Cal Theal’s commitment to Niagara University is a lifelong dream come to fruition.
Throughout his young career, the right-handed hurler from Niagara Falls, Ontario has had an array of ideas for what his future may hold, but growing up close to the border, he had made trips to the Lewiston, New York campus long before plans for an official visit were ever made.
“I had been to the campus for camps when I was younger,” Theal said. “So I worked with the team in those camps, with all of the players who were there then, just hoping that I would be one of them someday. Now, it’s happened.”
Theal’s commitment to the Purple Eagles comes in the midst of renovations to John P. Bobo Field, something he is extremely excited for, anxious to go to work in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
“They’re getting a brand-new, all-turf field, so that’s amazing,” the 17-year-old said. “And the coaches are really good guys who definitely know what they’re talking about, so the program was very intriguing and I am excited to go there.”
In his second year with the Great Lake Canadians, the 6-foot-2, 160-pound righty believes that the program has shown him several new sides of the game that he has been playing his entire life, and has helped him get ready for the next step in his career.
“The GLC coaches have definitely helped me with the mental side of the game, and showing players how to carry themselves, how to talk with coaches, support your teammates, and all of that,” Theal said. “And then of course, on the pitching side of it, they’ve helped me with my mechanics, and arm care, and everything…
“I have definitely evolved a lot as a pitcher over the last couple of years. I was always a catcher growing up, so I was pretty much just a thrower, not so much a pitcher. Now, I’ve learned how to pitch, use my pitches effectively, and so much more. I had always pitched a little bit here and there, but focused on catching. Last season is when I started really focusing on pitching.”
Great Lake pitching coordinator Adam Arnold has been encouraged by the growth he’s seen out of his young hurler, and looks forward to seeing what more he can do.
“Cal continues to strive as he develops on the mound,” Arnold said. “His intensity and high compete [level] have really allowed him to elevate his game with plenty more ability to tap into. Cal being able to see into what he is capable of has driven him to maximize his opportunities.
“He’s always shown that the arm projects to add velocity with size, strength, and reps, but within this time, he’s worked real hard on his delivery, his secondary stuff, and overall it’s just bled right into his pitchability and commitment to beating hitters. He’s made it very clear that committing to Niagara has just been a stepping stone into the off-season and he’s looking to attack some of the weaknesses in his game to prepare for his freshman fall.”
Landing close to home, the Purple Eagles caught a glimpse of what Theal can do throughout the regular season this year, asking him to take the short trip across the border for a preview of what could be to come, and helping him solidify his choice.
“In the summer, the coaches from Niagara came and watched me pitch a game,” he said. “When they were there I pitched a complete-game shutout, so it was a really good game and they liked me, and asked me to come by for a visit. I went and saw the campus and the work they were doing on their brand-new field, and I really liked everything about it.”
Off the field, Niagara offers a unique educational experience that appealed to Theal, as one of four programs nationwide to receive the National Academic Advising Association’s Outstanding Institutional Advising Program Award.
“They have the Academic Exploration Program, where you look at a couple different topics in your first year, and then choose the one you like best to major in,” Theal said. “I was learning towards maybe biology or teaching or sports management, and I will probably end up in one of those three areas.”
With the upgrades on the field, and the experience offered away from the diamond, a decision with some early question marks for Theal became the one and only choice for him.
“It was kind of a tough decision,” Theal said. “Because the school is so close to home, and I wanted to isolate myself a little bit, and be a little further away. But it was definitely the right decision for me…For my freshman year, I am going to stay at home and commute, and then for my sophomore, junior, and senior years I’ll live on campus. It will definitely help the transition, being close to home, and I’m excited for it, and my family will be able to watch every game.”
Moving forward into a collegiate career, Theal’s pitching coach believes that he will bring everything that he has brought to the Canadians and more.
“He’ll bring the same intensity and high compete [level] each time he shows up at the field,” Arnold said. “This is a kid who projects to be an impact arm on a college staff. He’s shown that early on our college trips. He has a mound presence about him that shows he is locked in to win.
“Niagara just got an arm in Cal that’s on the early rise, and is going to help early in his college career as a freshman in conference play with the chance to eventually lead the staff in a couple years. He definitely has the traits and ability to be that guy. I know the GLC staff and I are extremely excited to follow Cal throughout his college career.”