keeps on producing high-level talent players. I mean, we just had a kid who graduated here two years ago who signed at the SEC with Justin King signing with Alabama. That’s probably one of our bigger signs since Matt Lloyd signed with Indiana. I love coming back to this Academy because I like seeing the kids grow. We had a couple kids here that I didn’t think stood a chance to stay in the program for another year and now they are some of our top players, just because of what this program does. We give them all the resources, all the tools for them to get better. And, when you do see some of those players move on and you see how much better they get, it’s really rewarding as a coach … the atmosphere that’s created here, it can’t be compared.
DS: We all saw the Instagram video of Jim Henderson pitching to you, do you help each other out in the offseason?
JP: This is the first offseason that Jimmy and I have ever worked together. Most of the time, he was in Arizona, but he’s back now. It’s a lot of fun to work with him. I’ve been catching him once or twice a week and he’ll ask me ‘How’s the ball coming out of my hand?’ We kind of feed off each other and help each other out. At the end of the day, we talk about the minor leagues, obviously I ask Jimmy about the big leagues. But, we’re both baseball players, we’re both humans, I wouldn’t say we’ve been through the same struggles because he’s been in the minor leagues a lot longer than I have, but we both have a similar understanding of what it takes to get to that next level. He enjoys coming back here and he’ll talk to the kids just like I will and it’s fun to be around a current professional.