OBJ hurler Balazovic becomes Twins fifth-round pick

Jordan Balazovic wasn’t sure what to expect from the draft.

But after gaining size, strength and experience with the Ontario Blue Jays and Canadian Junior National Team programs, the 17-year-old right-hander became an obvious choice to be the Minnesota Twins fifth-round selection – 153rd overall – in turn becoming the first draftee chosen by Walt Burrows, formerly the Canadian head of Major League Baseball’s scouting bureau and now a member of Minnesota’s scouting staff.

“The draft is a cool process to go through, and also very nerve-wracking,” Balazovic said. “It’s very exciting to be drafted, and as one of the 25 Canadian guys who were chosen. I didn’t really know until about six picks before the Twins pick that I would be selected. That’s when I got information from my advisor that the Twins were going to pick me.”

Over the last couple of years, the young hurler’s physical improvements have been obvious and his coaches have seen marked progression in his all-around game, especially impressing throughout the early season leading up to the selection process.

“Having worked with Jordan for the last three years, the most noticeable change has been his physical growth,” said Mike Steed, the director of pitching and college placement for the OBJ organization, and head coach of Balazovic’s current team.

“You could always tell he was going to be a big kid, but now with the work that he has put in in the weight room, you see his body type starting to transform and that is front and centre in his performance.”

As he continued to work hard and fill his frame, the Mississauga native believes what helped him the most on the way to his commitment to the Auburn Tigers and the draft was the exposure that he was able to get from both his time with the OBJ program and Team Canada, not to mention the fact that when he matched up against Pirates 33rd-round pick and Great Lake Canadians hurler Austin Shields in Canadian Premier Baseball League play, organizations sent scouts and crosscheckers to get eyes on them both, previously unheard of exposure from a provincial circuit.

“The Ontario Blue Jays first got it started for me, because when we went to go play at the Perfect Game tournament in Jupiter is where I got a lot of schools and MLB scouts to first see me, and that’s when a lot of exposure started to happen,” Balazovic said. “And then the same thing with the national team – when I went away on trips with them, I got a lot of exposure. It’s great when you’re a young kid, and I want to thank OBJ and Team Canada for those opportunities.”

Steed was especially excited for the righty’s selection after all of the time the two have spent working together, seeing all of Balazovic’s dreams come to fruition firsthand.

“Any time we have a player from the Ontario Blue Jays organization selected in the MLB draft, myself and all the coaches are extremely proud of that player’s accomplishments,” Steed said. “With Jordan, it is a little more personal for me, with him being a pitcher and getting to work with him closely over the past three years and to see the hard work he has put in pay off to accomplish this goal. I’m very happy for him and his family.”

The OBJ coach looks forward to Balazovic’s next steps and is excited for what he can bring to the table as he moves onward and upward.

“From a mound standpoint, right away you have a pitcher who is going to compete in the strike zone and attack hitters with three quality pitches,” Steed said. “As well as a kid who is going to do everything possible for him to pitch in the big leagues.”

With final decisions still to be made and papers to be signed before Balazovic can make his next move official, the pitcher is anxious to get things going and begin the rest of his baseball journey.

“I’m most excited for just getting started and going down to play,” he said. “Because right now it’s still surreal until I actually go down to Florida and put on the jersey for the first time and go play for the Minnesota Twins.”

His home organization would like to see nothing more.

“I’m looking forward to continue watching him develop and mature on the mound as he moves through minor league baseball, learning how to be a professional,” Steed said. “And seeing him pitch in a professional uniform for the first time will be pretty cool.”

Balazovic is one of six players from the CPBL selected in the draft this June, among a total of 12 high schoolers hailing from north of the border. Toronto Mets catcher Andrew Yerzy was taken in the second round, 52nd overall, by the Arizona Diamondbacks.

OBJ backstop Luke Van Rycheghem was selected by the Diamondbacks in the 23rd round, and was followed by Mets southpaw Matt Jones in the 28th round, also taken by Burrows and the Twins. Great Lake right-hander Shields was chosen in the 33rd round by Pittsburgh and GLC outfielder Jake Wilson was taken by the Boston Red Sox in the 39th round.