Being in the right place at the right time is not something you can plan for the most part, but when it happens you should make the most of your opportunity.
Enter Ben Prediger, a member of the Sylvan Lake Gulls of the Western Canadian Baseball League, a summer collegiate league for players on both sides of the 49th parallel.
The 21-year-old from Calgary was on a bus ride with his collegiate team in North Dakota when former Gulls Assistant Coach Tyrus Barclay called him over to tell him about a ten-game opportunity with Sylvan Lake.
“He said, hey, Chatty (Gulls Head Coach Jason Chatwood) needs a catcher for ten games do you want to do it and I said, yeah for sure. I live an hour away, that’s perfect,” said Prediger.
He had University of Mary teammates Logan Moser, Noah Hull and Mike Polson as familiar faces to make the short run with the Gulls comfortable.
The stint has since turned into a stay of more than two months with a permanent spot on the roster for Prediger. Chatwood said he knew of Prediger and was interested in signing the young backstop to the deal.
“We had two catchers get injured before they even got up here, so I had asked him to stay for the remainder of the summer and the rest is history. It’s been a perfect fit for us, and I think for him as well,” said Chatwood.
He says it’s not surprising Prediger has made the most of his stay with the Gulls.
So, was it a matter of good fortune or did his play on the field help with the decision to keep him in Gulls colours?
“I think it’s a little bit of everything,” he said, admitting he had his struggles in Bismarck, but he says Chatwood and assistant coach Wyatt McKnight have ironed some things out. “I’m playing up to my abilities right now and I think it really shows and it’s helped me stay not only for the summer but to stay in the lineup right now. But I also think there was a little kick by the baseball gods giving me a little hand.”
He’s currently hitting .298 with one home run and 12 rbi, on the season and recently came to an end of a 17-game hitting streak. That streak had a somewhat pungent air about it.
“I didn’t wash my socks for about a month I’d say, about a month’s worth of games and it’s disgusting, I’m not going to lie. It’s the grossest thing for sure,” he said. “I got the idea from my girl friend which I think is hilarious. She plays soccer at my school, and she was on a goal scoring streak, and she scored like six games in a row, and she didn’t wash her socks.”
The streak ended and mercifully the socks found their way into the washing machine which made one of his locker neighbours, Logan Moser quite happy.
He has always been a catcher and it runs in his family. His grandpa and great-grand pa (both in the Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame) worked behind the plate. He has embraced his position.
“I love being in the play every pitch. I love calling a game. I play a lot of chess. I’m an avid chess player and I think pitching and calling a game is a lot like chess. Every pitch matters and every pitch sets up the next so it’s a matter of thinking ahead.”
He has a powerful pitching staff on the Gulls to work with which includes WCBL all-stars Steven Hospital, Ty Boudreau and Josh Tucker.
“It’s pretty sweet when you catch guys with electric stuff like that. It also helps too when you have guys that can really hit their spots as well so it’s almost like I have a rocking chair back there. I just throw it down (the pitch sign) and they throw it where I want it. They make me look good.”
He says each pitcher on the Gulls staff has a game plan and it has helped him learn to call a better game with these different styles on the mound.
Chatwood agrees on how Prediger handles the staff, adding they really like throwing to him.
“He gets a lot out of our pitchers, and he’s calm back there, and he gets settled in and we enjoy having him back there,” said Chatwood.
Prediger is currently working through a couple of injuries, but the future looks bright for the this very personable young man.
“If I got drafted that would definitely be a dream come true. Really, I’d love to play some independent baseball, overseas like in Australia or Germany in the European League,” he said about using the game he loves to see the world and experience other cultures.
Gulls’ fans can sit back and enjoy watching him play and await the next chess move.