Tag: championship

Ontario Blue Jays secure 2019 18U Canadian Premier Baseball League title

The Canadian Premier Baseball League has a new champion at the 18U level, with the Ontario Blue Jays coming out on top in the fourth season of the circuit to capture the trophy at the highest level.

After a slow start to the year, the Blue Jays surged through the end of the season. They won their final eight games of the CPBL regular season and tore through the playoff weekend, defeating the Ontario Astros, Great Lake Canadians and Toronto Mets to seal the championship victory.

“It’s always been a good group,” OBJ 18U manager Joe Ellison said. “They did well at 17U and moving ahead to us at 18U, they had a good fall. We started rough — I don’t think that’s a surprise to anybody — we were 2-8 to start off the year, but they bought into what we were preaching all year and by the end of it, they came out the team they were supposed to be at the beginning. Sometimes it just takes a little bit longer to get going.”

The biggest factor in getting the team going — on its way to the league title — was the leadership it had and the way its players rallied around it.

“We have a lot of guys who have been in our program for five years, and some for even six years in the cases of Lukas Barry and Blake Buckle,” Ellison said. “It was guys like that who the team rallied around when we were struggling.

“Buckle had a team meeting and pulled everybody aside and got us going back in the right direction. That was one of the biggest parts of it, having those senior leadership guys to be able to say, ‘This is the way we do things, and this is not how it should be, and this is how it needs to be,’ and that’s how it got done.”

The Blue Jays earned their way to the winners’ circle after defeating the Astros and Canadians in their first two games of the postseason tournament. They then played back-to-back-to-back games against the Mets, defeating the Toronto squad in their first attempt, dropping the second, and securing the trophy with an 8-5 win.

“I couldn’t be more happy,” the 18U OBJ manager said. “A lot of hard work goes into these teams, especially at the 18U level, and the 18U program has been something that we’ve really wanted to improve on the last couple of years.

“Finally to have it win a championship and get back to where it should be is really exciting for our program, and exciting for myself, the players, and the whole coaching staff.”

As the season continues south of the border for the Blue Jays this summer, the organization couldn’t be more excited about the competition and calibre of play the CPBL provided throughout the year at the 18U level.

“It’s huge for us,” Ellison said. “The addition of metal bats this year made it a little more exciting, definitely more of an offensive league this year. It challenged our pitchers and our position players to be much better and to take care of the baseball.

“For us, our next stop is to Flint, Michigan for the Connie Mack World Series qualifier, and to go in on a high note and in a really good spot as a team, I’m excited.”

Winning the league championship was the icing on the cake for a Blue Jays’ squad that showed a no-quit attitude all year long, and was truly an entire team effort come to fruition on Sunday.

“I go back to the leadership guys, the guys who have been around the block, who I really leaned on  to help right the ship with our 18U program,” Ellison said. “They did that, and I really couldn’t be any more proud of those guys and the team as a whole. Everybody contributed something throughout the year.

“Obviously when you get off to the start we did, the wheels could have come off really easily, but the guys pulled together and everybody played a role. Even though they might not have been in the championship game on Sunday, everyone did something this year to help us win and to get to where we were to give us that opportunity.”

Toronto Mets look to build on last year’s championship season

After an incredibly successful third season in the Canadian Premier Baseball League last year, the Toronto Mets organization is excited about what the fourth season may bring, and can’t wait to get started.

Working hard, getting better and winning championships were all a part of the recipe for success the Mets showed on the field, taking home the titles at both the 16U and 17U levels of the circuit, and they are looking forward to replicating that once again throughout the upcoming year.

“2018 was a good year for the program,” Mets 18U manager Rich Leitch said. “We managed to win the 17U and the 16U league titles, which was big, and they were the first two in program history for us since the start of the CPBL.

“For us, the competition in the league is second to none, so it really helped us and all of our teams, when we were going into US tournaments our guys were really prepared because of the type of competition we faced on a weekly basis in the CPBL.”

Hoisting two of the league’s trophies to finish out a season of achievements certainly made the top of the list of memorable moments for the program.

“The highlight of the season was the two championships we won,” Leitch said. “Then having the guys we had who represented the country with the Canadian Junior National Team, which just further shows the level of development that we’ve got going on with the program. But if I had to pick one, it was the two CPBL championships that we won as a program.”

