PA’s Mortimer hitting the diamond with Prairie Baseball Academy

Photo courtesy of Cindy Adachi Jack Mortimer swings at a pitch during PBA fall world series action at Lloyd Nolan Yard in Lethbridge.

Prince Albert may not be known as a baseball hotbed, but Jack Mortimer is turning some heads.

The Prince Albert product is currently in southern Alberta attending the Lethbridge College working towards his business administration diploma while also playing college baseball for the Prairie Baseball Academy (PBA) Dawgs.

The PBA fields two teams, with the varsity team competing in the Canadian College Baseball Conference (CCBC). The PBA junior varsity team competes in an exhibition schedule against high level high school academies in southern Alberta such as the Vauxhall Jets and the Okotoks Dawgs.

Mortimer will be playing for the PBA’s junior varsity squad this season as he will look to make a positional change, roaming the outfield for the Dawgs.

PBA head coach Todd Hubka says Mortimer made a strong impression during the program’s fall schedule and he is hopeful that the PA product will find a role on the varsity team next season.

“He came into the program as an unknown. We didn’t know much about him, he’s a big kid. You can tell he’s liked the weight room for a few years, so that part of his game is there. He’s very strong, but he is a very raw kid. The one thing since day one since he’s been here is he’s shown he can hit. He has tremendous bat speed. We’re going to develop that this year on our junior varsity team and hopefully he can make the jump to varsity next year. Morty’s a hitter and we’re trying to see if we can find a position that suits him.”

Mortimer grew up playing infield for the majority of his baseball life, but he says he has enjoyed learning how to patrol the outfield.

“I found it really good actually, picked up on it pretty quick. It was my coach, (Aidan) Gehring that first kind of introduced me to the outfield and showed me some of the ins and outs of it and everything like that. So far it’s been exciting and it’s a nice little change. Positionally, I do like it quite a bit. It’s a lot different but I like that I can use my speed a little bit more and I think it’s going to be a good spot for me this year.”

The PBA is entering its 29th season and operates similar to a junior college program in the United States. The goal of the program is to help players earn a scholarship to play at a four year school in either the US or Canada.

The PBA has instituted a junior varsity program for a number of years, which has since become a trend across the CCBC with other teams starting their own JV programs. Hubka says the JV program has helped the PBA develop players that other programs may have overlooked.

“The JV program just gives kids an opportunity. For the most part, it usually has to do with strength. They can’t make the jump to varsity and the JV program helps the kids to develop for one more year to see if they can’t get bigger and stronger and more developed to make the jump to varsity. We’ve had some very good players come from our JV program that have moved onto US schools and a lot of times it’s just a matter of one more year of maturing and getting stronger.”

The PBA operates a schedule from September through May. In the fall, the PBA operates six days a week with mass practices four days a week from Monday through Friday and exhibition games on the weekend against other local programs.

Starting in October, the PBA plays the annual fall world series. Sophomore varsity players serve as captains and draft intersquad teams that will compete in a series of games

The PBA coaching staff takes a hands off approach during the fall world series and uses the time to evaluate the talent in the program ahead of the team making their final roster decisions right before Christmas.

Mortimer says he enjoyed getting the chance to compete against his peers not only in the games, but also for a chance at a roster spot in the spring.

“The fall was so great. The energy is just like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Everybody’s just going, it’s just a great time, very competitive. The fall world series has so far kind of been the highlight. That’s when you’re playing everyday. You wake up and you’re excited to go out and do the best you can do. The atmosphere, you just got to be there to understand what it’s like.”

After the fall world series, the PBA moves into a strength and conditioning program in November and December. The team will practice four days a week during those months, with players alternating days between a conditioning circuit and weightlifting in the first few weeks. In the second half of the program, PBA players undergo the program’s infamous 30 minute lifts..

Mortimer describes the PBA conditioning program as not for the faint of heart.

“(It) is definitely the toughest thing I’ve gone through to be completely honest,” he says. “It kind of gave me a wake up call just to see how conditioned you really can be. I thought going in I was in pretty good shape and then that opened my eyes to how seriously they do their training there.”

Away from the diamond, Mortimer says he has enjoyed playing for the PBA because of the expectations the program puts on their players.
“So far, it’s been such a great experience. I feel like the mentality and the things they teach you there help you. I really felt like I started growing up with just becoming more mature. Just becoming more of an adult because they keep it pretty tight over there. They’re going to make sure to keep you in line.”

The Prairie Baseball Academy also boasts several alumni who have been drafted and signed by MLB organizations. Saskatchewan’s Dustin Molleken signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates after being drafted out of the PBA in 2003, making his MLB debut in 2016 with the Detroit Tigers. To date, Molleken is the only PBA alumni to make it to the majors.