Tag: Mike Steed

Ontario Blue Jays Steed named regular-season champs of inaugural 17U season

With the third Canadian Premier Baseball League season in the books, the calibre of competition continues to grow and accomplishments within the circuit continue to gain the utmost significance. 

After a tight race for the top of the leaderboard at the newly-implemented 17U level in its inaugural year, the Ontario Blue Jays squad led by manager Mike Steed edged out the rest with a 19-7 season, just one game ahead of its closest opponent – and organizational counterpart, the Ontario Blue Jays 17U team led by Sean Travers – and is recognized as the regular-season champion of its division. 

“Basically what led to our success was our starting pitching, led by Lukas Barry and Brandon Deans,” Steed said. “Those two guys anchored the staff for the whole year, and we had a bunch of guys who just pulled their weight. 

“And with that, it just let our offence have the chance to relax a little bit, and hitters like Blake Buckle, Ashton Feijo, Arthur Kowara, and David Coleman, who travelled with us in the fall and are a little bit more mature, it allowed them to do their thing.” 

Among an array of impressive numbers from the squad across the board, the skipper of the Blue Jays believes the season was highlighted by some of the moments it had at the plate. 

“They’re young, they’re physical, and the most impressive thing was what they did offensively,” Steed said. “As well as we pitched it, we put a lot of pressure on some of the teams and the games we won, we got out early, and in between, we had a good combination of speed and power. The kids utilized that to the best of their ability.” 

Spending a busy summer back and forth between the CPBL and across the border at a number of tournaments, Steed was excited to see the competition in the league continue to grow and help his team get better along the way. Just beyond the OBJ Travers team, not far behind in the standings at 16-6, was the Great Lake Canadians 17U team, finishing the regular season with a 15-8-1 record. 

“Overall, the competition was good,” he said. “We had great series against Great Lake, and all our games were good. They took us in the four-game series but in the midweek games, we took them from them, which was great. And then the Toronto Mets Blue was another good series. 

“The league allowed us to do what we needed to do as a team. Obviously at this age, winning the leagues are great for teams and players, but they also needed to keep playing and keep working on some things and it allowed them to do that.” 

Currently on the road in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Steed’s squad has a busy schedule remaining before it wraps up for the summer and looks ahead to another year.

“We’re [at] the Marucci World Series, which we are affiliated with through the Founders Club,” Steed said. “We have opening ceremonies Wednesday, and then Thursday we start tournament play with some great competition. We open up with CBG out of California, and then the Dallas Tigers, and then we finish with the East Coast Sox out of Mississippi. So it’s going to be a very good test.”

Helping the Blue Jays prepare for that test was the successful season they had in the CPBL, and they can’t wait to see what more is in store for the future of the league. 

“There are quality players through every organization,” Steed said. “Whether its’ a guy on the mound that we’re facing that day, or the middle of the order for most clubs, it’s a good test for our guys leading up to come down and playing some of the better, competitive teams in the States. It prepared us in a great way.” 

Cooper Davis electric in his fourth Tournament 12 appearance

TORONTO – Cooper Davis knows better than almost anyone just what the Tournament 12 experience can provide.

Back for his fourth year in the showcase’s fourth year of existence, the 17-year-old Ontario Blue Jays outfielder finished his final T12 run on Sunday with the Ontario Green team, and he couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunities he’s had at Rogers Centre.

“It’s been amazing,” he said. “It’s crazy looking back and thinking that I was 14 years old when I was first here. Everything [tournament commissioner and Hall of Fame second baseman] Robbie Alomar has done for me and everybody at Tournament 12 has been amazing.

“For a guy to come back and give to a community like that, and set up an event that really gives us Canadian players a jump at what Perfect Game and Prep Baseball Report are doing [on the showcase circuit] is special. It really gives us a head start, because we get to see what it’s about.

“I got to see it when I was 14, before anybody else could. So for me and Adam [Hall, the second of only two four-year participants], it was huge for us, as we were getting into the scouting world.”

Now graduated from Tournament 12, Davis ranks his playing time at Rogers Centre right up at the top of his list of great baseball experiences, alongside his trip to showcase his skills at the home of the Boston Red Sox.

“I got to play at Fenway Park too and that was pretty cool,” he said. “When I was playing at Fenway, they had tours going on and when I was in the outfield, I could hear from the mics they were using, so I know everything about Fenway now. Basically, if baseball doesn’t work out I’m going to be running tours at Fenway.

“So those two experiences have been the best. It’s different than playing in a big showcase or a world tournament. The worlds were amazing, but then you get to come here and say, Mike Trout played centre field here, or David Ortiz stood in that same box a week ago. It’s so cool to be able to play in the exact same spot as major leaguers do.”

