Moose Jaw baseball product Reece Helland is moving on up.
Helland, 20, officially signed with the MidAmerica Nazerene Pioneers on Mar. 26 and will be transferring to the powerhouse NAIA squad in Olathe, Tenn. this fall.
It’s the latest step in what has been a rapid rise through the ranks for the up-and-coming pitcher, who will play his second season this spring for Monterey Peninsula in the California Community College Athletic Association.
Just how rapid?
Helland only started pitching at the college level last spring, but was so dominant right off the hop that interest quickly built.
“MidAmerica Nazerene University reached out to my coach looking for a pitcher and he gave him my number, we’ve been talking for a couple months and they gave me an offer about a month and a half ago,” Helland said from Monterey, Cal. in describing how he ended up with his new school. “I told them I’d like to come down and visit the campus, so I spent a couple days down there to check it out and it was really nice… The coaching staff is really good, the team is really good, their facilities are awesome and it’s tough to say no to a school like that for sure.”
MidAmerica Nazerene isn’t your run-of-the-mill NAIA school, either. They regularly contend for the Heart of America Athletic Conference championship, and went into play this past weekend as the 25th-ranked NAIA team in the nation.
“I’d never heard of them before until they talked to me, but hearing about what kind of a program they have and getting to meet the guys and watching them play, it was really exciting and I’m looking forward to being part of their team,” Helland said.
Of course, there’s still some unfinished business to attend to.
Monterey Peninsula opens their season on Apr. 10 against Hartnell College, and Helland is expected to once again serve as the team’s closer.
He saw action in five games during the pandemic-shortened season in 2020, holding teams without a run in 10 ⅔ innings while allowing five hits, stirking out 15 and walking only three. That kind of performance this spring will only help what’s shaping up to be a solid team -- and one with high expectations for Helland.
“When I’m on the mound, I don’t think there’s any time where I don’t feel I can dominate hitters,” he said. “It’s a mindset that our pitching coach (Vince Herring) has locked into our minds right from the beginning. He’s probably one of the best coaches I’ve been around pitching-wise, and he’s really changed the mental side of the game and pitching, for sure.”
Helland was expecting a busy summer of baseball as well, having planned to return to the Moose Jaw Miller Express for their Western Canadian Baseball League season, but the cancellation of his hometown team’s campaign last week did away with that.
That’s not to say he won’t be on the mound at Ross Wells Park. Helland plans to once again suit up in the Qu’Appelle Valley League with the Moose Jaw Padres, where he played last season once the WCBL campaign was shut down.
“It was really fun, I got to play with all my buddies from high school and got to play on the Padres with the older guys, kind of get a little more competitive men’s league ball to keep me in shape,” Helland said.
“It took me awhile to get back into it being off baseball for three months, but it was a lot of fun, that was the most important aspect. Just being around a team instead of just sitting at home all day by yourself.”
Still, not having a chance to play ultra-competitive summer baseball against top college players from all over Canada and the U.S. is disappointing.
“I was actually really looking forward to getting back up there and playing for the Millers,” Helland said. “It’s really nice playing for a hometown crowd, it’s a real treat for me, especially having friends and family there. It’s almost like a celebrity status, because you see people outside the park and they’re like ‘oh I know you, you play for the Millers’ and it’s like ‘yeah, that is me, it’s cool, nice you recognize me’... Moose Jaw is a really great place to play in the summer.”