The Mets have spent the off-season preparing for what’s next, with an eye on development and the focus on the program’s culture throughout the winter months.

“We started up right after Christmas,” Leitch said. “We gave our guys probably two months off where there was strictly strength and conditioning training only. Now we’ve moved into really heavy position-specific stuff, so all our guys are working together from 14U all the way up to 18U.

“So the younger guys have an opportunity to work with our older guys so they can see how it’s supposed to be done. And for our older guys, it gives them an opportunity to teach the culture of our program to our younger guys.”

Looking ahead to the upcoming season, Leitch and the Mets are excited to get out on the diamond to see what their players can do.

“We’ve got talented groups at a number of levels,” Leitch said. “I hate being inside so we are looking forward to getting outside. And for me personally, I’ve coached with and against most of the kids in the 2001 age group since the time they were in rookie ball, so it’s kind of bittersweet that they’ll be moving on next year. It’s been interesting over the years to see them grow from little kids into very productive young men and I look forward to the season.”

Looking beyond the upcoming CPBL season, the Toronto Mets have a number of students committed for the 2019 school year, with Jacob Bonzon heading to Roanoke College, Cal Brazier and Matt Ferris going to Niagara County Community College, Eric Chartier off to the University of Charleston, Noel McGarry-Doyle heading to Jefferson College, Kieran Gagnon off to Gannon University, Zach Gardiner and Ryan Leitch going to Marshall University, Liam Hicks to Arkansas State, Noah Hull to Iowa Western, Carter Seabrooke off to South Carolina at Sumter, Keegan Pulford-Thorpe heading to Central Florida and Matt Turino committed to the University of Tennessee.

 

Great Lake Canadians take 18U title for program’s third CPBL championship

After setting a new standard for the most experienced players in the Great Lake Canadians program, with the first-ever tournament win on American soil at the 18U level, and beyond becoming regular-season champions and finishing the year atop the Canadian Premier Baseball League leaderboard, the 18U squad’s season culminated with a championship victory at the highest level of the circuit. 

The Canadians cruised through the playoffs, with an early-round bye because of their position to finish the regular season, and won their way to a title, bringing the 18U trophy back to London after notching their final victory in Scarborough. 

“We got a bye for leading the regular season, so we ended up playing the Toronto Mets in the first game,” GLC 18U manager Adam Stern said. “We thought they were probably one of the tougher offensive clubs that we would face, and it was a good game. They had us late, and then we clawed a few runs. They had a good pitching performance, so they were one of the tougher opponents for us, and they’d had our number early in the season. 

“We won that game and then we played the Fieldhouse Pirates, and it was another good game and ended up being 1-0. It was well pitched on both sides, and that brought us through to the finals, where we would have to be beat twice [to ultimately lose the championship], and then Fieldhouse made their way through to the finals as well, so it was a good competition at the end.” 

With the success the Great Lake squad had found throughout the entire summer, expectations were set at a high bar for the team as it headed into the post-season. 

“I knew going into the season, and as a staff we knew, that we had a good group of guys out there that was built to win,” Stern said. “We had a [pitching] staff that was going to throw strikes, and we had a very well-mixed offensive group. So we had high expectations going in, and we knew that we had a lot of good baseball players on the team. But in the end, they had to go out there and perform, that’s the name of the game, and they did.” 

With the successful season in the rearview mirror, and after many goodbyes were shared among the players heading off to an array of colleges for the fall, the team’s manager had an incredible sense of pride in his players and the year they put together. 

“All along, this team has been a pleasure to coach,” Stern said. “These guys are a resilient group. They play well together, and whether it was pitching or offensive, but they picked each other up if one side wasn’t doing it. Really all year these guys competed. It is obviously a testament to them, the record they had – only losing seven games all year is not easy to do – and it speaks volumes to the quality of the kids on the field.” 

Great Lake’s 18U championship followed CPBL title victories for the organization’s 14U Red and 15U Red teams, after seeing all of the program’s seven teams make it into the semi-final round of league playoffs, and five of them moving into the finals.

