Tag: MVP

Former Mets catcher Yerzy honoured at Baseball Canada banquet

After Andrew Yerzy’s first season of professional baseball and his final tour with Team Canada, the former Toronto Mets catcher was recognized for his success in the red-and-white uniform in January, receiving the Junior National Team Most Valuable Player Award at Baseball Canada’s National Teams Awards Banquet and Fundraiser.

“It’s pretty unbelievable, just considering some of the past winners when you think about it,” Yerzy said of the honour. “[Josh] Naylor won it last year, Tyler O’Neill’s won it, I know Gareth [Morgan] has won it. So just being considered on the same level as those guys is pretty amazing. And [program infield coordinator for the Mets Hyung] Cho told me he won it in 1998, so I thought that was pretty funny.”

The 18-year-old backstop spent three years with the Canadian junior squad before he was selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the second round – 52nd overall – in June, signing for $1,214,100 during the inaugural Canadian Premier Baseball League season. Right after his selection and the signing process, the young catcher starting thinking about the Canadian players who had come before him, been chosen in high rounds of the draft, and who had received bonuses in the neighbourhood of his own.

“It’s pretty crazy to think about because I played with Naylor and I played with Gareth and I played with [Mike] Soroka,” Yerzy said last summer. “So to think that I’m even on the same level as those guys, knowing how good they are, is pretty crazy…I’ve watched them since I was young, so maybe the younger guys when they watch me, they’re thinking the same thing. But I definitely feel like I can compete at the pro level [and] I always wanted to get drafted and I always wanted to play pro baseball.”

Not long after his mid-summer signing, Yerzy joined the Diamondbacks organization and spent his first professional season between the rookie class Arizona League D-Backs and the advanced rookie league Missoula Osprey squad, ending the year on a strong note and heading home with plenty to work on before spring training. When he was presented with the Baseball Canada accolade, Yerzy had similar thoughts to that of last year.

“I’d like to consider myself on that level too,” he said. “It was big for me, because I played with all those guys growing up. When I was 15, I saw Gareth get drafted [in the second round], and when I was in 11th grade, I saw Soroka and Naylor [both taken in the first round]. So hopefully I set a good example for whoever is getting drafted this year and in 2018, so they can say, ‘I was on the same level as Yerzy,’ which would be pretty cool.”

Overjoyed to spend some time with his Baseball Canada family during the annual banquet and fundraiser, Yerzy not only got to catch up with his friends but he also received a little bit of an eye opener to just how much professional competition he had matched up against before becoming a pro himself.

“It’s irreplaceable, really,” Yerzy said of his Baseball Canada family. “I mean, I saw Mike [Soroka] for the first time in pretty much a year over the banquet weekend, and it’s like we saw each other last week. It was just really easy to pick up with those guys. They share the same interests as you, they’re playing pro baseball like you, and the development that Baseball Canada does is second to none.

“They talked about it at the banquet and I didn’t even realize it – I had over 100 professional games throughout my high school career. I didn’t really take it in until after they said it, and I thought yeah, that makes sense. I had three full years on the team, 10 games a trip, and four trips a year.”

Better prepared for what he was heading into in the professional realm because of his time with the Canadian Junior National Team and the Mets, even with that experience Yerzy still had to do some fine-tuning in order to get used to the everyday routine.

“Starting off in pro ball was like a Team Canada trip for two-and-a-half months instead of two weeks,” he said. “That was the biggest difference for me. I had seen that same stuff, but I wasn’t used to seeing it every day, night in and night out, for those two-plus months straight. I was used to seeing it for two weeks. So it was a bit of an adjustment period seeing it every day, but I’d like to say I adjusted well…

“It was definitely different. There’s no time off pretty much. You’re never going to see a bad arm in pro ball. You’re going to see at least 88-92 [mile per hour pitches] every single day, you’re going to see that coming out of the bullpen, you’re going to see it starting and when you do see someone who throws slower, they’re just going to carve. It’s kind of relentless, and that’s what pro ball is.”

Heading into his first full season of pro ball, Yerzy has spent much of his winter back at home in North York, with plenty of hours at Out of the Park Sports, the home of the Toronto Mets, where he is grateful to have the support of the staff and the program as he continues to try to get better.

“I’m at the Mets facility most days,” Yerzy said. “I’ll have days where I’ll just work out, and I’ll have days when I do baseball stuff, so it keeps me in there all the time. I’ve been working super hard…The Mets helped in giving me the place to train in the off-season, and being the supportive family they are. The coaches have helped me a lot. Without those guys, like [Mets instructors Chris] Kemlo, Greg Densem, Honsing [Leung], and other guys being there and being supportive 100 per cent of the time, coming in whenever I need them and giving me a lot of reps that wouldn’t have happened otherwise, I couldn’t do what I’ve been doing.”

Some of his time spent in familiar territory has become a new experience for the backstop. Without even knowing it he went from being an observer of the professional players who would spend their off-seasons around him to become the player everyone is watching.

“It’s pretty funny, because I used to do that when I was a kid too,” Yerzy said. “If, say [Colorado Rockies minor leaguer Maxx] Tissenbaum came home I would be watching him the entire time. And I’ll get maybe a crowd of five to 10 people standing around the cage while I hit now, just watching me. It’s funny. I helped out with a youth camp and apparently a bunch of the kids would talk about me hitting on their way home, so that was pretty cool. It makes me feel good, and hopefully I don’t let them down.”

Not letting anyone down with the progress he’s made, Yerzy couldn’t be more proud of the latest honour bestowed up on him, as he continues to find ways to feel like he fits in with the players who came before him.

