Ayden Makarus has a lot to be proud of when he reflects back on 2018.
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound catcher out of Okotoks Dawgs Academy parlayed his impressive Tournament 12 showing into his first-ever turn with the Junior National Team, and earlier committed to LSU-Eunice.
It’s the work he does behind the scenes, though, that prepares him for what lies next in his career. Head coach of the Academy, Allen Cox, has seen it for six years.
“He is always in the building watching our guys hit,” he noted of Makarus.
“Ayden is a really hard worker as you can tell by his appearance when he walks into the room, he’s got second deck power, very confident, and is always smiling.”
There’s a reason for that smile.
Not many players can walk onto the field with the stature Makarus possesses along with a 6.60 60-yard dash.
It’s this type of skill set that made him one of 160 Canadian ball players and one of 17 Academy athletes to be selected to Tournament 12 at the Rogers Centre.
It’s also what garnered the interest of the scouts from LSU-Eunice. During the Dawgs Fall showcase last year, Makarus had another solid showing, which led to a campus visit.
“Me and my dad flew down there and toured the facilities,” he said.
“Toward the end of the trip they made me the offer. We kept in touch, and they ended up winning the (NJCAA) World Series last year.”
Now, the Airdrie, AB. product continues his busy offseason, exchanging his Team Alberta T12 jersey with one that dons the maple leaf.
Prior to making the trip to Florida with the Junior National club, the bench coach for the 18U Black Academy team, Tyler Hollick, suggested to Makarus that there was a possibility he could receive an important phone call during his day at school. What was a normal day turned into one to remember, as Makarus accepted a call from Greg Hamilton, the head coach and director of team Canada, in between classes.
“He said I really stood out when I was catching,” Makarus said of the conversation.
“He also asked personally for me to play at first base in one game, and I showed there. I had a great game defensively as well as offensively. I had a couple nice plays, and one thing kind of led to another.
“He’s going to be a great resource for me to ask questions,” Makarus added of playing under Hamilton.
“He’s really nice and open, too, so you can have conversations with him and not feel stressed or nervous about asking him certain types of questions.”
Makarus was a staple in the Alberta lineup, starting in all six games while batting fourth.
Catching the 1 p.m. flight to Florida last Friday, it’s not as though Makarus made the trip alone. In all, five Dawgs were called upon for national duty. Former T12 MVP and Oregon State commit Micah McDowell, Cesar Valero, Nicolas Tremblay, and Tyler McWillie joined him for the Fall instructional league.
It’s in the Academy, and with his teammates, where Makarus took his game to the next level.
“Being in the Academy has been by far my greatest learning experience and help in my development,” he said.
“The amount of time you put into the Academy and the coaches put in for us speaks volumes. Not a lot of other academies have resources that we do with the indoor facility where we can train year round, and the knowledge of all the coaches. The experience that is in one place is something else.”
Team Canada opened their schedule against NCAA Division I program Stetson University before taking on the Atlanta Braves and Pittsburgh Pirates prospects. They round off their journey with a game against the Ft. Lauderdale Stars and the University of Central Florida.
“Getting to play the Pirates and the professional teams down there is what I’m looking forward to most,” Makarus said. “The level of competition and just seeing how the guys around the field carry themselves will help me develop that sense of pride (in my game).”
When Makarus throws on the red and white uniform for the first time, the LSU-Eunice commit knows not to take the opportunity lightly.
“It’ll be the biggest stage I’ll have played on in my life, but I will wear it with a lot of pride and it’ll be an honour.”