Finally entering his draft year after multiple seasons of showcases, tours with the Ontario Blue Jays and trips with the Canadian Junior National team, the Vanderbilt University commit is excited for what the future has in store, and knows that he can use the same tools that have provided excitement throughout his high school years as he forges forward.

“I try to bring as much electricity as I can,” Davis said. “That’s what I’ve really learned, working with guys like [former Blue Jays outfielders] Lloyd Moseby and Devon White here at T12, asking them how they do it every day.

“When you’re Canadian and up here you play twice a week, it’s easy to come out every single day with tons of energy because you’re only playing twice a week, but to learn how to do it for 162 games a year, I’ve definitely been picking their brain about that, but the biggest thing I need to bring is my electricity.”

In his squad’s final game of the tournament on Sunday, Davis led his team in the contest with a single, a double, a walk, two stolen bases, two runs scored, and he drove in a run. He also showed game-changing speed in centre field, chasing down balls that looked like definite extra bases for the opposition.

“Every day he brings energy, excitement, and if he swings the bat like he did [Sunday], definitely plus offensive tools,” said Mike Steed, coaching Davis with both Ontario Green and the OBJ program. “He has a ton of energy at the top of the lineup and for me personally, that’s what every guy is looking for. Then he does what he does in centre field and he makes it easy on the pitchers when he can go run down balls left and right.”

Steed has seen firsthand just how much progress Davis has made since his first venture at the inaugural Tournament 12, taking the field at just 14 years old with players four years older than he was, and the coach is looking forward to watching more of the same as his player continues his career.

“He’s grown tremendously,” Steed said. “He’s grown more so as a person, maturity-wise he’s just grown up. The game has always been there for him athletically, but now that he’s maturing and figuring out the mental part of it, he understands it. And his preparation, you can see him, he slows the game down. Everybody says to do that but if you watch him, he actually does it.”

Ontario Blue Jays crowned inaugural champions of the CPBL

The Ontario Blue Jays are the inaugural champions of the Canadian Premier Baseball League, crowned the winners in the top division of the circuit after a 9-3 win over the Toronto Mets 18U squad to finish the season.

It took six wins to get through the playoff weekend, and a hard-fought battle to take down the toughest teams in the division, and the Ontario Blue Jays squad led by Mike Steed, the director of pitching and college placement for the program, used a younger roster than it had for the majority of the regular season to get the job done.

“We had two 18U teams this year, so it wasn’t necessarily my roster that won,” Steed said. “We took all the kids who were primarily on the other roster, the guys who are 2017 grads, guys who can come back, plus three just-graduated pitchers. So it was all of our young guys who played, which was great because it gave me a chance to see them or for them to be around me.”

Heading into post-season play, Steed’s message to his players was simple, just to play to the best of their abilities and use that to be the best team on the field. He was impressed by what his squad managed to do, and how quickly they came together as a cohesive unit.

“For that group, it was just the way they came out,” Steed said. “We always ask them to just play hard. It’s pretty simple, not a whole lot of rocket science – let their talent take over, but be faster, quicker, more intent than the other team, and they showed that. It’s something they heard me use some different words about, how we approach it and all that, and quickly they bought in. I saw them this summer, we travelled together, so I got a chance to see them play, but they just clicked. We pitched well and the team can really swing it.”

Winning the league’s championship was the icing on the cake for Steed to seeing what the future holds for his Ontario Blue Jays, and having the success of the players from both his squad and the younger team as they mingled.

“It’s great, and in the first year in the league, I thought the whole year went well for our entire organization,” Steed said. “And then to just cap the year off going undefeated [in playoffs] was a huge them. For them being able to manage six games in four days, and three nines in three days, I was pretty proud of them. They represented us very well.”

The program’s 16U team led by Sean Travers also won their division of the CPBL, giving the Ontario Blue Jays a clean sweep of championships at the highest two levels of the loop, and making a couple of coaches very proud of both their players and their staff.

“I’m ecstatic for the program and the Ontario Blue Jays,” Steed said. “It says a lot about not just Sean and myself but our entire coaching staff. My guys who are with me, [assistant coaches] Kevin Mitchell and Milt Nikkel and Lawrence Collymore, without those guys and without Sean’s staff and the 15U coaches and the 16U staff, we wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing. It’s a compliment to those guys as well.”

Added Travers: “It’s a testament to all the players and all the families, and how much work the coaches put in. This is not by accident. The coaches, the families, the players all put in an incredible effort and make incredible sacrifices, and to win them is kind of the reward for that.”

Happy with the way the inaugural season in the CPBL went, and certainly with how it ended, Steed and the Ontario Blue Jays are looking forward to more as the circuit progresses.

