Tag: CPBL

18U playoffs set to get underway this weekend

With many regular season games left to play at the younger levels, the Canadian Premier Baseball League is set to head into postseason play at the highest age group in the circuit, with 18U playoff games getting underway beginning on Friday.

Games on Friday are set to begin at both the Field of Dreams in Dorchester and at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, with matchups continuing throughout the weekend in Dorchester and hosted by the Great Lake Canadians. Six teams will be represented at the 18U level, one from each of the Fieldhouse Pirates, Great Lake Canadians, Ontario Astros, Ontario Blue Jays, Ontario Nationals and Toronto Mets organizations. Playoffs will be played in a double-elimination format.

The regular season saw the Toronto Mets finish atop the 18U leaderboard with an 18-4 record and a late surge, with the Mets winning 10 straight games to finish the regular season and head into playoffs with some momentum. Last year’s regular season and playoff champion at the 18U level, the Great Lake Canadians, finished second in regular-season standings at 16-5 — one-and-a-half games out of first place — and were followed by the Ontario Blue Jays, at 13-10 and five-and-a-half games behind the leaders.

CPBL bylaws will be followed for all games, and each matchup will be seven innings in length. The higher seed in the league standings from the regular season will be the home team throughout the championship. Run rules remain in effect for the entire tournament. Each game has a two-and-a-half-hour time limit, and regular extra innings are permitted during that time. If there is still a tie game at that mark, the international tie breaker procedure will come into effect, and each team will start with the previous two batters on first and second base with none out.

Games will run ahead of schedule where and whenever possible.

Toronto Mets Ryan Leitch and Keegan Pulford-Thorpe selected in 2019 MLB Draft

When two Toronto Mets players heard their names called during Major League Baseball’s draft on Wednesday, they couldn’t have been more excited, or more proud of each other.

Ryan Leitch, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound catcher from Whitby with a commitment to Marshall University was taken in the 29th round of the selection process by the Cincinnati Reds, becoming the fourth Canadian Premier Baseball League player off the board.

“Just being selected was the most exciting part of the draft, honestly,” the 17-year-old said. “Hearing my name being called was special. I’ve always dreamed about hearing, ‘Ryan Leitch, selected by a team,’ and then to hear it finally happen, it’s just surreal. I was at a loss for words when it happened.”

“It’s a huge honour. Having an opportunity to potentially play in the big leagues someday has always been a dream of mine, so for it to be able to become a reality is pretty awesome.”

Leitch was followed by Keegan Pulford-Thorpe, a 6-foot-4, 205-pound left-handed pitcher, committed to Central Florida University, who was taken by the San Diego Padres in the 33rd round.

“It was really exciting,” Pulford-Thorpe said. “I was actually just sitting down working on some homework, because I have an assignment due, and I got a call from an unknown number who I didn’t have a contact for. I didn’t really think much of it, so I picked it up and it was [Canadian scout] Murray Zuk from the Padres calling me, telling me I’d been drafted. Then I went on my phone and saw different messages from people, and it was an amazing feeling.”

Both players are incredibly grateful for the time they’ve spent with the Mets and the Canadian Junior National Team, that helped put them in a position to be choosing between impressive American college opportunities and the professional realm of the game.

“They’ve helped me a lot,” Leitch said. “They’ve gotten me out there exposure-wise, so scouts and coaches and people like that can see me play, and the Junior National Team is such a cool experience, getting a taste of what minor league baseball is really like and playing against all the pro guys.”

Added Pulford-Thorpe: “I owe them everything. The development I’ve gotten from those places is unbelievable. They’ve been the basis of everything that’s helped me accomplish everything. It’s been due to them. They’ve helped me make connections, helped me get onto teams, and to develop and get better. I can’t thank them enough.”

Through the 40 rounds of the draft, a total of 25 Canadian players were selected. The two young Mets couldn’t be more proud to be among them.

“It’s something special that being on the national team, we’ve all been working towards together,” Pulford-Thorpe said of being one of 25 selected. “We were all really pulling for each other. I was glued to the draft, not even looking for my name, but watching the other guys’ names come up throughout the day.

