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Albers, Berries union fruitful for Saskatchewan baseball 

Written by Ryan Flaherty for Sask Sport 

Photo credit: Steve Hiscock

Life has a funny way of coming full circle. In Andrew Albers’ case though, it’s more of a diamond. 

After a baseball career that took him to the sport’s highest level, Albers is back in his home province and back in the league that helped propel him to the pros. 

The North Battleford product, who pitched for three different Major League Baseball teams, represented Canada at multiple international tournaments and played professionally in Korea and Japan, is taking on a new challenge as pitching coach for the Saskatoon Berries, the newest member of the Western Canadian Baseball League (WCBL). 

In 2004, Albers garnered Rookie of the Year honours in the very same league as a member of the Saskatoon Yellow Jackets. 

“It’s nice to have a team back here. Obviously, it’s been a few years. We have a great ownership group that’s done a great job so far with their marketing and getting people excited in the city. Hopefully we can create a great atmosphere out at the ballpark,” he said. 

The WCBL provides opportunities for college athletes to play competitive baseball during their summer break. Saskatoon hasn’t had a team in the league since 2014, when the Yellow Jackets played their final season in what was then known as the Western Major Baseball League. These days the WCBL features five Saskatchewan-based teams including the expansion Berries, with others located in Swift Current, Moose Jaw, Regina and Weyburn. 

WCBL rosters are made up of players from all over North America but many teams boast local talent as well. For their inaugural season, the Berries will feature seven homegrown players. Pitchers Maris Brons, Ryan Olchoway and Colin Plain, outfielders Payton McHarg and Nolan Sparks, and pitcher/infielder Cory Wouters all hail from Saskatoon. They’re joined by Carnduff’s Carter Beck, an outfielder who was named Male Player of the Year by Baseball Sask in 2023. 

The math is simple. More WCBL teams in Saskatchewan equals more opportunities for local players to develop the skills needed to advance their baseball careers. 

“It’s a matter of playing every day and getting those reps, because [Saskatchewan is] still a little bit behind, despite the amazing facilities that we have,” Albers said. 

“We’re still lacking a little bit there because of the short season and things like that, so having a place to play against really good competition for a full season and getting those reps in-game is really important.” 

While Albers admits he didn’t give much thought to his coaching future while he was playing, once it became clear that his career was winding down, he began to consider it more seriously. When the Berries came calling, he seized the chance to return to his baseball roots. 

Though he’s relatively new to the coaching ranks, Albers does have some relevant job experience. Throughout his career he would often return home to North Battleford during the off-season and work as a substitute teacher at his old high school, John Paul II Collegiate. That time in the classroom should be an asset as he works with the Berries’ pitching staff. 

The Saskatoon Berries’ first practice

“You try to find what works for each individual and try to build relationships, and I think teaching and coaching are really similar in that regard. It’s all about the foundation you can build with someone and the relationship you can build with them and then you just hope that you can help them on their journey,” he said. 

There will be an adjustment process of course, as Albers gets used to life as a coach. 

“You never think the playing days are going to come to an end, you always think you’re invincible, you always think you’re going to have one more year, and there’s the old adage of those who can’t play anymore, coach,” he joked. 

“Now it’s about turning the page and looking forward to the new chapter and looking forward to helping other guys reach those same dreams and attain their goals in the future. If you can have a little part of those guys’ success, that can be a pretty good feeling too.” 

The Saskatoon Berries open their season on May 25 against the Regina Red Sox.