Prairie Ridge catcher Thelander commits to BYU

Dustin Thelander has made the trek each of the past six summers to Provo for a baseball camp held at Brigham Young University.

Thelander, a Mormon, held the school, its ideals and the two coaching staffs over that period in highest regard. Fortunately for Thelander, the junior catcher on Prairie Ridge’s fourth-place Class 4A baseball team, the feeling went both ways.

Thelander, a left-handed hitter and two-year starter, committed to Cougars coach Mike Littlewood a few weeks ago and will attend BYU in the fall of 2017. After graduation from Prairie Ridge next summer, Thelander will head on his two-year mission for the church. He can sign his national letter of intent in November.

“It’s a dream come true,” said Thelander, who hit .256 with 19 RBIs for the Wolves. “It’s really incredible that they’re giving me a chance to play there. It’s a dream school really.”

Thelander was a Northwest Herald All-Area honorable-mention selection after helping the Wolves to fourth place in the Class 4A State Tournament.

“It’s a great opportunity. He’s been going to camp out there for a long time,” Prairie Ridge coach Glen Pecoraro said. “It’s been in his plan for a long time.”

Pecoraro was impressed with Thelander’s improvement from his sophomore to junior seasons.

“As a sophomore he struggled at times, but this year he proved himself as a solid varsity catcher,” Pecoraro said. “He saved us a ton of runs with his receiving and blocking. This summer he really swung the bat well too.”

Prairie Ridge advanced to the semifinals of the Phil Lawler Summer Classic, a high school summer state tournament, before losing to Nazareth Academy.

“I really concentrated on building a consistent swing,” Thelander said of his improvement at the plate. “I wanted something I could repeat every single time. As a sophomore, I went through a cold streak and I’d try to change something. I kept everything more consistent and started hitting the ball out front more.”

Youths in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are expected to embark on a two-year mission after high school, spreading the word and advocating for their church. They can be sent to various countries around the world and time for working out is limited.

Thelander said it helps that BYU is used to having athletes who have come back from missions.

“They understand that part of the recruiting process,” he said. “I’ll come back from that and get to play in that fall. It’ll be a challenge [after being away from baseball]. I’ll have some time to develop and grow. It’s something I’m willing to work for.”

Thelander said there will be one off day each week when he can exercise or play basketball. He says there is some time each morning for exercise as well.

“Depending on where I go, I hope to have a chance to find some [batting] cages,” Thelander said.

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