Tag: Denzel Clarke

Denzel Clarke

Alumni Update: Denzel Clarke Enters His Junior Season at CSUN

Denzel Clarke’s baseball journey took him to California State University at Northridge in 2018, and after putting together a solid freshman year, and excelling in 15 games in the COVID-shortened 2020 season, he enters the 2021 year as one of the top prospects in the Big West Conference. 

Just recently, CSUN’s outfielder was ranked by D1Baseball as the 82nd overall prospect at the level. Flashback a few years earlier, and Clarke, then a member of the Toronto Mets, was one of the top prep prospects in the CPBL.

During his time with the Mets, Clarke established himself as one of the top players in the league and was high on the radar of scouts throughout the province.

He credits the organization in helping him develop as a player. “The Mets gave me a place to play and the opportunity to get better – all while surrounded by some great players, coaches, and most importantly, people. It helped me progress and gain experience as a baseball player, and for that, I’ll always be grateful,” he said.

In June of 2018, as Clarke’s time with the Mets was concluding, he heard his name called by the New York Mets in the MLB Draft, selected in the 36th round. However, CSUN was a natural fit for Clarke for a number of reasons, and with the support from those around him, the Pickering, Ont. native decided to head west. 

He noted, “the draft experience can be very hectic, however I was fortunate to have a great support system to help me and educate me through the process; with that I was able to grow and mature as a person. I picked CSUN because I was looking for schools that met my needs as a baseball player and as a person. I had a list of things that I required from a school during the process and CSUN met all the requirements.”

“It has been amazing playing in the competitive Big West Conference and you can truly see why California produces a lot of high quality baseball players.”

The former force in the CPBL adjusted well to the college baseball schedule, in part due to the similarities between the two leagues. “The structure of the [CPBL’s] playing schedule was designed to match that of a collegiate schedule; the midweek games, long weekends, and the travel almost precisely emulate what the college season is all about. Simply put, the structure of the CPBL is fantastic,” said Clarke.

Unfortunately, with California being hit hard by COVID, it has impacted scheduling of baseball activity for CSUN thus far. Instead, they’ve only been able to gather as a club through Zoom calls.

Despite the negative situation, Clarke sees the bright side and looks forward to the season. “It has not been the same being unable to practice and meet the new guys on the team, but we have to take what we can get right now. Our team gets our work in regardless of where we are, so when we reconvene in the Spring, I am excited to see how it all comes together.”

When Clarke and the Matadors get back onto the field, there will be scouts in attendance, watching closely as the former Mets outfielder looks to build on his 2020 season and carry that momentum into his junior campaign.

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.

Three CPBL players selected in Major League Baseball’s draft

Three Canadian Premier Baseball League players were chosen in Major League Baseball’s first-year player draft this year, with Noah Naylor chosen in the first round, Eric Cerantola selected in the 30th round, and Denzel Clarke taken in the 36th round.

Naylor, an Ontario Blue Jays catcher and infielder, was taken by the Cleveland Indians with their first pick in the selection process, 29th overall. The selection made him the highest CPBL player ever chosen in the three-year history of the circuit. Committed to the Texas A & M Aggies, the slot value for the 29th overall pick is $2,332,700.

Ranking among the best high school players eligible for the draft throughout the months leading up to the event, the native of Mississauga and Team Canada mainstay was also the first player from the entire country taken in the 2018 process, and the only Canadian selected on the opening night of the draft.

“He’s really ready,” Baseball Canada’s director of national teams Greg Hamilton said of Naylor. “He plays the game with an ease to it, he doesn’t get too high and he doesn’t get too low…He plays very consistent and very determined and very level. There is a fire in there…

“He’s got everything that you’re looking for – he slows the game down offensively and defensively, he’s a special hitter, he’s a different hitter than his brother, but he’s going to be a really good hitter and a really good player.” 

Cerantola, a right-hander in the Great Lake Canadians organization, was the highest-ranked Canadian high school pitching prospect entering the process, and with a strong commitment to Mississippi State University, the Oakville native was chosen with the 900th overall pick by the Tampa Bay Rays.

Clarke, an outfielder from the Toronto Mets organization, was chosen by the New York Mets with the 1,070th overall pick, just the 15th Canadian player selected in a year that would see only 19 players from north of the border chosen. The native of Pickering is committed to Cal State Northridge.

Among those selected, five players chosen are alumni of programs currently playing in the CPBL, though they all graduated from their respective programs before the league began. Toronto Mets grad Tristan Pompey was the second Canadian off the board, taken by the Miami Marlins in the third round out of the University of Kentucky. Ontario Blue Jays alum RJ Freure was taken in the sixth round by the Houston Astros out of the University of Pittsburgh. Great Lake Canadians grad Michael Brettell was chosen by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 15th round out of Central Michigan University.

