From Canada to Iowa- Tigers came as a package deal
February 6, 2014
When the time came for Marshalltown Community College baseball players Ty Russell and Daryl Blaskovich to choose a college, it came as no surprise the two chose a school together. Furthermore, their success at MCC both on the field and in the classroom has not been a shock to anyone either.
"We knew we wanted to play baseball in the United States," said Russell. "We felt it was a great opportunity for us to come to MCC together."
Blaskovich and Russell began their playing careers at a young age in British Columbia, Canada. The two started out as opponents, but quickly turned into successful teammates. The bond began with the two controlling the middle of the diamond, with Blaskovich owning shortstop and Russell holding down second base.
As the years progressed, the potential for both athletes came to light. The two claimed a national championship along with countless titles and accolades during their early years at the Bantam level. Blaskovich continued to tone his skills as an infielder, while Russell made the switch to catcher.
The careers of both players blossomed with the Victoria Mariners of the British Columbia Premier Baseball League, while playing for head coach Mike Chewpoy. "Chewpoy played a big role for us during our years with the Mariners," said Blaskovich. "Playing for him helped take our game to another level."
Russell was regarded as one of the top left-handed hitters in not only the BCPBL, but throughout all of Canada, while Blaskovich was a feared leadoff hitter during his four years for the Mariners.
As the college decision loomed, both players began to receive looks from schools all across the United States. Ultimately, Russell and Blaskovich found their way to Marshalltown, Iowa to continue their playing career.
"Coach Grife had a strong connection with our coaches back home, so we had heard plenty of good things about Marshalltown," said Blaskovich. "Previous players from our hometown area came to play at MCC so we knew a little bit about the school. We were recruited as a package deal so it worked out for the both of us."
After one season on the diamond and nearly 2,000 miles from home, the deal has proven to be beneficial for all parties involved. Russell and Blaskovich were awarded the opportunity to reach their dream of playing baseball in the United States, head coach Rich Grife received two All-Region selections, and Marshalltown Community College added two Academic All-Region members.
Russell was named to the Division I All-Region First-Team as a freshman after catching a majority of the games and leading the Tigers with a .368 batting average. Blaskovich was named to the Second-Team after posting a .329 batting average while driving in a team-high 39 RBI, which also ranked third in the conference during his inaugural year.
While their success on the field led the Tigers to the ICCAC Championship game in 2013, their hard work in the classroom was not overlooked. Both Blaskovich and Russell joined the challenging Athletic Training degree program last year and were named to the Academic All-Region First-Team as freshmen for posting GPAs over 3.5.
The competitive nature of the two brings out the best in one another, whether it be the classroom or the ball field. "It's like a sibling rivalry at times," said Russell. "We help each other get in gear no matter what it is we're doing."
"Baseball season brings us together," Blaskovich stated. "Sometimes it can get a little cramped. We're roommates on campus, we have most classes together, we work out together. Sometimes you need a little break, but baseball is the one thing that brings us together."
"The hardest part of the year is practicing inside," Russell admitted. "It's so tight in the gym at times, from taking ground balls to batting practice. We're baseball players, obviously we're ready to get outside."
Looking ahead to the 2014 campaign, the final year for both players at MCC, Blaskovich sees an added depth to this year's roster. "We've got a very deep team this year. We have a lot of guys that will have an impact in a lot of games. We play in a tough conference but we know we can be competitive this year."
With Blaskovich and Russell finishing up their career at MCC after this season, coach Grife knew he wanted to continue the British Columbia-Iowa pipeline pumping well into the future after seeing the success of his two sophomores. The Tigers added freshman outfielder Drayson Lum, a former Mariners' teammate of both Blaskovich and Russell.
"Drayson's a great player," said Russell. "He brings a lot of tools to our team and can contribute right away."
As for the futures of Blaskovich and Russell, the two remain uncertain. "We're both looking at our options for now, but one thing's for sure- we want to keep playing baseball," said Blaskovich.
Whichever route the two decide on for next year, the path may have to be doubled in size.
The Tigers open up the 2014 season in Harriman, TN this weekend with a four-game series against Roane State Community College.