First published in the Lethbridge Herald Tuesday, March 31, 2020.
In part one of this two-part series published Wednesday, March 4, the history of the Lethbridge College Kodiaks and the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns was covered. Part two will cover the history of the Prairie Baseball Academy, the Lethbridge Bulls, and the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
Splitting athletes between both the Lethbridge College and the University of Lethbridge, the Prairie Baseball Academy has gained the reputation of being one of the most successful post-secondary baseball programs in the country.
In the summer of 1993, the idea for a junior college baseball program in Canada was born. On the backs of Keith Jorgensen, Doug Jones, Dale Tillman and so many more, the Prairie Baseball Academy opened its doors to 62 players in the fall of 1995.
In its 25-year history, the program has won the Canadian College Championships for an impressive seven straight seasons, from 2011-2017, and three other occasions, totaling ten division championships in 25 years, with the next closest program having just three titles.
Players from the Academy have the option to choose between courses at the University of Lethbridge or Lethbridge College, allowing the student-athletes to have a wide variety of programs to choose from. To say this program is a success is an understatement.
The Lethbridge Hurricanes is another major junior program that has found success both in competition and in the classroom.
Since the settling of the Western Hockey League team in our city in 1987, the Hurricanes have won the WHL Championship once (1996-97) and four Central Division titles (1989-90, 1990-91, 1996-97, 2015-16).
The team has had 79 players drafted into the NHL, along with some un-drafted players signing contracts with NHL teams. Numerous players have found success in the NHL, with multiple former Hurricanes winning the Stanley Cup.
High-school aged players on the team are required to attend school at one of the local high schools to ensure that they graduate on time, and most college-age players take classes through Lethbridge College to ensure they are setting themselves up for a future once their playing careers finish.
The Lethbridge Bulls are another program that prides itself on the success of its student-athletes and promoting excellence in the classroom as well as in competition.
Following the success of the team’s expansion season into the Western Major Baseball League in 1999, the Bulls program has been instrumental in developing the WMBL into Alberta, as well as increasing roster sizes, number of games per season and the number of collegiate players per team.
In its 23-year history, the Bulls have claimed the Western Division title on four separate occasions and winning their first league championship in 2015. The Lethbridge Bulls have also finished first overall after the conclusion of the regular season three times.
Southern Alberta has a rich history of athletic and academic history everywhere you look. Whether it be at the University of Lethbridge or Lethbridge College, there are many successful collegiate student-athletes that continue to showcase some of the best that we have to offer on stages across the globe.
If you ever get the chance, be sure to check any of these incredible programs and see what the athletes of Southern Alberta have to offer. Gameday tickets can be reserved on a first-come-first-serve basis through the Lethbridge Public Library Lethbridge Presents program.
To find out more about local sport organizations visit www.lethbridgesportcouncil.ca/sport-directory
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Posted March 31, 2020