Abbotsford’s Corey Eckstein will coach one final year with the Fraser Valley Cardinals. (File photo)

Abbotsford’s Corey Eckstein joins Ontario Blue Jays

Longtime baseball fixture scooped up by top amateur program

One of the biggest names in the Abbotsford baseball scene is moving to Ontario in 2020.

Longtime Fraser Valley Cardinals head coach and Yale Baseball Academy program director Corey Eckstein has accepted a position with the Ontario Blue Jays.

Eckstein will be stepping into his new role as director of player personnel for the Mississauga-based amateur baseball program, which is considered by many to be the top amateur program in the country.

He shared the news on his Twitter account on Friday morning, and stated that it was not an easy decision but he is looking forward to the new challenge.

“I’ve poured my heart and soul into my programs over the last 15 years,” he wrote. “There’s a lot of great people inside FVBA that will continue the tradition we have created. I will always be thankful to management, administrators, coaches, players, mentors, umpires and parents for supporting my programs. Leaving this organization weighs heavy on my heart but I am really excited and grateful for this new challenge with the New York Yankees of Canadian Baseball, the Ontario Blue Jays.”

Eckstein has had a storied career both as a player and coach in baseball.

He’d gone down to Vernon College in Texas in 2004, fresh off a stint with the Canadian junior national team, and while he pitched well, he was bothered by increasing pain and stiffness in his elbow.

Upon returning home to Abbotsford in December, he had an MRI and got the results on Christmas Eve. It wasn’t good news. The ulnar collateral ligament was completely torn, and the lateral collateral ligament was significantly damaged.

Eckstein’s fastball hit 89 miles per hour on the radar gun in September 2004, but never came close to touching that again following the surgery, even after a year and a half of rehab.

He lost his scholarship, and at age 19, his playing career was done.

RELATED: Cardinals coach Eckstein turning wounds into wisdom

But he quickly transitioned into coaching, beginning with Abbotsford’s Power Zone Academy in the spring of 2005 and then moving on to the Cardinals, Sandlot Baseball and Yale. He also helped the Canadian junior national team earn silver at the 2012 world junior championships.

The success continued for Eckstein in 2015, as he earned a World Series ring when the Kansas City Royals defeated the New York Mets. Eckstein still works as a part-time scout for the Royals, and will continue to serve in that role after he leaves Abbotsford.

RELATED: Eckstein earns World Series ring

More recently, Eckstein helped lead the Cardinals to British Columbia Premier Baseball League championships in both 2016 and 2018.

The pair of title wins were the first two championships in club history.

RELATED: Abbotsford Cardinals win first-ever BCPBL championship

Ontario Blue Jays management is thrilled to have Eckstein on board.

“Eck brings with him an incredible baseball mind, passion, work ethic and drive to do the very best for his players, fellow coaches and organization,” stated Blue Jays director of baseball operations Joe Ellison. “He has helped hundreds of players into collegiate opportunities, many to professional baseball opportunities but more importantly he has fostered an incredible culture in Abbotsford and I look forward to see his impact with our players.”

Eckstein has attended the Ontario Blue Jays annual Spring Training Trips for the past three years, twice serving on OBJ Coaching Staffs and once while bringing Abbotsford down for their first Dodgertown experience. Moving cross country with him will be his wife of seven years, Kourtni and three children Kohen (five), Hudson (three) and Parker (one). Kourtni has been heavily involved with several local groups during her time in Abbotsford, most notably the Abbotsford Rope Works skipping group.

“This was obviously a tough decision for my family,” he said. “My wife Kourtni has been my number one supporter throughout these negotiations. Leaving the people you care about the most is never easy but we both feel that this is the next step in my career and something that I’ve been working hard towards.”

According to objbaseball.com, the program has sent 485 players on to college ball, produced 71 national team players and generated 118 Major League Baseball draft picks.

Eckstein will complete the 2020 season with the Cardinals, and the FVBA is exploring options for a suitable replacement.

FVBA president Brian Finnie said they will miss Eckstein.

“As an organization we will miss him but are happy for him and his family,” he stated. “We are most excited for the opportunity this move brings to bridge the gap between baseball in B.C. and Ontario and look forward to our continued relationship with Corey in the coming seasons. I’m proud to employ the best coaches in Canada and with our recent addition of Courtney Gill in an oversight role I’m confident we won’t miss a step. We are looking forward to another successful season of baseball in the Fraser Valley.”

For more, visit fvbaseball.ca.

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