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Minor baseball alumni to play for Riverhawks

The trio is eager to pack their travel bags as opening day is less than two weeks away.

The new baseball team calling Edmonton's RE/MAX Field home features three St. Albert minor baseball alumni on the first-ever roster.

Will Gardner, Jason Serafinchon, and Tylor Jans will be among the first players to wear the Edmonton Riverhawks jersey, as the team is getting set to start their inagural season in the West Coast League (WCL). The Riverhawks were supposed to play last summer, but the WCL cancelled the season for the Canadian teams due to COVID.

The WCL is a 16-team collegiate summer baseball league that has a travel-heavy schedule similar to professional leagues. WCL alumni include Major League Baseball's 2020 Cy Young Award-winner Shane Bieber and two-time World Series champion Jacoby Ellsbury.

Gardner is making his return to Alberta from the United States where he just finished his second season playing for the Garden City Community College Broncbusters in Garden City, Kansas.

The Bellerose Composite High School grad had a phenomenal 2022 season.

Gardner's .345 batting average led the team, and he produced three home runs and 35 runs batted in. He also led the team in on-base percentage with a .450, and was able to show some speed as he stole five bases and was only caught stealing once. 

The outfielder's output earned him the school's 2022 athletic achievement award for baseball.

Gardner said he's ready to keep the momentum going with the Riverhawks. 

"I think there’s more in the tank for me as a player," he said. "It’ll be interesting to see where the summer takes me.”

Regarding his time in the United States, Gardner said, "It was a great experience. Definitely better baseball and more of a time commitment, for sure," he said.

Gardner studied business while attending Garden City Community College. Gardner is looking to attend a four-year college for next year, he said. "I’m just looking for somewhere that’s going to be competitive and [where I] can compete for a conference championship."

For Serafinchon, playing in the WCL is a chance to show he can compete with college players. "It’ll be a lot higher level league than I’ve ever been a part of because it’s a bunch of college guys," he said.

The 2021 St. Albert Composite High School grad explained he took a gap year to train and play with the Absolute Human Performance Senior Academy team. 

Serafinchon's training paid off, as he recently accepted a scholarship to attend and play baseball at McCook Community College in Nebraska starting in the fall.

"The whole recruiting process is beyond me, honestly," Serafinchon said, adding that Taylor Burns, the operator of the Absolute Human Performance training facility, "did most of the work for me; he sent all of my video to schools all over the place.”

Serafinchon, who plays both first and third base, said he is “very excited to go down to the [U.S.] obviously, but also nervous because it’s [my] first time moving away on my own.

"It’s a big growing up opportunity.”

Serafinchon will be studying business while in Nebraska, but mentioned that, "when I come back, I’d like to go into pharmacy studies because that’s where my true passions are.

"I’ve always just loved chemistry, honestly; it’s one of my favourite things and my family’s got a rich background in medical work in Alberta.”

Jans's collegiate season with the University of Louisiana at Monroe Warhawks hasn't concluded yet; the team still has to compete in the Sun Belt Conference Championship, which concludes on Sunday, May 29.

So far, Jans has pitched 46.2 innings with an earned-run average of 4.82 for a 1-4 win-loss record in his second year as a Warhawk. The right-handed pitcher has had much more playing time in 2022 compared to his first season, where he only pitched 15.1 innings and had a 7.04 earned-run average.

Jans said his "progression this year has been a little different." He added: "I have been kind of put into any role you can think of throughout this course of the season, but I'm just waiting and ready for when my name is called on and trying to do my job."

Jans, who is studying kinesiology, has one year of eligibility left to play for the Warhawks. Before attending the University of Louisiana at Monroe, Jans spent two years at Cloud County Community College in Kansas. 

"I'm excited about coming back to Edmonton and seeing what will unfold with the Riverhawks back home, and it will be nice to be able to pitch in front of family and friends again," said Jans.

The Edmonton Riverhawks play their season-opener on May 31 in British Columbia against the Kamloops NorthPaws. The Riverhawks' first home game will take place on Monday, June 6, against the Portland Pickles.

About the Author: Jack Farrell

Jack Farrell joined the St. Albert Gazette in May, 2022.
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