“It’s something special for all of us and we’re all kind of sharing it together. It’s not just one guy getting drafted when one of us is selected, we all worked together for that, so we all feel special about it.”

Both Mets players were just as excited to see one another’s name as they were their own.

“It was great,” Pulford-Thorpe said of seeing Leitch’s name. “He happened a little before me, so it was funny because he was saying, ‘You’re soon,’ and I kind of brushed it off and said, ‘I hope so.’ But I followed him and it’s awesome. It’s great to see him there too.”

Added Leitch: “I’m really proud of Keegan. He’s probably one of the most deserving guys I know. He works 24/7, he’s always trying to get better and to better himself, and he’s a good guy. I couldn’t be more proud of the guy.”

The entire Mets organization couldn’t be more proud of their players as they take their next steps in the game.

“It is always a proud and special moment when any of our current and former players are drafted and I am so happy for all of them,” Toronto Mets president of baseball Ryan McBride said. “This one, however, has special meaning for me personally. I remember the phone call from West Virginia when Ryan Leitch was born. He has worked extremely hard and it is very exciting to watch him begin to realize his baseball goals.”

Added coach Honsing Leung: “Keegan has been a part of the Mets family since 2016 and continues to be one of the leaders of the program through his dedication and hard work. He has a tireless work ethic and is a humble person, traits that will allow him to succeed at the next level, no matter what obstacles are thrown his way. We are all excited to see him progress in the future.”

Leitch and Pulford-Thorpe were two of just 25 Canadians selected in the 2019 draft, and a pair among six CPBL players chosen, joining Ontario Blue Jays Dasan Brown, TJ Schofield-Sam and Jaden Brown, taken in the third, 12th and 40th rounds, respectively, and Great Lake Canadians catcher Owen Diodati, selected in the 29th round.

Great Lake Canadians catcher Owen Diodati selected by Blue Jays in 2019 MLB Draft

Being selected by the Toronto Blue Jays in Major League Baseball’s draft was a dream come true for Great Lake Canadians catcher Owen Diodati.

The 6-foot-3, 210-pound left-handed-hitting backstop from Niagara Falls became the third Canadian Premier Baseball League player taken off the board and the third Canadian selected by the Blue Jays when Toronto called his name in the 29th round on Wednesday, with the 867th overall pick.

Though Diodati discussed his options with the Blue Jays during the selection process, the 17-year-old plans to fulfill his commitment to the University of Alabama.

“I had some discussions with [the Blue Jays on Tuesday] where it got really serious and it was a really hard decision for me to go to school,” Diodati said. “They made a pretty significant offer financially and it was a hard decision, so I didn’t think it would end up how it did, that they would still choose me.

“It says a lot about them as an organization and who they are as people. It was an exciting day for me, and it means a lot more coming from the Blue Jays especially because I don’t think there’s anyone I had a relationship with like the Blue Jays, and from top to bottom I knew everyone, and it was really special.”

Great Lake has seen firsthand how hard Diodati has worked to get to the point where he was able to have a decision to make between an impressive collegiate opportunity and professional baseball, and couldn’t be more proud of the young player.

“He’s been one of our hardest workers,” GLC director of baseball operations Chris Robinson said of Diodati. “He’s just the type of kid you don’t bet against. He’s a really mature kid on and off the field in terms of his approach to the game. Offensively, he’s got that professional approach already.

“I know there were some questions of whether he could catch, and I was impressed with how he went about that. He went and spent his entire off-season with a little bit of a chip on his shoulder to prove that he could catch, and it’s pretty cool today getting drafted as a catcher. That’s a cool thing for Owen because I know that’s something he believes in and he really wants to fulfill.”

Added Diodati: “The Blue Jays were one of the teams that really believed in me as a catcher and thought I could do well back there and stay behind the plate regardless of what the bat is and what usually happens to guys like me in pro baseball.

“That was something I talked to [Robinson] about from the very start – I wanted to catch. For them to believe in me and to draft me as a catcher, it’s definitely special. It speaks to the hard work I put it, but also drives me and fuels me to keep working, because I know it’s possible if I really want to do it.”

