Tag: championships

Fourth CPBL season underway and thriving

The fourth season of the Canadian Premier Baseball League got off to another rain-hindered start, with postponements, rain delays, field issues, and the like, but most teams have finally had a chance to hit the field and take on their circuit opponents ahead of another successful summer, and the excitement is only building.

Just a couple of weeks away from Major League Baseball’s upcoming draft, the league’s 18U teams have all been on the field for at least two games apiece, with statistical leaders already emerging and names changing atop the leaderboard. While the same can be said at the 17U level, the highest number of games played so far are at the 16U age group, with the Great Lake Canadians leading the charge, with a 5-1 record.

As the league looks ahead to the bulk of the schedule, there’s no better time for a reminder of the alterations to the CPBL bylaws and changes made throughout the off-season. One change was the move to BBCOR bats at all levels, and another was the move to having no mercy rule at the three highest age groups. Player ejection and suspension rule updates are also outlined within the bylaws.

After last year’s five CPBL crowns were split between the Toronto Mets and GLC organizations, with the former winning championships at the 16U and 17U age groups, and the latter taking home the trophies at the 14U, 15U and 18U levels, every organization is excited to embrace what this season has to hold and fight for the 2019 titles.

Ontario Astros look ahead to fourth season of the CPBL

As we get closer to spring and approach the fourth season of the Canadian Premier Baseball League, the Ontario Astros are looking forward to what lay ahead for the circuit and for the program.

The Astros have been impressed and challenged by the competition the league has consistently brought to the table, and are excited for more of the same, as well as having a chance to build on the successes they found last year.

“The league is doing really well,” Team Ontario director of baseball operations Jason Booth said. “It’s starting to establish a history and we’re starting to see that we are the best league with college commitments in the province, and the CPBL houses the best players in the province – that’s been proven.

“As far as our program goes, there’s never an easy weekend in the league, it’s a tough schedule and quality competition across the board. Our program is moving in an upward swing. We had a five-year plan to make some changes and this will be Year 3 of that plan and we’re getting there. We’ll be competitive at all age groups, and we’re really excited for our 15U team this year. They were our 14U group last year and had a really good year so we’re looking for them to continue that success. And our college placement has been going very well.”

Through the duration of the 2018 season, the most memorable moment for Booth came at the circuit’s close, when the youngest of the organization’s teams made a solid run for a trophy.

“Our 14U team last year – I’m proud of how they battled through the season and battled through some injuries and into the finals,” the director of baseball operations said. “They lost to the Great Lake Canadians in the championship. They did a good job and we think that team is even stronger this year. We are looking forward to seeing what they can do in 2019.”

Throughout the off-season months, the Astros have made some additions and changes to their programming and can’t wait to get out on the field for spring training ahead of the upcoming CPBL season.

“We’ve added a new weight program into our mix, we’ve changed some dynamics with how we’re doing our winter workouts, we have different positional methods, and we’ve had some US coaches and college guys come in and help us through the winter,” Booth said. “We’re taking 44 kids to Florida on March Break to West Palm Beach, which we’re excited about. We’ll have three teams there.”

And beyond the spring, Team Ontario is excited for what’s next in the CPBL, and for its graduating players.

“I like that the 18U playoff weekend has been moved up so those players get an opportunity to have a season and play, and then they get a chance to focus on school starting at the beginning of July,” Booth said. “For our 18U team, it’s a little different because it gives our guys an opportunity to go to the four US tournaments we go to.

“We’re looking forward to having our 2019 class together and playing their final season before they head off to school. Most of those guys have been in the program for three or four years now and it’s exciting to see them end their careers in a positive environment and help them move on.”

As the commitment dominoes continue to fall, the Astros are excited to see where a number of their players land, and they are also looking forward to seeing what their 18U captain Riley McErlean can do as he fulfills his commitment at the College of Wooster in Toledo.

“Wooster is the pre-season No. 1 Division-III program in the nation and he committed in November,” Booth said. “Riley going there is a big thing for us. He’s our team captain this year and he’s been with the program the longest. He’s a leader and really what Team O represents and a great opportunity for him, fitting his needs academically and athletically. And it’s still early, so we look forward to seeing where our other players commit.”

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.

Great Lake Canadians looking to build off of a successful CPBL campaign

Coming off of an incredibly successful season, with three Canadian Premier Baseball League championships and two tournament victories south of the border, the Great Lake Canadians organization is looking for much of the same and more as it heads into the fourth year of the circuit.

Taking the trophies for the second-straight year at the 14U, 15U and 18U levels of the CPBL, the Canadians added a 16U tournament win at the Kent State Invitational and an 18U victory at the Gene Bennett Classic, and all the while maintained the program’s focus on continued development and the progress of its players.

