Ontario Nationals ready for fourth CPBL season

Ahead of the fourth season of the Canadian Premier Baseball League, the Ontario Nationals are excited about what they have been able to accomplish in the circuit so far and are looking forward to striving for more.

After coming close to bringing home a trophy last year, the organization is hoping to build off of its successes and rack up the accolades over the course of this season.

“Last season was a step in the right direction,” Nationals director of baseball operations Jeremy Jayaweera said. “We had two teams play into the last day of the CPBL championships, with one of those teams being just one pitch away from clinching a championship. Our 18U team has a lot of returning players in their last year before heading to school, so being in their second year and knowing what to expect, I know this team will turn some heads.

“For our 15U and 16U squads, they are coming off strong seasons and are looking to take the next step. At our youngest level, 14U, we basically brought in a new crop of players – total athletes we know will be ready to compete day in and day out. The competition in this league is second to none and we will be ready come May.”

For the Nats, last year was highlighted by the improvements experienced at multiple levels, and the organization hopes that is a trend that will continue.

“Some notable moments from last year include out 15U and 16U teams playing on Sundays at huge events in the USA,” Jayaweera said. “Our 16U team fell short in two championship games against top teams in extras. Our 15U team really showed pride, and the development from year to year was amazing.

“When our 15U group was at the 14U level, they won three games; last year, they won over 20. They have something to prove this year and you can already see it in their off-season mentality. Watching our players grow from year to year is a feeling you cannot describe. The most impressive part is that from 14U to 18U, none of our players are satisfied – there is always more to give.”

With the winter well underway, the Nationals have made some off-season additions and changes to their regular programming and are looking forward to seeing the results when they are able to get out on the field.

“Our off-season started with weight training in October,” Jayaweera said. “We put them through vigorous training, which still continues. We have always been a great hitting organization from top to bottom – nothing changes there.

“The fielding and throwing programs are our main two focuses this off-season. With that, we have incorporated a Driveline program for our players to follow. It is still early but with consistent effort and training we believe we will take the next step this spring. We have also brought in a strength and pitching instructor Kurtis Robinson to help with our teams.”

Heading into the season and gearing up for CPBL play, the Nationals are excited to look forward to a new pre-season event and mix up their typical spring training routine for the year.

“We have also entered our 15U to 18U teams in the [Prep Baseball Report] Canada spring training showcase in Florida,” the program’s director of baseball operations said. “Having gone to play at Dodgertown for the previous three years, when we were invited to this event, we could not say no. With the exposure, practices, games, and a scout day, these players will have every opportunity to better themselves.

“After Florida, we will come back for a few weeks and gear up for the season. With some of the athletes we recruited and different programs we put in place this off-season, we can feel a different spark within the organization, which we hope continues into CPBL play.”

Beyond the season and with an eye on the future, the Nationals have right-hander Andrew Hazell heading to Mars Hill University, along with several alumni members of the organization making moves and changes for the fall.