As Diodati continues his baseball career beyond the CPBL and the Canadian Junior National Team, the Canadians are confident in what he will bring with him to the next level.

“He’s going to work,” Robinson said. “That’s something that [Diodati’s parents] Jodi and Ryan have instilled in him and something that we saw immediately when he came here. So that’s what it’s going to be again, whether with the Jays or down in Alabama, he’s going to keep working.

“He’s got such a great disposition to him and he’s a great teammate, he keeps things light, but he’s the type who leads by example when he’s in the weight room or when he’s on the field or whatever. We’ll see similar things from him as he moves forward.”

Diodati was one of just 25 Canadians selected in the 2019 draft, and one of six CPBL players chosen, joining Ontario Blue Jays Dasan Brown, TJ Schofield-Sam and Jaden Brown, taken in the third, 12th and 40th rounds, respectively, and Toronto Mets Ryan Leitch and Keegan Pulford-Thorpe, selected in the 29th and 33rd rounds.

“It’s something I dreamed of since I was a little kid, and coming from the Blue Jays it means even more because that’s who I grew up watching,” Diodati said. “It’s so classy for them to make that pick after not working out a deal. And three years from now, when my draft year comes around again, it makes that relationship that much stronger. Today was amazing, and getting picked was a childhood dream come true.”

Ontario Blue Jays TJ Schofield-Sam and Jaden Brown selected in 2019 MLB Draft

TORONTO — After Dasan Brown became the first Canadian off the draft board on Tuesday during Major League Baseball’s annual selection process — taken in the third round by the Toronto Blue Jays — it wasn’t long before a number of familiar names were called.

The second Canadian Premier Baseball League player selected in the draft was another Ontario Blue Jays player — also a representative of the Canadian Junior National Team — infielder TJ Schofield-Sam, who was taken by the Oakland Athletics in the 12th round, the 374th overall selection.

“TJ is easily one of the best hitters I’ve ever coached,” said OBJ 18U manager Joe Ellison. “He is a pure hitter, no matter the count, pitcher, field or score. TJ is going to give you a great at-bat, and come through in the most clutch situations. His approach is mature, well beyond his age, and he has incredible plate coverage and discipline.

“He is a quiet leader who takes his leadership onto the field and lets his performance lead the way.”

Schofield-Sam is a 6-foot-1, 185-pound left-handed hitter who was drafted as a third baseman by the A’s. The 17-year-old from Brampton is committed to Chipola College in Florida and competed at the Blue Jays annual showcase for college-eligible players — Tournament 12 — on three occasions.

“The Athletics are getting a hitter, and a very talented one at that,” Ellison said. “I believe he can hit at any level you put him at. TJ will continue to offer a lineup a ton of disciplined at-bats with the ability to drive baseballs out of the park. Oakland is getting a great player with a great work ethic who loves to hit and has the ability to become a big part of their organization.”

A third OBJ player came off the board in the 40th round with the 1203rd pick of the draft, when the Washington Nationals selected shortstop Jaden Brown, a Mississauga native who is committed to the University of Kentucky.

“Jaden is an incredible athlete, who is as physical as he is athletic,” Ellison said. “He brings explosive actions to everything that he does, and contributes to every team he’s a part of. He features plus power, plus speed, and plus arm strength from shortstop. He’s a leader both on and off the field, and continues to be one of the hardest-working players in our program.”

Ellison is excited to see what Brown – also a member of Team Canada – has to offer at his next stop, wherever his baseball career takes him.

“Whether it is with Washington or the University of Kentucky, Jaden is going to give them a ton of plus tools to work with,” the 18U OBJ manager said. “His ability to hit, hit with power, run and throw will be assets to anyone’s team or program. Jaden has the tools to become an impact player at the next level, whether that be college or professional. He will continue to be the hardest worker and most determined to succeed.”

The OBJ organization couldn’t be more excited to follow its players as they take the next steps in their careers and see what the future holds.