“It was a good year for us,” GLC director of baseball operations Chris Robinson said. “We were happy with how things went on and off the field. We continue to send guys off to school – some big schools and some good fits – and obviously on the field we had some success with three championships.

“We don’t ever really evaluate our success on winning championships but there’s something to be said for as you develop players, you want to develop the winning mentality. So we were really happy with how that went this year.”

Among the accomplishments of the program during the year, the highlight of last season for many of those involved with the organization was in seeing the success of the 18U squad and the season it was able to put together.

“We had some success down in the States, and throughout the league, we all talk collectively about how the league and the competition up here helps our success in the States,” Robinson said. “But we had a very, very special group of older guys this year. Not to take away from any of the other groups we’ve had but it was a very special group and a group that you might not see for a long time.

“It was the way they were wired, the way they went about their business, and obviously they were dominant on the field as well. So that for us was a real fun year, to watch those guys at the back end of their careers here with us, doing what they did.”

As the season came to an end, the Canadians planned their inaugural banquet – featuring ESPN and Toronto Blue Jays broadcaster Dan Shulman as the master of ceremonies, and with multiple big-league players including Pete Orr, Jamie Romak and GLC coaches Robinson and Adam Stern in attendance to honour the players – to open up the off-season before beginning another winter of development-focused training to gear up for the fourth CPBL season.

“Our first banquet was a success, and a really cool night as a staff to celebrate what the program has done,” Robinson said. “The off-season is status quo for us and it continues to be that way. We remind ourselves that there are no gimmicks, there’s no special pill, and it’s just a matter of continuing to develop players as we have in the past. That’s always at the forefront of our minds heading into any off-season.”

With another season about to get underway, Great Lake’s staff is excited for what the future holds and to see how the fourth year of the league unfolds on the field.

“I always like watching the kids develop from year to year,” Robinson said. “And now that we’ve been in it, we’ve seen our first group graduating college last year, and now you see the progression of kids over that course of the year.

“We have a really exciting group of 14U players this year, and we’ve always had good players at that younger level. This year, athletically it may be one of the more highly-anticipated groups we’ve ever had. We look forward to having athletes because we believe so strongly in what we do on the developmental side. So that will be a really fun group to get going and see how they progress, along with the rest of our teams and more familiar players.”

Great Lake also has a number of players committed to head to schools for the upcoming season, with Ryan Faragher off to Wabash Valley College, Noah Myers heading from Wabash to the University of South Carolina, Owen Diodati going to the University of Alabama, Tye Imeson off to Salem International University, Brian Zapp heading to Miami University and Eric Martin headed to Indiana State University.

Eight CPBL players help Team Canada to bronze at world qualifier

With a bronze-medal victory in Chitré, Panama at the COPABE U18 Pan Am championships on Sunday, the Canadian Junior National team secured a spot in next year’s World Baseball Softball Confederation U18 Baseball World Cup, and it did so with the help of eight current or former members of the Canadian Premier Baseball League.

The circuit was represented by CPBL graduates Noah Naylor, who is currently a member of the Cleveland Indians organization after being selected 29th overall in this year’s draft; Denzel Clarke, playing at Cal State Northridge; and Daniel Carinci, a member of the University of Alabama squad. Current representatives of the league at the championships included Dasan Brown, Blake Buckle, Owen Diodati, Keegan Pulford-Thorpe, and TJ Schofield-Sam.

Ontario Blue Jays infielder Buckle was also named a tournament all-star after the final victory.

Team Canada beat Nicaragua 5-3 to take the medal and advance to next year’s tournament, and the Junior National Team program and preparations for the U18 World Cup will begin in March with the annual spring training trip in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Ontario Blue Jays seek second successful CPBL season

Excited about what they’ve already been able to accomplish in the first year of the Canadian Premier Baseball League – winning the circuit championships at the two highest levels – the Ontario Blue Jays are looking forward to much more of the same success they found, and are hoping to improve as they move into their second year with the loop.

“We’re looking forward to having a little more balance in the schedule and creating some rivalries,” said Sean Travers, the director of player development for the OBJ program. “And the playoff tournament was outstanding. That was really cool, to come back after being on the road [playing games in the States], to play in that and finish up with that. That was definitely a plus. And after our latest league meeting, I like the direction of the league moving forward. Everybody’s on the same page, and we’re all just looking for good baseball.”

Travers and his teams enjoyed many advantages of being a part of the new league, and especially liked to see the organization throughout the loop, allowing for an increased number of evaluators to be present at more games, and getting more looks at Ontario’s talent right on home soil.

