Okanagan Athletics’ field boss Evan Bailey considers them three of the hardest working, most committed players he’s ever coached.
The payoff for Trevor Lofstrom, Trevor Mlait and Chase Decosse comes this fall when all three begin their collegiate baseball careers and post-secondary educations south of the border.
Lofstrom will head to Texas to attend El Paso Community College, while Mlait and Decosse are set to join the Eastern Utah University junior college program in Price, Utah.
“These three guys have been very special to me and to the program over the years, and I’d say in my six years coaching, I’ve never seen anyone with a better work ethic than them,” said Bailey, who took over the A’s in 2010. “These scholarships are their reward and I can’t say enough about them, they’re all very deserving of the opportunity.”
Loftstrom has been with the A’s program since Grade 8 and played the last three years in the B.C. Premier Baseball League.
The 2015 regular season was his best, as the 6-foot-4, 210-pound first baseman/outfielder batted .314 with a team high four home runs and 31 runs batted in for the A’s.
“I don’t think I’ve had a more intelligent player on any of my teams,” Bailey said of Lofstrom. “He has a very high baseball IQ, he’s eager to learn, he analyzes the game so well and he takes it to the plate with him.
“Another asset is his athleticism…as big as he is you don’t know if that’s going to be the case, but he is very athletic and made a lot of things happen on the field.”
Lofstrom was a multi-sport athlete growing up in West Kelowna but always leaned towards baseball and the opportunities it presented.
Earning a scholarship at Division 1 junior college in Texas—the same one Evan Bailey attended—is an important and challenging step for an 18-year-old from Canada.
“I’m nervous and excited about it at the same time,” said Lofstrom, whose older brother Morgan was a product of the A’s program and was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds. “I’m going to be meeting a bunch of guys for the first time, from all over the States, places like Mexico and Venezuela…it’s a chance to see how I measure up and hopefully prove to myself that I’m ready and capable to play at this level. I really hope it’s a good experience.”
Mlait battled injuries this season but when healthy was one of the most effective lead-off hitters in the PBL. The 5-foot-8 centre fielder led the A’s with a .352 batting average and scored 20 runs in just 24 games.
“He’s a hard-nosed, tough kid who would run through a wall for you,” Bailey said of Mlait. “His biggest asset is his speed, he can run and he uses that very well on the bases and in the outfield.
“He’s a gritty kid who loves the game does things the right way. There aren’t a lot of player you get like him, and when you do get one it keeps you around.”
Decosse, who will join Mlait at Eastern Utah University, played two seasons with the A’s and, according to Bailey, simply got better with each week.
A bonafide run producer, the 18-year-old catcher from Penticton stole 31 bases and scored 37 runs while hitting .280 this season.
“He was struggling a little to make the adjustment to two falls ago when he joined us, but he stuck with it and really just kept improving all the time,” Bailey said of Decosse. “He ran with it and has become a really good all-round player. He’s plays hard, gets on base, steals bases, he’s not afraid to get this nose dirty.”
“These three guys were all leaders,” added Bailey, “hard workers, producers…they have meant a lot.”
A’s in Langley for playoffs…
Lofstrom, Mlait and Decosse all hope their PBL careers will extend beyond this weekend.
To make that happen, the A’s will need to upset the hometown Langley Blaze in their first-round playoff series.
Okanagan will visit the Blaze in a best-of-three series beginning on Saturday.
Langley finished fourth in the PBL with a 28-16 record, while the A’s were fifth at 24-20.
The Blaze took three of four meetings between the teams during the season and is expected to give the A’s all they can handle.
“They’re tough for us to match up against, they’re deep on the mound with three or four good starters,” said Bailey. “They’re not going to beat themselves, they usually hold you to one or two runs, and they have a high-powered offence. You’ve gotta be on your game, keep errors down because runs are at a premium.”
On the other hand, as the A’s have seen in the past, anything can happen in a short series.
“No matter who you’re playing, you go into a series expecting to win,” Bailey added. “In a best-of-three you just really need to get hot for about five hours and who knows what can happen. If we do the small things right, we have a chance. If it was a best-of-seven, we wouldn’t have the depth…in a short series, we’ve got a shot.”
The series winner this weekend will head to Nanaimo next week for the PBL’s final four championship tournament.