The South Delta Padres already have plenty of outstanding alumni who have come through Ladner and Tsawwassen's minor baseball programs. On Sunday night, the senior men's team featured a special addition who hasn't played in his hometown for over a decade.
Kyle Lotzkar struck out the side in his one inning of relief work as he prepares to join Team Canada for the upcoming Pan American Games in Toronto. The 25-year-old pro pitcher was named to the 24-man roster last week. The national team heads to North Carolina this weekend to participate in the Americas Baseball Festival.
The Tsawwassen native was released from the Texas Rangers organization earlier this month and has been working out at home.
"I asked my buddy (Padres player) Tory (Malinoski) if I could get a tune-up in and see some (live) hitters," said Lotzkar. "It's awesome to be back home and being here with these guys."
Lotzkar is one of eight returning players from Canada's gold medal winning team at the 2011 Pan Am Games in Guadalajara.
The surprising run was complete with a win over the United States in the gold medal game. He was part of the starting rotation and pitched five shutout innings in a 4-1 win over Venezuela.
"It was totally different than anything I have experienced before in ball," he recalled. "It's just way more of a team mentality when you are pitching for your country. Pro ball it's more about development.
"It's the best experience I have had in baseball by far and playing in Canada this time should take it to another level."
Lotzkar is hoping a strong showing in Toronto will result in his agent getting plenty of interest from MLB teams. He has only been a free agent for two weeks. "I have no plans of yet. We'll see how I pitch at Pan Ams and go from there."
The 6-foot-5 right-hander has battled injuries since the Cincinnati
Reds selected him 53rd overall in the 2007 MLB Draft. The 18-year-old was pitching for the B.C. Premier Baseball League's Langley Blaze at the time. His rookie deal included a $600,000 signing bonus.
He quickly was recognized as one of the top prospects in the Reds system by Baseball America thanks to an impressive arsenal of pitches that dominated low-A ball hitters. However, the regular routine took its toll on his young arm. He suffered a stress fracture in his elbow in 2008 and later required Tommy John surgery. It took two years of rehabilitation to fully resume his career.
"It had a little bit to do with my mechanics but I also think I wasn't used to that kind of workload," he said. "I have been in the States for a while and when you watch amateur pitchers in high school they are throwing everyday for seven months straight. It just wasn't like that up here.
"It definitely doesn't come as easy to me as it used to. My stuff is still the same but when you take a year off for injuries, you are just trying to get back where you used to be. You are basically staying the same versus being healthy and keep improving."
Lotzkar has had to change his mechanics to take the stress of his elbow and be more efficient with his delivery. Much of his off-season work is done at home under longtime UBC pitching coach Shawn Corness. "After you have those injuries, it's kind of like the mind and body don't work together. You need to do lots of repetitive drills to get the muscle memory up," he continued.
Lotzkar had been pitching at the Double-A level in the Rangers organization for the past two seasons after signing in 2013. Right now, he is trying to find his consistency and believes being a middle reliever is best for his long-term health. The desire is still there and age is on his side.
"I feel like I have more to prove," he added. "When you spend a lot of time on the DL you just want to come off and play because you have been watching for so long. It's tough to let it go when you have to go through all of that."