“It was an exciting weekend,” Stern said. “Obviously we were up in Toronto not getting to see everything happening [in the other playoff series], but we get to work with these kids during the off-season, and we get to see them during the year, so you see a culmination of a lot of hard work and dedication from the players’ standpoint and the coaches’ standpoint. 

“We couldn’t be more proud of the group of players, and the teams that didn’t win it, they had their own successes. It’s a game that comes down to getting a big hit here or a big pitch there, but all seven teams performed at or above our expectations.” 

Toronto Mets 17U Orange squad captures program’s first CPBL championship

In the third season of the Canadian Premier Baseball League, the Toronto Mets organization captured its first championship when the 17U Orange squad took down the defending age-group champion Great Lake Canadians and secured the title on the second-to-last day of the season. 

After finishing in the middle of the league leaderboard through the regular season, the Mets Orange squad fed off of its more recent success in tournaments in the United States and took the trophy home after big wins against its Blue counterpart and the GLC team. 

“It was exciting,” Mets 17U manager Rich Leitch said. “It was the first one for our program, and then the 16U team won the next day, so it was a good weekend for us…We were confident going into the weekend and we had been on a pretty good roll. We had just come off of an 18-game winning streak down in the U.S. and we were playing really good baseball. 

“We got through our Blue team, and they’re a scrappy bunch who have played us tough all year, and they play hard. Then we had to beat GLC twice in Dorchester, which we knew was going to be a tough task, but we were confident in the there guys we had going. Our three starting pitchers in the last weekend, Nick Manias, Curtis March and Jake Rogers – I believe they were a combined 27-1 on the season – so we had a lot of confidence in our starting pitching, and we had some guys who were really starting to swing the bats well. 

“So we were confident, but we knew it was going to be a grind to get through it.” 

Despite the grind, hoisting the CPBL trophy at the end of a successful season was fun for everyone involved. 

“This was probably the most enjoyable year I ever had coaching,” Leitch said. “I can’t say enough about the kids. They essentially did everything we asked of them, from the first day of the fall last year until 10 o’clock on Saturday night [when the championship was won]. I was happy for them.

“Obviously the coach’s ego comes into play and I want to take credit for it, but 100 per cent of the credit goes to the players and the work they put in. They did a fantastic job and they’re all super kids. They’re a pleasure to be around and I couldn’t have been happier for them. The winning is one thing, but I was happiest for the kids. I was really proud of the way they responded.” 

Not long after the Mets 17U Orange squad sealed the deal, the club’s 16U Orange squad secured a title of its own at the younger age group, bringing home a second trophy to the Out of the Park Sports clubhouse to cap off another successful season. 

“The last couple of years, we’ve really tried to take a synergistic approach to our development plan,” Leitch said. “We’ve gone away from teams practicing separately and we’ll bring in all the kids for position-specific stuff. Our 16U guys are working with our 18U guys and they see how it gets done, and we’re fortunate to have some great players in the program to show them. We have guys like Daniel Carinci, Tyler Black, and an 18U guy like Denzel Clarke working with our 16U guys, and it shows them where they can go and where the hard work will lead them. 

“It’s unfortunate that our 18U team had a couple injuries because I think that would have been an interesting development. But for us it shows, especially at the younger age groups, with the 16U and 17U teams we’re doing the right thing and developing these guys in the right manner. 

“I’m really looking forward to next year because we’re going to have a strong group again. It’s unfortunate to see the season end each year but we are looking forward to getting it going again in the first week of September, and starting our fall season for next year.” 

Toronto Mets 16U Orange team caps off successful season with CPBL title

After going on an unbelievable regular-season run – including 20 straight victories – the Toronto Mets 16U Orange squad kept its success going into playoffs and came out on top as the champion of the 16U level of the Canadian Premier Baseball League. 

The Orange team opened CPBL post-season play with a matchup against its Blue organizational counterpart. After a win to start the tournament, the squad suffered its second loss of the entire season to the same team that defeated it earlier in the summer, the Ontario Nationals. A win against the Great Lake Canadians sent Orange into the finals, but in the double-elimination formatted event, it had to win two straight games against the Nationals to take home the trophy. 