Nick Trogrlic-Iverson, who was a member of the Fieldhouse Pirates organization before joining the Langley Blaze and then moving on to Central Arizona College, was also taken in the 15th round just two picks after Brettell, chosen by the Milwaukee Brewers. OBJ grad Ryan Rijo was taken in the 37th round by the Philadelphia Phillies out of New Mexico Junior College.


In the second season of the CPBL last year, Toronto Mets right-hander and native of Pickering, Ont., Landon Leach was the first Canuck off the board, selected with the first pick of the second round by the Minnesota Twins, 37th overall. The righty signed for $1,400,000 and is currently at extended spring training in Fort Myers, Florida. 

Great Lake Canadians shortstop Adam Hall quickly followed Leach in the draft, when the Baltimore Orioles chose the Bermuda-born Londoner with the 60th overall pick, also in the second round. Hall is also currently at extended spring training, in Sarasota, after signing for $1,300,000.   

Ontario Blue Jays outfielder and Mississauga’s own Cooper Davis was chosen by his hometown Toronto Blue Jays in the 25th round and was the 15th Canuck chosen, 759th overall. In the fall, Davis fulfilled his commitment to Vanderbilt University in Nashville and is currently headed to the super regional round of the College World Series with his team. 

Dondrae Bremner, a Toronto native and shortstop in the Mets program, was selected by the Cincinnati Reds in the 31st round of the draft, 917th overall, as the 17th player from north of the border whose name was called. Bremner fulfilled his commitment to Cincinnati, where he just finished his freshman season. 


The four CPBL players selected last year follows the inaugural season of the league, in which 12 Canadian high schoolers were chosen in the draft, and all six hailing from Ontario coming from the CPBL. Toronto Mets catcher Andrew Yerzy was the first one off the board in 2016, selected by the Diamondbacks in the second round, 52nd overall, and eventually signing for $1,214,100. 

Ontario Blue Jays righty Jordan Balazovic was taken in the fifth round two years ago, 153rd overall, by Minnesota, eventually signing for $515,000. OBJ catcher Luke Van Rycheghem was chosen by Arizona in the 23rd round and signed for $100,000. Mets southpaw Matt Jones was taken by the Twins in the 28th round and signed for $70,000. 

Great Lake right-hander Austin Shields was selected by the Pirates organization in the 33rd round of the 2016 draft and signed for $205,000 just before the deadline. His Canadians teammate and outfielder Jake Wilson was taken in the 39th round by the Red Sox, and opted to fulfill his commitment to Bowling Green State University, where he has already earned a number of accolades through his freshman and sophomore seasons. 

Eleven CPBL players to represent Canada against Dominican Summer League prospects

The Canadian Junior National Team is just about set to depart for its third trip of the season, and final tour before Major League Baseball’s draft begins on June 4, and among the 30 young players invited to match up against Dominican Summer League prospects are 14 who hail from Ontario, and 11 members of Canadian Premier Baseball League teams.

Among those 11 CPBL players, four represented Team Canada at the World Baseball Softball Confederation’s U18 Baseball World Cup last September right at home in Thunder Bay, with Noah Naylor representing the Ontario Blue Jays, Eric Cerantola and Griffin Hassall hailing from the Great Lake Canadians program, and Denzel Clarke from the Toronto Mets organization. Fellow league members Dasan Brown, Jaden Brown, Blake Buckle, Daniel Carinci, Owen Diodati, Keegan Pulford-Thorpe and TJ Schofield-Sam will join the quartet in the Dominican, and all 11 players are following up a spring trip with the Canadian squad to Florida in April.

On the upcoming trip, Team Canada will play 13 games in nine days against clubs in the Dominican Summer League clubs from organizations that include the New York Mets, Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Detroit Tigers, Milwaukee Brewers, Toronto Blue Jays, Seattle Mariners, Houston Astros, Minnesota Twins, Tampa Bay Rays, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Pittsburgh Pirates. Baseball Canada’s director of national teams and manager of the junior squad Greg Hamilton leads a coaching staff that includes former national team member Chris Begg, and Robert Fatal, attending as a guest coach.

The Junior National Team program has travelled to the Caribbean baseball hotbed every year since 2011, with the trip providing young Canadian players with a truly unique baseball opportunity.

“The Dominican Summer League camp is a very important component to our Junior National Team program that will provide an invaluable experience to our players,” Hamilton said. “Players will be challenged with an intense schedule, while also dealing with elements in the Dominican Republic that they don’t face at home. The strides taken at this camp will better prepare our team for success going forward.”

In addition to providing an excellent development opportunity for players, the Dominican Summer League camp will aid in the selection process of Canada’s roster for the COPABE U18 Pan Am championships that will take place from November 23 to December 2 in Panama City, Panama. The event also serves as a qualifier for the 2019 WBSC U18 Baseball World Cup.