“It’s hard to put into words exactly how proud we are of these players for achieving what they’ve always dreamed of,” Ellison said. “They’ve been with us for years and we’ve had the opportunity to watch them grow up and develop right in front of our eyes. We couldn’t be more happy for not only these extremely talented players, but for their families as well. We wish them nothing but success at the next level.”

Dasan Brown, Schofield-Sam and Jaden Brown were three of the six Canadian Premier Baseball League players selected in the 2019 draft. Great Lake Canadians catcher Owen Diodati was selected by the Blue Jays in the 29th round, while Toronto Mets catcher Ryan Leitch was taken by the Cincinnati Reds in the same round, and Mets left-hander Keegan Pulford-Thorpe was chosen by the San Diego Padres in the 33rd round of the selection process.

Dasan Brown a third-round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays

TORONTO – As the second day of Major League Baseball’s draft began on Tuesday, Dasan Brown quickly became the first Canadian taken off the board when the Toronto Blue Jays selected the speedy Ontario Blue Jays outfielder in the third round, with the 88th overall pick.

Consistently ranked atop the 2019 draft class as the selection process approached, Toronto had an inordinate amount of familiarity with Brown, a native of nearby Oakville. Not only had the Blue Jays seen him playing games in the Canadian Premier Baseball League with the OBJ program, and with the Canadian Junior National Team, but they also hosted him three times at their annual showcase for the best college-eligible players in the country, Tournament 12.

It was over those years that Brown showcased his propensity for growth, learning how to hone in on the tools that will help to carry him as he moves forward in his baseball career, as well as how to deal with the failures that baseball brings.

“When I first started playing with the Blue Jays, I just needed somewhere to play,” Brown said. “And [OBJ coaches] Sean Travers, Eddie Largy, Mike Steed, all those guys really took me in and helped me to understand it’s a game but you have to use your brain, you have to trust yourself, and trust your abilities. Once you can do that, the sky’s the limit.

“[Baseball Canada’s director of national teams] Greg Hamilton with [Team Canada] had a real calm approach with us. He really let us play and that’s what helped my development, just being about to go out there and make mistakes, go out there and struggle a little bit, so that I can bring myself up. It’s helped me.”

Witnessing Brown’s upbringing in Canadian baseball and seeing him on a plethora of occasions are the reasons the young player feels the Blue Jays believed in him enough to make him the top Canuck in the Draft.

“It helped a lot,” Brown said. “Just them knowing what kind of player they’re getting. They’ve seen the ups, they’ve seen the downs, so trying to take that neutral [look] and go to the next step of my life and potentially have the opportunity to [play professionally], I’m looking forward to it.”

Kory Lafreniere, Toronto’s coordinator of amateur scouting, was the scout who selected Brown on Tuesday, after years of seeing the young player in action.

“It was a cool moment just because he’s been with me through this entire process so just hearing that call, that’s pretty cool,” Brown said. “He basically said, ‘We’re glad to have you.’ I’ll have to make a decision, but this opportunity is something different, something special, so just being able to enjoy this and moving forward and making a decision, I’m looking forward to it.”

Brown is one of the fastest players in the 2019 Draft class — if not the fastest — with 70-grade speed according to MLB Pipeline, and 80-grade speed according to Baseball America, and the athletic outfielder has been consistently ranked as the best Canadian prospect this year. He should be a plus defender, and though there is much room for improvement at the plate, he was heavily scouted facing professional competition with Team Canada, giving an easy glimpse into his future.

“Dasan is a quick-twitch athletic outfielder who has the ability to change a game with the speed he plays at,” said OBJ 18U manager Joe Ellison. “His athleticism has been something we’ve seen since he was 15 years old, but his hard work has paid off in the cages to improve his ability to hit, and hit with power, over the last three years. He’s also the type of player who doesn’t shy away from leading a team both on and off the field.”

Brown earned his first shot at Team Canada late in ’17 and helped his country to a bronze medal at the COPABE U18 Pan Am Championships in Panama last fall. But in between, he had an eye-opening experience in his first glimpse of Minor League Spring Training, something he believes will help him as he moves forward.

