Tag: Matt Jones

Mets southpaw Jones taken by Twins in 28th round

With added size and a new level of all-around maturity, Matt Jones is ready for the world of professional baseball.

Selected by the Minnesota Twins in the 28th round of this year’s draft, 843rd overall, out of Sinclair Secondary School, the young Toronto Mets and Canadian Junior National Team hurler couldn’t be more excited to get through the red tape and head out into the pro ranks.

“It has always been my dream to play professional baseball,” the 17-year-old southpaw said. “Going into the draft, I wasn’t very sure if I would be selected or not, because the draft is really unpredictable. I had a feeling I would get selected but I wasn’t 100 per cent sure.

“Overall, I’m really happy with how it went. To be one of the 25 [Canadian] guys chosen is very cool, especially when you think about the talent of Canadian players who were selected, like [eighth overall pick] Cal Quantrill and [second-round selection and Mets catcher] my friend Andrew Yerzy. It is something you will always remember, being a part of that specific group of guys.”

While the native of Whitby has made many improvements throughout his time with Team Canada and the Mets program, the biggest factor in aiding his progression of late was his ability to add size to his frame, and gain strength on the mound.

“The Mets and JNT have definitely helped me a lot, when it comes to pitching and the mentality of playing the game,” Jones said. “Being on trips with the JNT has definitely put into perspective the lifestyle of playing pro baseball, and I love everything about it.

“Also, my other coaches like Scott Robinson and my trainer Carl Carter have really helped me over the off-season by putting on a lot more muscle, because I was known as the really skinny guy, and gaining weight has helped me increase velocity as well.”

In just his first season of working with Jones, coaching him with Toronto’s 18U squad, coach Chris Kemlo has seen a lot of progress from his young left-hander over just a relatively short time.

“He’s improved tremendously,” Kemlo said. “The biggest improvements he made were to his body. He really worked hard in the weight room and matured, just grew up and matured. He went from being a 6-foot-3, 170-[pound] guy to now being 6-foot-4, 195. For him to mature and get that kind of added strength, that was a big help for him.”

Not only did Jones improve physically, but the coaching staff with the Mets saw big changes in the pitcher’s competitiveness as he began to grow more comfortable with his surroundings.

“With him, there’s an improved compete level too,” Kemlo said. “When I first got to know him, he was shy and quiet, and he takes a while to warm up. Then once you get to know him you see the compete level and how intense he is. He’s still got a bit of that quirky lefty in him, but it’s all good and positive stuff. But he’s definitely grown up.”

Among the most excited for Jones are most definitely each of the members of his family, who shared in the moment on Saturday when he learned of Minnesota’s 28th-round selection.

“Overall it would be my mom and dad [Karen and Chris],” he said. “My mom was in Barrie with my sister’s softball team, so she couldn’t be here, but she was crying over the phone. And my dad was obviously extremely proud, and I have to thank him because he has helped me a lot since I was young.”

Awaiting physical testing and paperwork in order for the deal to be done, once Jones heads to Fort Myers, Florida, where the Twins house their young rookies, his coach is sure that they will be quickly pleased with their Canadian pick.

“He’s going to come in [to the Twins organization] and just work his tail off,” Kemlo said. “He’s a guy who gives you everything he has. He doesn’t take any days off. He’s always wanting to get better, always asking questions, wanting to learn about stuff. He wants to know about the nuances of pitching, how to attack guys, and that stuff is going to be the separator for him at the next level.”

Excited to follow Jones as he continues his progression down on the farm with Minnesota, Kemlo, the Mets, and the young lefty are all anxious for him to get going in order to see what he can do.

“He could be a 6-foot-4 lefty who sits in the low 90s with three average pitches at the big-league level,” Kemlo said. “So for him, there’s a lot of upside and a lot of potential. He’s got a long way to go, as anybody does, but the tools and the talent are there and he’s got the right mindset for pro ball right now.