“We started with our Blue team and they were up on us 5-2 in the fifth inning, and it didn’t look good,” Mets 16U Orange manager Darryl Reid said. “We looked like we were going to lose Game 1 and then we got a rhythm going and put together four or five hits in a row to win that game. Then we played the Nationals and they played really well…We couldn’t do anything. They caught everything, made all the plays, and they were really good that day.

“Then we finally got our [first] game against GLC. We didn’t want it to be in that spot but we had Drew Howard throw that game and he had nine strikeouts over five innings and was really good. He led us in that one. Then we were down 5-3 and came back in the next game against the Nationals, and had to beat them twice in the final…It was pretty exciting and pretty tense, and I didn’t think we were going to come back. It didn’t feel like that. 

“But the guys, I don’t know if they thought they were going to win, but they were very calm. It was a different vibe that I hadn’t seen from them throughout the year. Looking at it now, it was probably the confidence that they could come back.”

The second-to-last game of the year was the one that really sparked the Mets and gave them some momentum heading into the championship final. 

“The big game was the walkoff,”  Reid said. “Any time you walk off, it’s exciting, but they were really excited. This group, I don’t know if they’ll all play together next year and I think they all realized that and they wanted to win that championship. They were pretty excited. Listening to them talk about it afterward, that was one of their main goals. 

“We had our last practice the Wednesday before, and we told them that in our minds, they had a successful season, and it was up to them what they wanted. So I didn’t have one single pre-game speech for them, and it was one of those weekends where we gave it to them and let them do what they wanted with it.” 

Reid was especially excited about the way his team performed as an entire unit, giving him a chance to get everybody on the field and allowing each man on the roster to make a contribution in that final weekend of CPBL play. 

“I kept saying to them that everybody would be involved and we were,” the Orange manager said. “We had five games and five completely different lineups, and we completely unloaded our bench in the final game with guys pinch running and pinch hitting. It sounds cliche, but literally everybody had an impact on the final, and it showed the flexibility that we had with them, and being able to move guys everywhere. 

“It was kind of cool to say that it was a team game, and mean it, and then have it actually happen. It was a cool way to win it.”

The Mets manager was very proud to see his team work together and want to succeed and share in the successes of their teammates as well as accomplish their own goals along the way. 

“In a new era of kids, where it can be a little bit individually driven for the success of where they are going to school or to what showcase and that stuff, this group – at least the way they act – they like each other and work together,” Reid said. “It was refreshing and as close to the old school team-first mentality as you can get now.

“These guys are kind of a hybrid, where they are all individually driven, which they should be, but they really wanted to win for each other, so that part was pretty cool.” 

15U CPBL championship won by the Great Lake Canadians Red team

For the second straight Canadian Premier Baseball League season, the Great Lake Canadians secured the title at the 15U level, with the organization’s Red squad coming out on top in the championship in the circuit’s third year. 

By the final day of the 15U championship tournament, only two teams remained, and with the pools down to just the GLC Red and Black teams, it was certain that the Canadians would hold on for back-to-back wins. After the Black squad breezed through the early part of the final weekend, Red had to beat its counterpart twice in order to take home the trophy. 

“That was real tough,” GLC 15U Red manager Derek Bloomfield said. “Those kids are more physical than our team, as far as stature and strength, and they’ve got a few pieces on their team where it’s a threat with them every time. Riley Silva is the first one who comes to mind, and every time he comes to the plate, it’s a pressure situation for the opposition, and we felt that way. We felt that if we could keep him off the base paths, we could win a baseball game. It happened in two out of three games, and it’s unfortunate that he got hurt in the last game, but he did a great job up until that point.

“With our team, a few times in the year I had to give them a kick in the butt because there was no life on the bench, no energy, but they fought, they scratched and clawed when they needed to, and they showed well that way and over that last weekend, that’s for sure.” 

Bloomfield’s squad finished the regular season just behind the GLC Black squad in the standings, finishing two games back and in second place. After battling through the regular season, the team brought everything it had to the playoffs to find success and hoist the CPBL trophy.

