Tag: Adam Arnold

GLC staff gets stronger with addition of Jon Fitzsimmons

LONDON, Ontario – As the season approaches and each of the Great Lake Canadians players and teams continue to grow stronger, the organization’s coaching staff has also done the same.

Bringing another exciting and experienced local player to the fold, the Canadians welcome the addition of Jon Fitzsimmons as a roving pitching instructor to the program. The 26-year-old right-hander not only grew up in London and knows the local landscape of the game, but he brings his experiences from Division-I baseball, playing in the minor leagues with three different organizations as well as in the Can Am League, and winning multiple championships along the way.

“When you can add someone of Jon’s calibre who has played the game at the level he’s played, it’s a great addition to the stable of coaches that we have,” GLC director of baseball operations Chris Robinson said. “We’re excited to have him, and being around him for the last couple of years in the off-season and watching him work, it’s great to bring on a guy who we know works the way he does. Obviously he was committed to his playing career, and now to coaching, and it’s going to be exciting to have him around and really have him sink his teeth into this.”

Fitzsimmons spent three years at Canisius College – one alongside fellow GLC staffer Shane Davis – setting numerous records in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, winning the program’s first MAAC championship, and growing as a hurler, before signing as a free agent with the Royals after his junior year. From there, he played up to Double-A, with a career ERA of 3.87 over more than 160 innings, before heading to the coaching side of the game.

“With Jon’s familiarity with us and what we’re trying to accomplish as a program at the amateur level, he has a lot to add,” GLC pitching coordinator Adam Arnold said. “He provides a lot of experience, and for a guy who’s been able to go through it firsthand, it’s a bonus for us…Jon brings a passion and work ethic that stand out, and he understands what it means to be a Canadian baseball player from your local centre. To be a part of it, and to pass on the knowledge and the experiences he went through, that’s pretty special on it’s own.”

Many of the Great Lake staff members had their first experience with Fitzsimmons as he was trying to forge his way further into the game, and are excited to work with him on the other side of things going forward.

“The chance to bring on Jon Fitzsimmons was a great opportunity for not only the organization, but it’s a great fit for everybody,” GLC director of player development Adam Stern said. “He’s going to be focusing on the 16U to 18U level with the pitchers, and he’s a guy who has come full circle.

“The first year we opened up Centrefield, Fitzy was one of the first guys who came in and was in pitching classes, so having him come on board is a great example of what we have here. The kids in the system now can look to that. He’s been through it and had a great career to date, being able to go to college at a four-year school, have a great career and go off into professional baseball and get to Double-A, that’s a huge accomplishment. Bringing him on board is a huge win for the program.”

Learning from a number of the coaches he will now work alongside, the right-hander looked up to them, and couldn’t be more elated to be a part of what they’re doing now.

“It’s really exciting for me to join them, because these are guys that I’ve looked up to growing up,” Fitzsimmons said. “They’re the guys who actually taught me a lot about the game. They were teaching me when I grew up, and a lot of us always aspired to do what they were doing. So to be able to contribute to a program like this, with such a high calibre of coaching staff, with guys who have played at such a high level and have such high-level knowledge, it’s humbling for me to be able to join them.”

Happy to be back at home in London, Fitzsimmons is looking forward to contributing to the game and its development in the area where he first experienced it.

“Growing up here and playing baseball here, it’s really nice to finally be able to give back to the community here,” Fitzsimmons said. “We’ve had such a long history of baseball players coming out of London, who have played at a very high level, and it’s nice to be able to hopefully continue that process and be a part of it…

“Staying around the game of baseball is exciting for me. And knowing that when I was younger, a lot of coaches I had were really inspiring and made me enjoy the game a lot more than maybe I would have with someone who wasn’t as knowledgable or as excited to be there, I want to try to provide that experience for some of the kids here.”

Bringing in another successful and high-level player from the area to add to an already impressive coaching staff is something that the Canadians take pride in, and are excited to offer to the players within the program.

“This is our bread and butter,” Stern said. “We really put a lot of pride into the guys we have coaching in this program. It adds to the credibility and shows that the guys here really do want to give back to the game. Adding another piece like Jon is great for the development of players. He’s another example for these kids to look in the mirror and see the products that do come from not only London, but all over southwestern Ontario. A separator for our program is the guys we have involved.”

The addition of Fitzsimmons is representative of what has already been built by the Great Lake staff, and what more is to come for the elite amateur program.

“Having Jon join our staff, being from London and with the experience he brings, is a product of what has been built here, both on the Centrefield side and then on the Great Lake side,” Robinson said. “The amateur baseball world is difficult to navigate for players and families, with so much out there in camps, showcases, recruiting services, and all of the other options available through email, social media, and everywhere you look.

“Our philosophy has always been to create an environment where kids can come to get better at playing baseball. No gimmicks, no shortcuts – it’s about surrounding our players with a staff that will help them get to the next level. The most important thing in amateur baseball is preparing for the next level, and the addition of Jon is another tremendous resource for our players to use. He’s someone who has been where they want to go, and has gone through the process they’re in the midst of.”

