Wherever Alex Calbick's baseball career has taken him, success always seems to follow.
And the Bellingham Bells third baseman has played in some of the farthest reaches of the United States.
Growing up in Burnaby, B.c., Calbick represented Team Canada during his final two years of high school, playing in the world championships where he hit around .500, earning an all-world selection. Despite a fine prep career, and an impressive stint with his home country, few colleges offered the 6-foot, 190-pound left-handed hitter a scholarship.
Calbick always wanted to move south to play collegiate ball, but he's found a home in the east, the far east at Maine University.
So how does a West Coast ball player find a college home roughly 3,000 miles from where he grew up?
"It's actually a funny story," Calbick said. "My Team Canada coach Greg Hamilton actually coached at Maine previously, before (current coach) Steve Trimper. He called him up and said, 'Hey, I got a player for you,' and it went from there. They offered me a scholarship. I signed right away, went on a visit and it's all played out from there."
The University of Utah wanted Calbick's services, but besides the Utes, there weren't any serious offers.
The Black Bears are a Division I school, belonging to the American East Conference, and once at Maine, Calbick quickly made an impression.
He started all but one game as a freshman, hitting for a .280 average with 30 RBI, nine doubles, a triple and five home runs. Calbick's plate work netted him a second-team American East selection, as well as an American East All-Rookie Team nod. Calbick hit .283 with 43 RBI and 40 runs scored as a sophomore and recently wrapped up a junior campaign in which he hit .280 with 33 RBI and 30 runs scored.
"It's different. That's for sure," said Calbick of playing in the Northeast, "but I've enjoyed my three years there, and I'm going back for a fourth. Being a long way from home kind of sucks in a sense, but it's also good growing up and becoming a man I guess on the East Coast."
The Maine product spent his last two summers playing for the Chatham Anglers of the Cape Cod League, another college wood-bat team based in Chatham, Mass. When he learned of the West Coast League and the Bells, Calbick jumped at the chance to play close to home. It's the first time in three years his family can stay close to home to watch him play.
"Actually going into this fall, I asked my coach if he knew of any teams out West," Calbick explained. "We kind of looked together and figured out the Bells are in the West Coast League, so I was like, 'Yeah, hook me up with them.' He made phone call to coach Hatch and everything went from there."
Calbick's success traveled cross-country with him this summer, and he brought plenty of added motivation since Maine lost in the American East championship to Binghamton.
Already, in only 11 games, he's compiled a club-best .465 average with a pair of doubles and a home run batting out of the No. 3 hole.
"When you're in that three, four or five hole, those are run-producing guys, and not everybody has the mental side to do that," Bells manager Gary Hatch said. "We like to have guys who have a little ice in their veins, and he seems to have that ice in his veins. He has really good approaches when he's up there. When it comes to fundamentals of hitting and playing third base, he's as solid as you're going to see."
Calbick's welcomed the fast start. Each of the last two years at Maine he's struggled at the outset before finishing strong.
Beyond the stats Calbick's compiled, it's his blue-collar work ethic and approach to the game that's caught Hatch's attention.
He personifies the model ball player with his tough, hard-working approach and strong character. He was a team captain at Maine last year. And it's Calbick's intangibles, coupled with his talent, which make Hatch believe his third baseman will get drafted during the 2014 MLB draft and possibly excel at the next level.
"I just think he is the total package kind of player," Hatch said. "He can field. He can hit. He can run a little bit. He can hit with power. He can throw, and he's made some tremendous plays (at third). We got a multiple dimension guy that's a great teammate, and he works his but off. He doesn't pass up days, and he's a leader."
Calbick will only be in Bellingham for the next two months, but the Bells are certainly enjoying their slugger this summer.
Reach Andrew Lang at email@example.com or call 360-756-2862.
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