“There’s a lot more scout presence because they come in to see the players,” Travers said. “When we’re playing the Great Lake Canadians [for example], they can plan around that weekend and know who’s pitching, because the information we’re getting out is a lot better.

“It helps the borderline players who nobody is coming to see as well, because they can all of a sudden come up with a big weekend in front of a new set of eyes, and then they’re on the map. The league creates really good matchups, and scouts can plan their schedules a little bit better and see players against quality players.”

As they prepare to head into the second CPBL season, the Blue Jays have intensified their winter workouts, with emphasis in different areas than they’ve focused on previously. Travers believes that their new training methods will help them gain an added edge on the field as they move forward.

“This is by far our best off-season we’ve ever had,” he said. “Mike [Steed, OBJ director of college placement and pitching] has really stepped up the whole pitching program. Mike and Joe [Ellison, OBJ recruiting coordinator] have done a phenomenal job of adding new drills and concentrating on different areas like velocity and team strength training.

“We’ve also added a new strength trainer, Reid Hall, who seems to be doing a great job. The guys are doing a lot of extra work too. For speed training, we have Courtney Brown, Jaden’s father, who went to San Jacinto College in Texas and then to the University of Illinois on a track scholarship, has taken over the program and a lot of players are taking advantage of that and having him has been a huge bonus.

“Our practices have just been a lot more intense. The coaches are maybe a little bit more demanding than they were in the past and the kids have really bought in and they’re sticking with us. And the work they’re doing on their own, you can see that they’re working on what we were doing in practice. So the intensity has been outstanding, and we’re just growing into our building and figuring out how to best utilize all the space we have now after moving in last winter.

“This year, we’ve also gotten involved with Program 15 [run by Jeremy Booth and based out of Texas], and that was a unique way to kick start our training [with a development camp run by the P15 instructors in December]. It got the guys not only physically ready to go, but the mental training got the guys locked in a little bit more.”

Four of the OBJ squads will get their first opportunity to put into practice what they’ve done all off-season when they head to the sunshine state for a week of spring training games, with everyone else starting when the CPBL kicks off its second year.

“We’re going to do our regular trip to Vero Beach, Florida for spring training,” Travers said. “We’re taking down four teams – two younger teams, and the 17 and 18-year-old teams – and we’ll play high schools and colleges in Vero. We’ll also have a scout day on Monday, March 13 when we’re there, for the pro scouts and college coaches.”

With an increased interest in players from American colleges of late, Travers is excited about what more is to come. With every success story coming from the program, there is more opportunity for the next generation of Blue Jays players to follow in their footsteps.

“We’re getting a lot more interest from schools about kids at an earlier age than we have in the past,” Travers said. “It’s a testament to the players who have been there before them and who have gone on and had success. When they have success, the coaches are then looking forward to who the next guys are. Even when they get recruited by schools and maybe don’t end up there, it builds that relationship and opens the doors for other kids.”

With opportunities to continue their baseball careers while pursuing post-secondary education, the Ontario Blue Jays have 12 players committed to college for the 2017 season, with Noah Naylor committed to Texas A&M for the following season.

Cooper Davis is heading off to Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennesee, Alex Jones to Niagara University in New York, Harley Gollert to Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennesee, Andrew Leggo to Arkansas State University, Owen Jansen to Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana, Jakob Newton to Florida Tech University in Melbourne, Ryan Kula to Jefferson College in Hillsboro, Missouri, Garrett Takamatsu to Central Alabama Community College in Alexander City, Rashad Collymore to Indian River State College in Fort Pierce, Florida, Andrew Wilkinson to St. Petersburg College in Florida, Devin Green to Paris Junior College in Texas, and Reece Reading to Three Rivers Community College in Norwich, Connecticut.

Before those players graduate from the CPBL and the OBJ program, they will be taking the field right at home this summer. Travers is hoping for another strong season from his players, and especially those who are looking to leave a lasting legacy before they depart.

“The league will be even stronger than it was last year,” the OBJ director of player development said. “At the 16-year-old age group, we have about as talented a group as we’ve ever had. Our job is to get that to come together on the field, but the talent is incredible. And we’re doing things a little bit differently this year. Guys like [Canada’s top 2018 draft prospect] Noah Naylor would have never played on our 17U team before, he would have gone right to the 18U, but we’re keeping the teams age appropriate so our 17-year-old team will look a little bit different than it usually does, with guys like Noah.

“Our 18U team will be a veteran team with guys who have been here for three and four years in our program. Hopefully they’ll come together and want to go off and do something special before they leave the program.”