Hard work pays off for GLC right-hander Shields

Austin Shields came out of nowhere.

Factually, the 18-year-old Great Lake Canadians right-handed hurler hails from Dundas, but in just the last couple of years Shields went from finding relatively little success on the diamond to becoming one of the best high school arms in the entire country.

His latest successes have been recognized with not only an opportunity to continue his education and play with the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds, but then by also being selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates organization in the 33rd round of Major League Baseball’s draft on Saturday.

“It’s amazing honestly,” Shields said. “It shows that you can go from being virtually unknown to something completely different, and that working as hard as you can truly does pay off. I’ve changed a lot over the last two years with the Great Lake Canadians, with the coaching they have, and it’s an incredible organization.”

Before the young pitcher joined the London program, he was a first baseman with plenty of potential. With a place to hone his skills and help to figure out what he was capable of, the work began and so did the progress.

“I can still recall the day that Austin joined the program, and the excitement that we had as a staff for him to be a part of what we do,” said Adam Arnold, Great Lake’s pitching coordinator, as well as strength and conditioning coordinator. “What will not go unnoticed over those two years is the professional he’s become, and the character, and the reputation he’s built for himself…

“He got stronger, his delivery became more connected, and ultimately he started commanding the ball better each time out. On top of that, his increase in velocity started to spike. He stuck to his routine, took his failures as learning curves and used them to get better the next time out. He started to really invest in his career, which only started with his investment in himself.”

Shields made exceptionally huge strides over the most recent winter months, dedicating an additional high school year to making improvements and earning the results he was looking for.

“Over the past off-season I worked incredibly hard to get my body to where I thought it should be at, or close to its best,” the righty said. “I worked out five to six times a week and ran three to four times a week. Also, I got my diet together and was only eating healthy foods. I got 35 pounds down and I was feeling great about myself.

“Also, working with the GLC program has been amazing as well. The coaches all know what they’re talking about and they all love the game. Adam Arnold, my pitching coach, has also given me all the time he could to practice everything I needed to.”

Added Arnold: “At his age, the game can really reward you for the time you put into it. Austin is a perfect example of that right now. That’s what we aim to instill in our players, and to have Austin be a premier example of the opportunities it can create, it makes us as a staff extremely proud…

“What stands out, beyond his ability, would be him realizing his own potential and where it could bring him. This sparked some trust and patience in the process, while igniting a relentless work ethic to get the most out of himself each day he was at the field and in the gym. His continuous commitment to keeping himself in shape, along with refining his delivery led to some pretty special things over the course of the off-season and into the spring.”

Beyond the spring and heading into the selection process, Shields was near the top of many of the country’s draft projection lists. With an understanding that he was a likely pick, the young hurler thought his name might come a little earlier than it did, but he is proud to be a member of this year’s draft class.

“I wasn’t trying to think too much about the draft, but I had a feeling I would be picked,” he said. “Personally I thought I’d go higher, but signability was an issue with some teams. Also, I didn’t perform to the best of my abilities every time I was pitching this spring, so that also had an effect. But all in all, I’m still very grateful to have been chosen by the Pittsburgh Pirates in this year’s draft…

“It means the world to be selected honestly. It has always been a dream of mine to be drafted, so it’s a dream come true. To think about how only 25 Canadians were picked, and to be one of them, is something on its own. It’s honestly amazing.”

With a decision now to be made between going pro or heading off to college on the west coast, the Canadians are looking forward to the next steps for Shields.

“What excites me the most, as it would for most coaches, would be what Austin is capable of doing with the opportunity presented,” Arnold said. “Now it’s about taking full advantage of it. If it’s now or if it’s after his time at UBC, he’s going to become a professional player who really gives himself a chance to maximize his potential and reach his ceiling.”

Currently unsure of where he will wind up next, Shields knows he can’t make a bad choice and is looking forward to fulfilling his potential.

“I’m most excited for the opportunity to further my knowledge and my abilities with the craft of pitching,” he said. “If it’s the Pittsburgh Pirates or the University of British Columbia, I will make the most out of the opportunity that has been given to me.”

With more in the tank, and a definite home to continue to use it, the sky’s the limit for Shields.

“You can expect a 6-foot-5 righty with momentum and motivation,” Arnold said. “He’s going to continue to add polish and feel for his command and secondary offerings. He is consistent reps away from finding these aspects of his game, and whether it be at the collegiate or professional level, these will allow him to separate himself from the rest.”

Shields is one of six players from the Canadian Premier Baseball League 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. Ontario Blue Jays hurler Jordan Balazovic followed in the fifth round, taken 153rd overall by the Minnesota Twins.

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 the Twins. GLC outfielder Jake Wilson was taken by the Boston Red Sox in the 39th round.