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Baseball academy back at Sardis

Sardis secondary school is resurrecting the academy that faded away three years ago.

After a three year hiatus, a baseball academy returns to Sardis secondary school next fall.

Derek Florko, who’s spent the last seven years coaching the Abbotsford Cardinals high school club team, will be guide the resurrected program

“This opportunity is awesome and I’m super excited,” he said. “I’ve never ran my own program before, so it’s exciting to put my own stamp on things.”

Florko believes he brings a different approach, fueled by daily study of the latest training techniques.

He is, for instance, a big believer in the weighted-ball program that has gained traction within some Major League Baseball front offices.

He believes players need to develop ability before skill.

“My focus is on improving the body, getting stronger and more athletic,” he explained. “Pitching is a skill. Throwing hard is an ability and I think you have to learn to do that first.”

That means Sardis students will spend much of their time in the school’s well-equipped weight room following carefully crafted programs.

From September through Christmas, Florko’s focus will be on physical conditioning. After the calendar flips, he’ll start diving into other things.

“Come January, that’s when you start working on the curveballs and things like that,” he elaborated. “There’s no point working on taking ground-balls in October when you don’t play a game until April.”

“The professionals, they don’t come home for the offseason and start pitching right away.”

“They build their body up and work on mobility and strength, and come February, that’s when they start throwing a little bullpen.”

As a player, Florko was a light-hitting 145 pound infielder.

“I wasn’t very good and I always had more of a passion for learning the game than playing it,” he said. “I enjoy coaching way more than I enjoyed playing.”

“Baseball is the only thing I ever cared about learning about. Every day that’s all I do is try to study baseball.”

Florko’s coaching career has focused on hitting mechanics, which is why he’s bringing in another coach to help pitchers.

Chilliwack native Shane Kraemer coached alongside Florko with the Cardinals, and is lending his expertise to Sardis.

“He’s a very smart person who was admitted into law schools across the United States,” Florko said. “He’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever met and he’s a smart baseball guy.”

Kraemer pitched collegiately for the NCAA South Dakota State Jackrabbits and recently won a provincial championship playing for the BC Senior Baseball Association’s Langley Blaze.

The last two seasons he’s been named the league’s player of the year.

Florko and Kraemer are two big reasons Allison Fitzsimmons believes the Sardis academy will flourish.

It faded last time as recruiting fell off, but the Sardis phys-ed teacher and baseball academy coordinator believes Chilliwack’s baseball scene is stronger than it’s ever been.

“The main reason to pursue the academy is to provide another opportunity for kids,” she said. “The more choices they have,  the more chances we have of encouraging them to succeed, and that’s what we’re here for!”

“For some kids, academics is the motivator. For other it’s the performing arts or Strongman or the hockey academy that keeps them excited and helps keep them in school.”

Fitzsimmons is aiming to have 25 students enrolled in year one and estimates the cost at $2,000 per.

That’s in line with other academies.

Right now our biggest concern is numbers and getting commitments, and we are getting interest,” she said. “We’re getting the word out now and we’ll have a parent meeting in January.”

Anyone wanting info  on that meeting of other details can email Fitzsimmons at or Richard Tagle at

Both can be reached at the school at 604-858-9424.

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Eric Welsh

About the Author: Eric Welsh

I joined the Chilliwack Progress in 2007, originally hired as a sports reporter.
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