Denzel Clarke using his toolbox to find success at World Cup

THUNDER BAY, Ontario – Denzel Clarke has been nothing short of impressive at the World Baseball Softball Confederation’s U18 World Cup in Thunder Bay.

In just a short time, since joining the Toronto Mets program and heading to Everest Academy – where he has the on-field tutelage of Team Canada coach Chris Begg – and being added to the Canadian Junior National Team, the 17-year-old outfielder has made huge strides, with plenty of room left to grow.

“When I first saw Denzel, it was about a year-and-a-half ago when he came to Everest,” Begg said. “He was just raw. You saw the athleticism there, but he hadn’t put any of it together yet. Over the course of a year-and-a-half, to see him in everyday things like Phys. Ed class, or playing pickup basketball,  his athleticism was starting to show.

“Even on the baseball field, when we practiced he was very raw on the outfield, he wasn’t taking great routes to the ball, and his arm has come a long way since we started.”

Together for the World Cup, Begg has had a chance to see his young pupil in action firsthand at Port Arthur Stadium, and has been impressed by what Clarke has done. In eight games, with the bronze-medal matchup left to play, the 6-foot-3, 187-pound right fielder has shown defensive instincts and athleticism, as well as going 7-for-22 with two doubles, six runs scored and five driven in.

“It’s funny,” the national team coach said. “He’s much better in games than he is in practice. He’s still raw, but he’s able to put those pieces together and it comes through in games.”

Added Clarke: “I feel like I have a little bit left to grow. I feel like the main thing I have to do is put on strength, and that will help with my baseball, because I’m working on polishing everything. What I have now, I’m able to work with it, but I want to work as hard as I can and see what I can become.”

Team Canada began its run to the bronze-medal game with two early losses against Chinese Taipei and Korea to land in a hole that meant it needed to win each subsequent game to move onto the super round. Facing Italy with elimination on the line, Clarke and his Canadian teammates didn’t hold a lead until the ninth inning, completing an epic comeback in the most exciting matchup of the event.

“That game was crazy,” the uncommitted outfielder said. “It was a do-or-die game, and it was a tight one. So for us to never get our heads down, keeping our heads up and then just to keep battling and find a way to win was amazing. I never had any doubts and I don’t think the team did. We just need to be really confident in ourselves. We know we can hit, and it’s just about getting going.”

After taking down the Italians, the Canadian squad notched wins against Australia and Nicaragua to secure its spot in the super round. There, Canada defeated Cuba and Japan to land a spot in Sunday’s bronze-medal contest, where it will meet Japan once more.

“Everything has been awesome so far,” Clarke said. “Everything has been exactly how Greg [Hamilton, Baseball Canada’s director of national teams] said it would be, and the past alumni who have been on Team Canada said it would be. The crowd has been loud, and when you come here you don’t even need to be energized – the crowd will do it for you. It’s just been a great experience so far…

“Our mindset has always been to win, of course, but we need to always play hard and play our hearts out, and hope for the best.”

After growing up doing gymnastics, figure skating, tennis, track and more alongside baseball, the young native of Pickering, Ontario chose to stay primarily on the diamond at 10 years old – though he still trains with his mother Donna, a former Olympic heptathlete and current track coach. After starting with Pickering-Ajax clubs, he joined the Oshawa Legionaires, Ajax Spartans, and Ontario Blue Jays development program before the Mets.

“When I was younger, I did everything,” Clarke said. “I did a lot of stuff when I was growing up, until I hit the age of 10. It was just about trying different things until I found something I really hooked onto, and luckily baseball was it. It seems to be working so far, so hopefully I can stay with it…

“I still try to do any sports I can, whether it’s at school or when I go to a friend’s house, hanging out with them and playing sports. I love sports and I’ll play anything.”

Helped during some of his prime development years by the Mets and the Canadian Junior National Team, Clarke is excited to continue pushing his limits and make progress as he learns how to use his tools on the field.

“The Mets have been a really good program for me,” he said. “They took me in when I was 16 years old, and the way they help develop players has been really helpful, and playing in one of the better leagues in Canada and in Ontario has helped me a lot…

“The Junior National Team has been amazing. Facing the high level of competition on the March and April trips [against professionals at spring training], and going down to the Dominican in May was an eye-opening experience. All of it together has been really helpful for me.”

Clarke isn’t the only one looking forward to seeing what more he can do.

“His ceiling is as high as he wants it to be,” Begg said. “Look at the frame, look at the athleticism, look at the growth, look at the bloodlines – he’s got potential to be an all-star.”

Clarke is one of eight current or former Canadian Premier Baseball League players at the World Cup in Thunder Bay fighting for bronze. He is joined by Mets teammates Landon Leach and Dondrae Bremner, Great Lake Canadians Griffin Hassall, Lucas Parente and Eric Cerantola, and Ontario Blue Jays Harley Gollert and Noah Naylor.

Photo credit: WBSC/Christian Stewart