A member of the program since its inception, Kian Bukala is headed into his last season with the Great Lake Canadians and couldn’t be more excited for his final summer in the red-and-black uniform.
“I’m really looking forward to playing with all my buddies in my last season here,” he said. “Not really having any pressure; just going out and having fun and playing with all the guys for one last time. I think that will be the best part.”
The 18-year-old infielder’s Great Lake legacy includes hitting the first home run in program history, and he hopes to accomplish even more with the Canadians before pursuing his post-secondary education and collegiate baseball career at the University of Indianapolis after a recent commitment to the Greyhounds.
“They saw me at one of our Indianapolis tournaments during the summer,” the London native said. “And then I went down a month-and-a-half ago, just to visit the school and to work out, and then three weeks after that they gave me the offer…They gave me 48 hours to decide and the next day I called back and accepted.”
The Greyhounds made the choice a no-brainer for the 5-foot-10, 170-pound infielder, who found everything he was looking for during his visit to the school and in conversations with the staff.
“It was a pretty easy decision,” Bukala said. “Compared to all the other schools I went to visit, it had the nicest facilities by far, and it was closer to home too, which I liked, and they made me a better offer than everyone else, so it was pretty easy…
“The campus is really big, and close to downtown Indianapolis, which is really nice. There’s a lot to do away from the school too. I talked to a couple of the current players who were just working out when I was there, and asked them how they liked it. They all had positive things to say, so that was good.”
A mainstay in the Great Lake lineup at every level he’s played, Bukala has instilled a sense of confidence in his coaches that they appreciate, and know he will take with him to the next level.
“He’s your ‘Steady Eddie’ guy who’s going to show up every day and you know exactly what you’re going to get out of him,” GLC 17U manager Jeff Helps said. “He doesn’t get too high and he doesn’t get too low, but he competes his butt off and he’s a solid player. He can play multiple positions for you and he’s usually going to do pretty well.”
Added GLC director of player development Adam Stern: “Kian’s been around Centrefield and the Great Lake Canadians almost since the beginning, and he’s transformed himself into a really good baseball player.
“He’s quiet by nature, but plays the game hard, and is one of those kids who really grows on you when you watch him for a few games and see what he can do both defensively and offensively. He’s a very blue-collar player – goes out, competes every day, and he’s really made himself into an impactful position player at the amateur level in Ontario.”
Bukala feels especially prepared to take the next steps in his baseball career because of everything he has learned through and gained from the GLC program and its staff.
“When I was [at the university], I saw them doing their workouts and what kind of routine they were going through, and it was really similar to what we do with GLC,” he said. “So GLC has really helped prepare me for that and our coaches really know what will help us at the next level and how to get us ready.”
The young infielder believes that his evolution as a player is a credit to everything the program provides.
“From the first year I started with GLC to now, I’ve just become a totally different player,” Bukala said. “The program has helped me so much, probably just the coaching. Jeff and Adam especially, I’ve worked with Adam from the start and then Jeff the past couple years, and really those guys helped me a lot, working with me one-on-one. I’ve been able to get more work in and zone in on the things that I need to focus on and they’ve really helped me improve.”
Bukala’s coaches echoed his sentiment, and believe that his development has helped him to find success every step of the way.
“He’s always been who he is,” Helps said. “At 15, he was already that ‘Steady Eddie,’ and every year he became the same guy against tougher competition. A couple years ago I can speak for better because he was with me, but he was unbelievable. He makes every routine play and he’s a doubles-type guy. Even when he was 15, he was doing that. He’s continued to do it at every level. As the competition got better, he stayed the same as far as being the guy at that level.”
Almost ready to move on to the next level, the entire Great Lake staff is looking forward to seeing what more Bukala can do.
“He’s going to be able to hit at the top of your lineup, he’s a good on-base guy, good hitter, solid defender, and he’s going to be able to play all over the field for you,” Stern said. “There are a lot of things that can keep him in the lineup – he can run the bases, and he gives you versatility. As a freshman, he can come in and do multiple things. He’s multidimensional, and will be able to compete for a job as a freshman.”