Added Jones: “I am most excited for getting down there and continuing to work my butt off in order to accomplish my main goal, which is pitching on a major-league mound.”

Jones is one of six players from the Canadian Premier Baseball League selected in the draft this June, out of a total of 25 Canadians chosen. His Mets teammate Yerzy was taken in the second round, 52nd overall, by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Ontario Blue Jays hurler Jordan Balazovic followed in the fifth round, taken 153rd overall, also by the Twins.

OBJ catcher Luke Van Rycheghem was selected by the Diamondbacks in the 23rd round, and was followed by Great Lake Canadians right-hander Austin Shields, chosen in the 33rd round by the Pittsburgh Pirates organization and GLC outfielder Jake Wilson, taken by the Boston Red Sox in the 39th round.


Kickoff tournament unofficially opens CPBL season

Let the games begin.

With the kickoff tournament done and dusted, and the Canadian Premier Baseball League’s exhibition matchups in the books, the inaugural season is set to start.

In pre-season games from Friday to Sunday, Dorchester’s Field of Dreams hosted the Fieldhouse Pirates, Great Lake Canadians and Ontario Nationals programs, while the Ontario Blue Jays, Toronto Mets and Team Ontario played out the eastern bracket in Scarborough at Dan Lang Field at the University of Toronto.

“It was great to get outside this weekend and play some games to get prepared for the season,” said Jimmy Richardson, Director of Player Development for the Fieldhouse Pirates. “Looking at the quality of play all weekend is an indication of why we started this league, with great players on every roster.”

Added Chris Robinson, the Director of Baseball Operations for the Great Lake Canadians: “The weather was cold, but it was good for our guys to get out. Any time you can play games in April, it’s a bonus.”

While the early games tested the players who haven’t seen much time out on the field, the opportunity to play and the calibre of competition were exciting for all those involved.

“You could certainly tell it was early as far as the defence was concerned,” said Ryan McBride, Vice President and Director of Baseball Operations for the Toronto Mets. “And the pitching was definitely ahead of the hitting.

“What was worth noting from what I saw was that there were five scouts present at the games at U of T on Friday and Saturday with representatives from the Oakland Athletics, New York Yankees, Minnesota Twins, Milwaukee Brewers, and Arizona Diamondbacks organizations in attendance.”

Added Jeremy Jayaweera, Ontario Nationals 16U Red manager: “It was very exciting for all three of our teams to get out and play. Offensively, working on having quality at-bats and seeing pitches was huge. For pitching, it was good to get through a rotation and see what the players could do. Working on all different pitches and different defensive situations was key, and a great weekend to work on all of it.”

While each team had several standouts throughout the weekend tournament, coaches noted especially impressive appearances from Canadians right-hander Austin Shields, who was up to 94 off the mound, from Mets’ arms Matt Jones and Nick Virdo, Blue Jays hurler Jack Berczi, and 2017 pitcher Jake English, from Great Lake.

Nats 18U outfielder Riley Perks impressed at the plate with quality at-bats every time he stepped up. 16U Nationals catchers Curtis Chambers and David Mendham held down the fort both behind and at the dish, totalling 13 hits and nine runs scored between them over the weekend.

With plenty to be excited about already, each of the teams involved is just looking forward to more.

“Our organization is very excited for the CPBL season to start,” Jayaweera said. “We have been preparing a long time for this and we are excited to play quality teams every weekend. The players’ development is the most important, and playing quality teams each weekend allows for all our players to keep improving.”

Said Richardson: “With the regular season starting this week, I’m looking forward to having my guys, each and every weekend, play against teams who are going to push their limits. For 28 innings each weekend, it is going to be a battle, and every team is going to be tough.”

Added Robinson: “What we’re looking forward to the most is the level of competition we will be playing every single weekend. Even with this short snapshot of what the league is going to be like, it is exciting to know every weekend our guys will be challenged. This is a great development opportunity for our guys and will only help when we get off into tournaments down south.”