Kai Gandner is only 13 years old, but he’s already gearing up for major league baseball.
The Sparwood baseball enthusiast was recently accepted into the Okotoks Dawgs Baseball Academy — an organization in Alberta that trains and educates young athletes in the hopes that they will one day be able to live up to their dreams of playing major league ball.
“Having the opportunity to actually take my skills and progress with it is quite a good opportunity,” Kai said. “My dad went really far in baseball, so I’ve followed in his footsteps.”
Kai started playing ball when he was just three years old, but now he throws pitches that travel over 100 km an hour, pitching speeds that earned him a spot in the Okotoks Dawgs Academy.
“We’re very proud of all the hard work that he’s put in and accomplished to get to where he has,” his dad Dennis Gandner remarked. “I’ve trained him as much as I possibly can.”
Dennis noted that the baseball academy has a 90 per cent scholarship turn around rate, adding, “It’s the best facility in Canada. It’s a top notch facility.”
The school, which was established in 2007, trains athletes for 11 months of the year in their indoor and outdoor professional grade facilities. Professional athletes, including ex-pitcher/Toronto Blue Jays pitching coach Bruce Walton, train the young baseball players.
The facility is also partnered with two academic schools, Foothills Camp High School and Holy Trinity Academy.
Dennis said that when he found out about the program, he brought his son in for an evaluation, and Kai was immediately accepted into the program.
“We were actually kind of shocked that it went that way,” Dennis noted.
Despite his initial shock, Dennis said he knew Kai needed to explore new challenges in baseball, as his skills have surpassed baseball organization in the Elk Valley.
While developing his baseball skills, Kai trained in the Sparwood minor ball league, the Crowsnest Pass minor ball league, and several other leagues.
“We’re very proud of the people that have helped contribute to get him to where he’s at,” Dennis noted. “We have so much fun doing it.”
With Kai leaving to play ball and take his next steps to the major leagues, his family wishes him all the best with the sport that has been a part of the Gandner family since before Kai was born.
“The T.V., during the summer time, doesn’t go on anything but ball,” Dennis said. “It’s just something we love.”
And perhaps, one day soon, Kai will be the one Dennis is watching on T.V.