“The CPBL was great in its first year,” he said. “There were no hiccups, nothing like that. From a competitive standpoint, it forced my guys to come out and compete every day. You really couldn’t take any innings off, which we look for, especially for their development and moving on with our 18s going into college.

“It pushed them to compete every day. Obviously with a new league there are certain things, the all-star game was a great idea and unfortunately mother nature didn’t let that happen, and then having the league tournament is an added bonus we haven’t had over the last couple years.”

OBJ hurler Balazovic becomes Twins fifth-round pick

Jordan Balazovic wasn’t sure what to expect from the draft.

But after gaining size, strength and experience with the Ontario Blue Jays and Canadian Junior National Team programs, the 17-year-old right-hander became an obvious choice to be the Minnesota Twins fifth-round selection – 153rd overall – in turn becoming the first draftee chosen by Walt Burrows, formerly the Canadian head of Major League Baseball’s scouting bureau and now a member of Minnesota’s scouting staff.

“The draft is a cool process to go through, and also very nerve-wracking,” Balazovic said. “It’s very exciting to be drafted, and as one of the 25 Canadian guys who were chosen. I didn’t really know until about six picks before the Twins pick that I would be selected. That’s when I got information from my advisor that the Twins were going to pick me.”

Over the last couple of years, the young hurler’s physical improvements have been obvious and his coaches have seen marked progression in his all-around game, especially impressing throughout the early season leading up to the selection process.

“Having worked with Jordan for the last three years, the most noticeable change has been his physical growth,” said Mike Steed, the director of pitching and college placement for the OBJ organization, and head coach of Balazovic’s current team.

“You could always tell he was going to be a big kid, but now with the work that he has put in in the weight room, you see his body type starting to transform and that is front and centre in his performance.”

As he continued to work hard and fill his frame, the Mississauga native believes what helped him the most on the way to his commitment to the Auburn Tigers and the draft was the exposure that he was able to get from both his time with the OBJ program and Team Canada, not to mention the fact that when he matched up against Pirates 33rd-round pick and Great Lake Canadians hurler Austin Shields in Canadian Premier Baseball League play, organizations sent scouts and crosscheckers to get eyes on them both, previously unheard of exposure from a provincial circuit.

“The Ontario Blue Jays first got it started for me, because when we went to go play at the Perfect Game tournament in Jupiter is where I got a lot of schools and MLB scouts to first see me, and that’s when a lot of exposure started to happen,” Balazovic said. “And then the same thing with the national team – when I went away on trips with them, I got a lot of exposure. It’s great when you’re a young kid, and I want to thank OBJ and Team Canada for those opportunities.”

Steed was especially excited for the righty’s selection after all of the time the two have spent working together, seeing all of Balazovic’s dreams come to fruition firsthand.

“Any time we have a player from the Ontario Blue Jays organization selected in the MLB draft, myself and all the coaches are extremely proud of that player’s accomplishments,” Steed said. “With Jordan, it is a little more personal for me, with him being a pitcher and getting to work with him closely over the past three years and to see the hard work he has put in pay off to accomplish this goal. I’m very happy for him and his family.”

The OBJ coach looks forward to Balazovic’s next steps and is excited for what he can bring to the table as he moves onward and upward.

“From a mound standpoint, right away you have a pitcher who is going to compete in the strike zone and attack hitters with three quality pitches,” Steed said. “As well as a kid who is going to do everything possible for him to pitch in the big leagues.”

With final decisions still to be made and papers to be signed before Balazovic can make his next move official, the pitcher is anxious to get things going and begin the rest of his baseball journey.

“I’m most excited for just getting started and going down to play,” he said. “Because right now it’s still surreal until I actually go down to Florida and put on the jersey for the first time and go play for the Minnesota Twins.”

His home organization would like to see nothing more.

“I’m looking forward to continue watching him develop and mature on the mound as he moves through minor league baseball, learning how to be a professional,” Steed said. “And seeing him pitch in a professional uniform for the first time will be pretty cool.”

Balazovic is one of six players from the CPBL selected in the draft this June, among a total of 12 high schoolers hailing from north of the border. Toronto Mets catcher Andrew Yerzy was taken in the second round, 52nd overall, by the Arizona Diamondbacks.

OBJ backstop Luke Van Rycheghem was selected by the Diamondbacks in the 23rd round, and was followed by Mets southpaw Matt Jones in the 28th round, also taken by Burrows and the Twins. Great Lake right-hander Shields was chosen in the 33rd round by Pittsburgh and GLC outfielder Jake Wilson was taken by the Boston Red Sox in the 39th round.