“This was a young team,” GLC’s 15U Red manager said. “I knew there would probably be some growing pains, and the season kind of went how I thought it would go – we would have to battle on the mound and we would have to battle basically every single game, and if our pitching and defence held up and kept teams to a minimum, we had a shot in every game because these kids could hit a little bit. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a 15-year-old team like them when they go on a run or get on a roll, but they can bang the ball around with the best of them at that age.” 

Incredibly excited at the outcome, Bloomfield and his team had a lot of fun throughout the playoff weekend, highlighted by a walk-off win against the Tri-City Giants in a tough battle early on. 

“I’m super proud of the team,” the manager said. “I’ve won championships before at other levels, and I’ve seen some good things happen, but to have a big walk-off win against Tri-City and to see exciting moments like that, I’m pretty proud of these kids. Sometimes at that age, you don’t really know what you’re getting into, but I’m really proud of the kids.” 

With an off-season of bragging rights on the line along with the CPBL championship trophy, the GLC Red squad was incredibly excited at the way the season ended, and Bloomfield couldn’t have been happier for them. 

“It was absolutely exciting,” he said. “I try to preach that to the 15-year-olds – to act like you’ve been there before, but you don’t want to hold them down. They’re kids, and it’s part of the game and it’s about having fun. I’m not real big on the hooting and hollering against the opposition, and things like that, but be as professional as you can at 15, have a lot of fun with it, and run with it. And they did.” 

Great Lake Canadians 14U Red squad wins CPBL championship at youngest level

At the youngest level of the Canadian Premier Baseball League, the circuit champions from the second season held on in the third year for back-to-back titles, with the Great Lake Canadians Red squad taking down the Ontario Astros in the final for a second straight 14U season victory. 

As the youngest team in the league, the GLC Red squad finished the third season of the CPBL atop the leaderboard with a 18-3 record and took its successes straight into the playoffs, recording four straight wins – against the Ontario Nationals, GLC Black, and then two against the Ontario Astros – to secure the title.

“The first game we started out kind of slow actually,” GLC 14U Red manager Brad McElroy said. “We scored four runs in four innings and then we added six in the fifth for a mercy, which saved our pitching. The next game we played Great Lake Black, which had just beat us in the [Grand Park] tournament for a big win…We had [Zach] Fishback doing what he did all year – he threw strikes, changed speeds and kept them scoreless – and we manufactured some runs. 

“The next game we played Team Ontario and the last time we played them, we lost against them in the GLC [Canada Day Classic] tournament, so it was a redemption game for us. We blew it open right at the start and just kept it going. The story of that game was [Nolan] McCrossin, who had two errors in the first two innings and it was a tie game and it was a little bit of a nail biter, and then we had the bases loaded and he came up, and first pitch he hit a grand slam. From then on, it was our game.

“In the final we got Team Ontario again and they were pretty depleted…Six or seven of our eight runs were all with two outs in that game, and we were able to win it. Pitching was great for us in the playoffs, the bats came alive, and we just clicked. It went well, and we limited the damage.” 

From the beginning of the off-season to the final weekend of the CPBL, McElroy got to see the evolution of his young players, and couldn’t be more excited for their futures. 

“I’m really proud of them,” the GLC 14U Red manager said. “It was a lot of hard work, and there were a lot of guys who stepped up and understood their roles, and went with it. Luke Beaton was our starting third baseman in the playoffs and he played good defence for us and put some balls in play to drive some runs in. 

“[Nolan] Caudle stepped up and was our starting second baseman. He was making plays for us throughout the year and he earned that spot. And then in the middle of the order, those were the guys. You get to them and if anybody else is on base, we’re scoring them. 

“So I was really happy with the team. We played well throughout the year, and they put it together in the playoffs and it worked. It’s a testament to the whole Great Lake coaching staff – the work everybody puts in, indoors, in practices, through the winter. You see the growth from these kids and they’re all green and coming from other organizations and they want to learn and really get the most out of it. You see the biggest improvements and it’s exciting.” 

The excitement was shared by the members of the young squad, who were clearly elated when the final out of the last game of the CPBL season was made and they had a chance to hoist their trophy and celebrate a successful finish to a fantastic year. 

