After an impressive rookie season with the Minnesota Twins, Andrew Albers is back in Saskatchewan where he started — at least for the off-season.
Albers, a left-handed pitcher with the MLB's Central Division Twins, has returned to John Paul II Collegiate in North Battleford to be a substitute teacher. He's a graduate of the school, where he has worked the past four off-seasons.
While he was toiling away in the minor leagues, substitute teaching could be seen as a good, stable way to make money before spring training.
But in his debut game with the Twins last year, Albers made national news when he pitched 8-1/3 scoreless innings. The next game, he pitched a complete-game shutout — a rare combination seen in MLB.
After such a high-profile season, why did Albers return to his alma mater?
"I enjoy it," he said. "The community has been behind me the whole way, and it's nice to be able to come back and be a part of that community. And it's been really nice to run into people who say, 'Hey, we haven't watched baseball for the last 20 years, but we watched your games this year."
'The community has been behind me the whole way, and it's nice to be able to come back and be a part of that community.' - Andrew Albers, Minnesota Twins pitcher from Saskatchewan
John Paul II principal Carlo Hansen said he's thankful Albers is back.
"It's tough being a teenager nowadays," Hansen said. "But to actually see somebody who's done that hard work and the amount of success they've been able to have, coming out of our community, that's excellent."
Albers also volunteers as a coach for two of the school's basketball teams. His players say he's well-liked, but no pushover.
"He likes to make us run," student Jacob Stynsky said. "Like, hard. He likes to make us out work other teams ... And to never give up, never to stop no matter how much we're down. He always wants us to keep pushing, keep improving."
Despite his success, it's surprising that Albers made the major leagues at all.
In 2009, he tore a major ligament and had to undergo Tommy John surgery, a revolutionary elbow procedure named after the former pitcher. It would take him a year of rehabilitation before he was back playing again.
Eventually, Albers decided to stage an unconventional comeback. Without any job prospects, he got in his car and drove across the United States, trying out for three major-league teams.
The Twins signed him. And the rest is history.
"When you look back on it, you didn't want to be sitting in a room in 10 or 15 years wondering, 'What if,'" he said. "What if I would have made that drive? And if it didn't work out, I could say, 'OK, fine.' But at least I had done everything in my power to get that opportunity."
The rest of Albers's season wasn't quite as spectacular as his debut. That means he'll have to work hard during spring training to secure a spot on the team in 2014.
While the future is a little cloudy right now, he's still holding out hope.
"We'll see," he said. "A lot of it depends on what happens this year. It's going to be an interesting season, it's going to be tough getting back up with the big league club, and who knows what's going to happen in the off-season? I kind of take each season as it comes, but I've learned not to make too many plans, because as soon as I have plans made, they change."