“My very first Spring Training trip in 2018, we were coming out of the winter, so we were in gyms, batting cages, all that,” Brown said. “We went onto the field, and I was 16 at the time, and we were playing grown men.

“These guys had been [playing outside] for a couple weeks, and you can’t have a child’s mindset when you’re going into that environment. So it really forced me to grow up and forced me to understand that I’m not going to be the best player right now, but it just matters the progress I make.”

Brown will look to take that mindset with him as he makes his next move. The 17-year-old outfielder is committed to Texas A&M, and the Blue Jays will have to pull him away from the Aggies. The slot value for the No. 88 pick in the Draft is $678,600.

“Wherever Dasan ends up, whether it be with a professional organization or at Texas A&M, he will succeed,” Ellison said. “Dasan’s work ethic and athletic ability will carry him throughout the remainder of his baseball career, no matter the level. Wherever he ends up after this week, that organization is getting a first-class kid with incredible talent and athletic ability that could produce at the highest level as he continues to develop.”

A version of this story originally appeared on BlueJays.com.

The inexact science that is Major League Baseball’s Draft

What happens if the draft doesn’t turn out the way you thought it might?

No surprise there. It happens to almost everyone.

Many excited players, disappointed draftees and unselected players, their families, coaches and friends all have one thing in common – the draft didn’t turn out exactly as they had planned it. Maybe they invested too much in the imprecise nature of rankings, or maybe school and money were bigger factors than everyone thought, but no matter the reason, nothing is as it would seem.

“Although the industry and many of the analytical teams have made tremendous strides to make the draft process more scientific and data-driven, it still remains an inexact science,” said Clint Longenecker, Cleveland Indians assistant director of amateur scouting and former Baseball America draft guru, ahead of the 2017 draft.

“Even with millions of dollars dedicated to the amateur scouting process every season, there are so many factors that create a wide variety of scouting opinions. After the first few players picked at the top of the draft every season, there is very little consensus.”

Of the many thousands of players seen each year by numerous scouts, cross checkers and other evaluators, only a small percentage earn the privilege of hearing their names throughout the selection process. And in all likelihood, most of them thought they would be higher up the list.

“The problem with the draft is that if you build it up and create a focus around it with the kids, by and large you’re setting them up for disappointment,” Baseball Canada’s director of national teams Greg Hamilton said, also ahead of the ’17 selection process. “Let’s face it, when you look back and track it, how many players out of the country are going to go high enough to where they’re going to be incredibly excited about the selection?

“You’re not getting too many kids who are…expecting the 40th round – they’re thinking way above and beyond that. It’s not easy to go in the top 10 rounds or 15 rounds or 20 rounds.”

Head coach of the Canadian Junior National Team, Hamilton often gets to work with the best of the best prospects from north of the border, including several of the Canadian Premier Baseball League’s top players. With many members of his squad eligible for each draft, he looks to offer a realistic outlook to his players each year.

“I try to temper expectations,” the Team Canada coach said. “I tell them that a lot of it is outside their control, [and] to enjoy their senior year, and go out and play because they love to play the game. Work on the things that they need to work on and if the draft comes, it’s meant to be. It’s all about timing…sometimes it’s meant to be out of high school and other times it’s not.”

With expectations abound and results remaining to be seen, many great players will be left off of the final draft list, perhaps overlooked by teams or maybe because they don’t fit the mould of what each organization has room for.

***

So how does it work, exactly?

“One of the longest-tenured and most respected scouting directors crystallized the variance in player preference when he said, ‘Nobody in the game is smarter than anybody else, we just see players at different times and have different risk tolerances,’” Longenecker said. “Seeing a player on the right – or wrong – day can lead to a wide range of opinions of that player within the industry.

“Some teams may have a player who goes in the third round valued in the eighth round because they didn’t see him on the right days. Not to mention if some teams prefer raw, toolsy and high-upside athletes who have star-level tools and potential, but a very small chance of achieving that ceiling, while others in the game might prefer lower-ceilings with higher probabilities.”