“That’s why I love coaching this age,” McElroy said. “The kids are so coachable and have so much fun. They want to learn, they love baseball, and they play with smiles on their faces…At 14, they’re in the Great Lake program for the first year and they’re sponges. They want to soak everything up, and with our coaching staff having so many years of professional experience to pour into all these kids, it’s just outstanding. It’s pretty special.” 

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.”

Young Great Lake squad takes championship at 14U level

To close out the second Canadian Premier Baseball League season, the youngest team took the top prize at the youngest age group, with the Great Lake Canadians Red squad defeating the Tri-City Giants to win the 14U crown.

Great Lake’s Red squad brought together the youngest roster in the division, with a number of players eligible for the same age group next season. After a rough start to the year, the young Canadians came together as a team and began to take everything they learned and put it together on the field.

“From the beginning, we were basically undersized and overmatched,” GLC 14U Red manager Brad McElroy said. “We had a lot of young guys, a lot of small guys, considered maybe weaker because of the strength at that age. We had the older 14U team where a lot of the kids were turning 15, and returning from an undefeated regular season last year, so we were thinking okay, we might not be able to compete with them and the other teams in the league.

“In the first two series of the season, we won one game, maybe two, and we were getting mercied like crazy. Then throughout the year, our team really bought into playing the game the right way and focusing on winning one inning at a time, and they’re ballplayers. They ended up really catching on, and through a lot of help from every coach in the organization at practices, they bought in and we became a good team by the end.”

To finish off the regular season, the Canadians Red team won nine of its last 10 games and was coming out of a strong tournament across the border in Indianapolis as it looked to jump into the 14U playoff picture. Though McElroy had high expectations for his young squad, he was still in awe of what they accomplished by the end of its post-season run.

“The first game, we played Team Ontario Red and that was the most nervous I was, because we were ‘supposed’ to win that game,” Great Lake’s 14U manager said. “Our next game was against the first seed, the Ontario Blue Jays. They came out and were winning 7-0 and we ended up coming back and beating them 12-10 after we were down by four runs in the last inning. The next game we played Tri-City, who had a really good team and they ended up mercying us. We were winning 6-0 and they came back and beat us 17-6.

“So we became the second seed in the first pool and played Fieldhouse, who beat Great Lake Canadians Black to be the top seed in the other pool. That was our semifinal matchup  and for some reason, all year, we’ve had their number. We were already 3-1 against Fieldhouse, and the game they beat us they won 23-2 in the third inning. We threw our ace, Caleb Clark, and it was his third time throwing against Fieldhouse and he threw really well, went five strong. They were winning 4-0 and we ended up coming back. We were still down by one in the last inning and we scored seven. Then we went to the finals, and Great Lake Canadians Black had lost to Tri-City, so it was a little disappointing because we were hoping to play them in the final, and instead we played Tri-City, who had already mercied us.

“It was honestly a great game of baseball. We kept the pedal to the metal and kept scoring runs periodically throughout each inning. We kept a good lead and they came back a t the end, but we had a big enough lead where we won 6-4. Lee Majerovits threw really well for us and then Kaden Gray came in and shut the door.”

While the squad’s final weekend of play was incredibly exciting for the young Canadians, McElroy was continually impressed by his team as the year went on, as he watched the progression they made as a group and the strides they took throughout the season.

“What most impressed me was the ability to learn, the drive of these kids wanting to learn and get better, and trying to prove other people wrong,” he said. “Basically the attitude was – even going into playoffs – we have nothing to lose. I’d rather be David versus Goliath, where everybody is looking at you as though there’s no way you can compete. It was no-pressure baseball, which was great. That was the attitude, to have fun and play every inning at a time, and focus on winning the inning….It was carefree and we played great baseball. They were just baseball players, loving the game, and they wanted to win and they did.”

Though McElroy was at the helm of the 14U championship-winning team, the victory was a credit to the organization and the melting pot of assistance and coaching they gained from everyone involved with the Great Lake program.

“This win for 14U Red was a complete Great Lake Canadians effort,” McElroy. “You have all the coaches in on all these kids where they’re working with them separately, taking them into the cages, you’ve got Jeff Helps on the infield, Chris Robinson with the catchers, me, Brock Kjeldgaard and Adam Stern with the outfielders, and Adam Arnold and Shane Davis with the pitchers, and Derek Bloomfield and Kirk Barclay helping out. It really paid off and helped these kids. When you have four to eight coaches at each practice, it shows.”

