Sylvan Lake Gulls catcher Ben Prediger is more than happy to follow in his family’s footsteps.
After being inspired by his brother Josh to play baseball and commit to the sport, Prediger always knew he wanted to be a catcher.
“My great grandpa he’s in the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame for being a catcher and my grandpa was also a catcher,”Prediger recalled in a recent interview with the Sylvan Lake News.
“I feel like it’s also by nature as a kid seeing the gear and wanting to wear it because it looks sick. From a young age, I also was one of the only ones who wasn’t scared of the ball and I just fell in love with the position, always being in the play and always being there with it.”
Prediger added that the catcher also serves as the field general on the baseball field, much like a quarterback in football.
“As a catcher, you don’t really have the luxury of focusing on offence,” he said.
“My main goal is to make sure based on the pitch I’m calling that I’m always moving players around trying to get a better angle for them if we get a ground ball or always trying to think a pitch ahead in terms of the pitcher trying to make sure we get the batter out.”
With the history of baseball in the family there is always going to be expectations, Prediger said.
“At the end of the day, I put most of those expectations on myself and I kind of got to realize that it’s self-inflicted but my great grandpa, my grandpa and my father have all done really incredible things in sport. At the same time, it acts as a motivation that I want to achieve the same things they have and maybe do better than they have so I can make a name for myself.”
For Prediger, his family has also been the greatest support system he has to get him to this point with his baseball career.
“I owe my parents everything, they have sacrificed a ton and have been so supportive of every journey I have taken along the way wanting nothing but the best for me.”
Prediger plays college baseball at the University of Mary in Bismark, North Dakota. It’s there where the Calgary native learned about the Gulls.
On a bus ride he was asked by coach Jason Chatwood to fill in for ten games as catcher for the team as the current catcher at the time was injured.
“I found a pretty great bit of success in those ten games and coach Chatwood asked me to stay the whole summer and that led to another opportunity to come back this year.”
Compared to the University season there are many differences, Prediger said.
“The University season is more stressful you could say because you are balancing school work with playing and in the conference I play in in the Northern US we gotta deal with snow, wind, and travelling a ton compared to here where all I do is just eat, sleep and breathe baseball.”
There are also differences between the coaches, Prediger added.
“I learned a lot of discipline and mental toughness through my coach at school and he really talked about stoicism a lot so he is very diligent and detail-oriented in the way he runs things,” he said.
“Coach Chatwood is also really great he has helped my game of baseball and he also is a really big proponent of reminding me there is other things bigger than baseball like making sure you are taking good care of yourself mentally, physically and spiritually.”
After getting hit by a fastball and missing a week, Prediger returned to the lineup on July 26 and had one hit in three at-bats.
“I’m back now and I’m ready to ball out. I live by the power of positivity and I feel like the more good that I put in the universe the more good that will come back to me.”
As for the future of coming back to play for the Gulls Prediger is hoping to come back for one more summer after this year.
“With the WCBL league, it’s either you need to have college eligibility or you age out at 25 so hopefully I got one more summer coming back here after next year and ideally I will be playing professionally after that. It has been my lifelong dream to play professional baseball whether that be overseas in Europe or here in North America.”
The Gulls have their last home game which is fan appreciation night on July 28 before going into a week of away games starting in Lethbridge on July 30 and the postseason on Aug. 7.
“We are playing our best baseball right now, we’re pitching well, we’re playing really good defense and I think fans can expect that we’re going to give it our all from pitch one through the final pitch of the season and we’re going to try and bring it all home for us this year.”