He started out at local ball diamonds before moving on to the provincial and college ranks.
This season, Carter Bell has stepped up to professional-level baseball with the Yakima Bears of the Class A Short-Season Northwest League.
Although the team sports more losses than wins as the regular season winds down, the third baseman said his squad is “turning it around” and getting better.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Bell said before a Sunday night game against the Boise Hawks. “For a lot of guys it’s their first time playing pro ball…It’s been a good change for me.”
Bell and his teammates are benefiting from the expertise of two members of the Bears’ coaching staff who played big league baseball for several years.
“They definitely know the game and they’re passing it on to us,” he said.
The Northwest League consists of eight teams, each of which is associated with a Major League Baseball club. Yakima’s affiliate is the Arizona Diamondbacks, who selected Bell in the 29th round of the first-year player draft in June. In 2008, the San Francisco Giants selected him in the 22nd round, but Bell opted instead to play ball at Oregon State University on a scholarship.
“It’s one of the elite programs in the nation,” Bell said, noting his team made it to super regionals and finished second in the Pac-10 Conference. “The coaches there, they teach you a whole bunch about becoming a grown man and just playing the game. The college experience and college atmosphere, I’m really happy I got to experience it.”
A communications major, Bell was the lone Canadian baseball player last season in the Pac-10, which has since become the Pac-12. He hit around .330 during an injury-plagued season that included a torn quadriceps muscle and a broken finger. The team’s second-place finish was a pleasant surprise, considering its pre-season ranking of 75th in the nation and eighth in the conference.
“We ended up being ranked as high as second in the nation, Bell said. “We were leading the Pac-10 all the way until the last series. We proved a lot of people wrong.”
He and several OSU teammates were drafted by Major League teams. Because Bell signed with Arizona in June, the club sent him straight to Yakima.
Next year he plans to attend the Diamondbacks spring training. With any luck, he will someday step onto an MLB playing field.
“That’s the ultimate goal, but you’ve gotta’ start somewhere. I’m just happy to get my professional career started and work from here.”
When asked about his strengths, the Vanier graduate said there is always room for improvement in his game.
“It’s baseball and you’re always trying to improve. Baseball’s one of those games where you never stop learning,” he said. “I have fun when I’m out there and I play with some enthusiasm. I like to keep it upbeat and have fun and keep the guys loose. You don’t play well when you’re all tight and scared.”
The Victoria-born Bell grew up playing in the Comox Valley Baseball Association, then spent three years with the Parksville Royals of the B.C. Premier Baseball League.
“Definitely wouldn’t be where I’m at today without all the help that’s been around the Valley, and with my parents helping me out,” said Bell, who played for Team Canada last summer at worlds in Japan.
Despite losing 4-1 to the Hawks on Sunday, the Bears are only a few games back from Boise as playoffs approach.
“That’s everybody’s goal around here is to make the playoffs and get that experience. We definitely have to start playing at a higher level.”
On an individual basis, he said his season is “going OK.” As of Wednesday he was seventh among Bears’ batters with a .263 average.
“I started off feeling pretty comfortable. It’s baseball, so you have your ups and downs. Just trying to stay consistent,” Bell said. “It’s just all a learning experience. I enjoy it a whole bunch. It’s definitely like a dream come true. I’m just really happy to be in this situation.”