Great Lake’s victory at the 14U level was one of three Canadians wins to finish off the CPBL season, joining the 17U Canadians, who took the crown in the 18U division, and the 15U squad winning the first title at that age level.

“It’s funny because it’s all about development with Great Lake obviously, but winning is part of it,” McElroy said. “If you’re just developing and all your teams are losing, how do you really say there’s development there? It goes hand in hand. Ultimately it’s not about winning, and our biggest goal is to get people scholarships. We want to get them to the next level…

“In  college when I played it was all about winning. The best players play and ultimately they don’t care if you’re going to get drafted because we need to win and that’s how we’re going to get talent for the next level. The pro side is kind of opposite where if you were drafted higher, you’re going to get more opportunities and it’s not really about winning, it’s all about development and what could maybe happen. We’re kind of in the middle where we really want to win but there’s also the development aspect.”

 

Canadians win first 15U championship in CPBL’s second season

Utilizing the strengths they built throughout the year, the Great Lake Canadians 15U squad bid farewell to the second season of the Canadian Premier Baseball League with the first championship of the circuit at the 15U level, using their defensive improvements and strong pitching to secure a 1-0 win in the final.

“The biggest difference from the start of the season to the end of the season was defensively, at the start of the year, we would come out in the start of an inning and find a way to make an error,” said GLC 15U manager Shane Davis. “That would lead to three or four runs, and we’d be in a hole early.

“By the end of the season, especially in playoffs, we started cleaning that up a lot. I don’t remember an error in the playoffs. That allowed us to stay in the games longer and get leads and put them away earlier. The biggest thing was with our pitching, we didn’t have a lot of guys with swing-and-miss stuff, so they really relied on the defence to work effectively. That’s what ultimately allowed us to win.”

Great Lake’s 15U manager not only enjoyed seeing his team tighten up its game as the year progressed, but it also made a strong impression with its confidence and demeanour on the field.

“What impressed me the most was how calm they would stay and how professionally they would handle themselves,” Davis said. “Early in the season, we got behind early in games and gave them two or three runs in the first two innings, but there was really no panic, or trying to do too much to try to make themselves come back. They were confident in the fact that even though they might not get to the pitcher right away, eventually it was going to happen. I was impressed by their ability, no matter what the score was, to stay in the game.”

After taking down the Toronto Mets and Fieldhouse Pirates on the final day of the 15U season to earn their berth in the championship game, the Canadians took on the Pirates once more in the final and secured the shutout victory to cap off a successful year.

“It was a really good game,” Davis said. “Their pitcher was really good, and it was a seven-inning game that finished in an hour and five minutes, so both pitchers were throwing strikes. We got a run in the third inning, and other than that, there wasn’t a lot of offence. They had some chances to score, we had some chances to score, but both pitchers threw really well.

“Throughout the entire game there were some really nice defensive plays made by a bunch of our guys. I could go through each position and think of a play they made where if they don’t make that play, the result in the game could be completely different.”

The complete-team effort leading to victory was a part of a whole-organization dynasty through the second season of the CPBL for Great Lake, which also took home crowns at the 18U and 14U levels to finish the summer. The league’s champions were rounded out by a 16U victory for the Ontario Blue Jays Travers squad.

“The season was definitely exciting,” Davis said. “I coach at the younger levels, so I see them when they first get into the program. So just to see in a season how quickly someone can grow, especially at a younger age, it’s really impressive. Like Brad [McElroy’s 14U Red] team – if anybody had told us his team was going to win the league, we wouldn’t have put money on that at all at the start of the season, because they were the youngest team in the league. To see that team grow so quickly and become so fundamentally sound in the game is a big thing, and shows how good a job Brad does at the younger level.

“At the 15U level, it’s exciting to see some of the players stay together as they move up, and it’s exciting to see how well they advance through our system and how they become better baseball players and better people. As far as the future goes, it’s really exciting for us and the program, and especially with the younger ages. We have some kids who could be pretty impressive down the road, and we kind of get to see them before anybody else does, and hopefully help them pursue their dreams in baseball, whatever they are.”