Those are just the factors under consideration when draft boards – and many ranked lists – are lined up purely based on talent. But, there’s more to it than that.

“The other complicating factor of signability enters the equation,” Longenecker said. “Many of the top high school players in the country will bypass their opportunities to go pro, sometimes turning down more than a million dollars, for the chance to go to school and play college baseball.

“A player’s makeup and medical history are just a couple of the other factors in the process that can create extreme heterogeneity within the draft process. Another is team-specific fits. Sometimes very talented players who fit in the top half of the first round for some teams will be much, much lower – or off some teams’ boards – because of arm actions or deliveries, etc.”

While Canadian players have occasionally had the reputation in the past of being easier to sign than their American counterparts, several have been sliding down draft boards in recent years for good reason. Young players from north of the border are continually getting better scholarship opportunities than previously, and on a larger scale.

“That’s what happened with a bunch of the Canadian kids,” one National League scout said of a previous year’s selection process. “When they’re drafted now, they’re more [comparable to] Americans than they used to be. In the past, you could draft a Canadian kid in almost any round and he would sign.

“What’s happening now is these scholarships are getting good and the money – because of slotting – isn’t that good after the fifth round for high school kids. There were a lot of good kids getting drafted later but they really aren’t going to sign because it’s not good business.

“That’s just because baseball in Canada has evolved a little bit, where now the kids have got good scholarships and because of the way slotting is, it’s hard. You can’t sign a kid for a hundred thousand anymore.”

***

In 2014, Ontario Blue Jays hurler Zach Pop was one of the country’s top-ranked hurlers heading into the draft. A strong commitment to Kentucky inflated his asking price from organizations, sliding him to the 23rd round of the draft – where he was selected by the Toronto Blue Jays – and the right-hander ended up joining the Wildcats and putting himself in an even better position for this year, following his junior season.

“Going in, I put a very hefty price tag on myself to deter me away from university,” Pop said. “I had a great university option at the University of Kentucky…and I knew that was a great scholarship opportunity. Not too many people get that, so I thought, hey why not take advantage of it, because the draft is going to be there in three years.”

The selection process for Canadians has certainly changed over the years. Canada’s first-ever first-rounder Chris Reitsma, currently a scout for the Baltimore Orioles, knows how different things are now, but is also excited for the opportunities young players are afforded.

“In the past Canadian kids have probably been easier to sign, just because the exposure and the experience haven’t been there as much as for someone playing in the States,” Reitsma said. “Now that’s not the case, obviously with our junior national team program and what we’ve put them through and the knowledge we try to instill in them.”

Another scout added: “Kids are getting better scholarships and it’s harder to turn them down unless they get a little bit more money. It’s changed over the last three or four years – the Canadian kids are getting more exposure than they used to and schools are starting to see that there are some good players here so the scholarships have gotten better.

“Not everybody is going to a junior college – a lot of guys are going to four-year schools, and better four-year schools.”

With or without the draft, nothing should take away from what many young Canadians are doing on the diamond. While every Canuck selected should definitely bask in the excitement and prestige of being chosen by a major league team, success should most certainly not be measured by the number on MLB’s Draft Tracker.

“I try to make sure that the perception isn’t failure if it doesn’t end up being what they hope for out of high school,” Hamilton said. “The kids that we’re dealing with have accomplished a lot anyway. At the minimum, they’re out with the national team and for the most part, they have scholarships.

“That puts them in an enviable small percentage of players who play the game in this country and they should be proud of that. The draft is all bonus.”

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.

CPBL announces 2019 regular-season schedule

With spring just around the corner, and the summer months ahead, the Canadian Premier Baseball League is excited to share the schedule for the fourth season of the circuit. Schedules are separated by age group, and times and locations of games have yet to be determined.

2019 CPBL 14U schedule

2019 CPBL 15U schedule

2019 CPBL 16U schedule

2019 CPBL 17U schedule

2019 CPBL 18U schedule

2019 CPBL showcase tournament

We look forward to the season ahead, and as the locations are obtained and the times for games are set, they will be released.

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.”

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.