Top-notch instructors unite at Diamond Pursuit Academy

Some of the Valley’s best and most experienced ballplayers are getting together to pass their substantial knowledge on to a new crop.

Kevin Rothbauer Citizen

Some of the Cowichan Valley’s best and most experienced ballplayers are getting together to pass their substantial knowledge on to a new crop of athletes.

Dan Whiteford, Marty Steen and Korrey Gareau are among the instructors behind Diamond Pursuit Academy, which is offering high-level instruction in baseball and softball.

“We had kind of talked about it the last little while,” Whiteford said. “There isn’t a lot of extra instruction if people want it for baseball or softball.”

Whiteford has watched his niece rise through the ranks in softball, and his son has recently taken up baseball. Until now, he observed, they would have to go to Victoria or beyond for additional instruction.

“All three of us have pretty much lived in the Valley all our lives, and we wanted to give back,” Whiteford said. “This is what we can offer to the kids coming up, and coaches.”

Whiteford and Steen are longtime friends with plenty of experience in both sports.

“We both grew up in the Valley playing ball,” Whiteford said. “We played here until there was no more ball to play, then we crossed over to fastball.”

They went on to play senior A fastpitch in Victoria, and both had a cup of coffee with the national men’s team. Whiteford continued to play at the highest levels, with teams in Vancouver, Portland and Wisconsin. Steen took a bit of time off, then played in the U.S. himself.

Gareau’s resumé is similar, and includes a senior men’s world championship.

“When he played, he was one of the top two, if not the best, at pitching fastball,” Whiteford said.

Other softball instructors include Rick Smith, who grew up in Victoria but has called the Valley home for many years, and has played senior A and for the national team, winning a gold medal at the Pan Am Games in 2003 on his way to induction in the Softball BC Hall of Fame; and Nanaimo’s Blake Hunter, who also has lots of senior A experience and is currently on the national team’s 40-man roster.

Although the bulk of the coaches’ experience comes from softball, a lot of the skills transfer over to baseball as well.

“For the most part, softball and baseball are not that different,” Whiteford said. “For infielders or outfielders, it’s basically the same. Even hitting is mostly the same. There really isn’t a huge difference between the two.”

Whiteford and Steen handle infield instruction, while Gareau and Smith deal with softball pitching. That’s where the major difference in the two sports comes into play, and that’s why Diamond Pursuit has Darren Kolk in the stable of instructors.

“He’s our go-to guy for baseball pitching,” Whiteford said. “That was the one part we had to go get help for.”

Kolk grew up in the Cowichan Valley and went on to Lewis-Clark State College in Idaho. He was also a pitcher and outfielder for the junior national team and was named that team’s MVP in 2009. In 2013, he played in the West Coast League all-star game.

Diamond Pursuit has already run several clinics for Ladysmith baseball, and also does private and semi-private lessons, as well as running practices for teams. They have attracted plenty of interest within the Valley and beyond, with players coming over from Saltspring Island to train.

Visit diamondpursuitacademy.com for more information, or find Diamond Pursuit Academy on Facebook, call Dan Whiteford at 250-709-3906, or email diamondpursuitacademy@gmail.com