“It’s surreal almost, considering that two years ago when I was 15 I thought I would have no shot at winning any of those awards,” Yerzy said. “Those guys were the greatest guys on the planet, in Canada at least, and just to be considered on the same level and to share that stage with them is an honour.”

CPBL contributors dominate T12 championship, Hall named MVP

TORONTO – Tournament 12 crowned its fourth different champion in four years of the Toronto Blue Jays-hosted event on Monday night, and with Ontario Black’s 6-3 win over BC Orange, 17 Canadian Premier Baseball League players and two CPBL coaches were named winners at the tail end of the five-day event.

The Black squad didn’t allow an earned run in its final game, showing some depth from the pitching staff. Ontario had contributions up and down the lineup during the entire event, with Toronto Mets infielder Leo Markotic and fellow Met Adam Plouffe each notching two RBI in the championship and Tournament 12 MVP Adam Hall, a shortstop with the Great Lake Canadians, driving in one.

“It was fantastic,” said Pete Orr, former big leaguer and coach with Ontario Black. “It’s a great opportunity for all these young men to be seen, and on top of that it’s a good opportunity to play at Rogers Centre. I remember getting the opportunity to do it when I was 17 years old and it was one of the greatest things I did, being out here and being a Blue Jays fan, it’s great.”

Orr, a part of a coaching staff that included Chris Begg, Tanner Watson, and former major leaguers and GLC coaches Adam Stern and Chris Robinson, was incredibly proud of the way his players performed throughout the five days and their six games of the event.

“They all played great, they really did,” Orr said. “They really took advantage of an opportunity to get seen by some important people. There were some really important people here this week, and people who are going to be evaluating them, and for the most part they really took advantage of it.”

Hosted by the Blue Jays Baseball Academy and named for tournament commissioner Roberto Alomar – who presented each player with an autographed Alomar bat during a tour of the Blue Jays clubhouse when their run at the event came to an end – the fourth-annual showcase was an even bigger success than in previous years.

“It was great,” Tournament Operations Manager TJ Burton said. “The competition was better than ever. All the teams competed. I don’t think there was one team that was far and away better than everybody else. The Ontario team and the BC team were the two best teams, and they faced in the finals so it was a great tournament all around and the kids did a great job.”

Black middle infielder Hall – also Canada’s top high school prospect heading into next year’s draft – was named the MVP of the event after impressing in all of his six games. The Bermuda-born native of London, Ont., went 8-for-18 with a triple, three walks, eight stolen bases, seven runs scored and six driven in.

“Obviously that’s pretty special,” Hall said. “I’m going to have to give [last year’s winner and Hall’s former Team Canada teammate Carson] Perkins a tease, saying that I’m following in the footsteps of a great pitcher. But it’s pretty special to be able to do that in your last year, as well as to win the tournament.”

Though he didn’t display every tool he was hoping to showcase, Hall was happy with the way his four-year run at Tournament 12 ended, with his best experiences at the event bookending his four chances to perform on the big-league stage at Rogers Centre.

“I would have liked to show a little more power,” Team Canada’s shortstop said. “I thought I was going to have a little more difficulty hitting, just because when people start to get to know who you are and your name is out there, it’s the same as in MLB. You’re going to face tougher pitching, and they’re going to pitch you harder, especially with the 1-1 count…But it went how I would have liked it to go.

“It’s a nice finish to T12 for me. It’s definitely nice to make it to the finals for once, and then to get the championship. I would say my first year went really well, the second and third years were kind of not bad, and coming this year it was similar to the first one. So it’s nice to start it off and finish it well.”

Great Lake right-hander Griffin Hassall got the start for Ontario in the final and the 16-year-old hurler allowed just one hit and struck out three in his two innings of work. Southpaw Adam Tulloch, also 16, followed out of the bullpen and gave up three unearned runs on one hit with two walks, fanning one Orange batter.

A third 2018 draft prospect, 6-foot-7, 215-pound Ben Abram was most impressive in his outing on the Black side. The right-handed Canadian Junior National Team hurler allowed one hit and struck out five over three innings, using just 17 pitches to do so and throwing only strikes, also notching the championship win.

“Ben Abram really impressed me with his pitching in the last game,” Hall said. “I thought that was really impressive. He pitched really well and that’s nice to see for the junior team as well. I was very impressed with that. He was locating everything, that was good. I’m glad I didn’t have to face him.”

Abram shared a similar sentiment to that of his Team Canada teammate.

“No matter what team I’m on, anytime Adam Hall is on my team he impresses me,” the tall righty said. “I have seen him at his best and at his worst, but I have seen some amazing plays. He’s made some amazing plays for me. He always seems to find a way on base. I love having him on my team.”

In his first chance to check out what the tournament had to offer, after playing professionally for his last 16 seasons, Orr was excited at what the future holds for Canadian baseball, noting a few major standouts from his team throughout the event.

“[Ontario Blue Jays catcher and Canada’s top 2018 prospect Noah] Naylor behind the plate was real impressive, he really was,” Orr said. “And of course Adam Hall, but there were other guys too. I thought some guys had great at bats, Leo in the last game had some great at-bats, and [Ontario Blue Jays outfielder Rashad] Collymore had some great at-bats in the last couple of games.

“[GLC outfielder] Lucas Parente had a great tournament. Anytime you hit with a 1-1 count, it’s hard to think you’re doing well. But for me watching someone and trying to evaluate him, all his swings were great and he played amazing defence in centre field, so Parente stuck out for me as well.”

The country’s top prospects drew an even bigger crowd of professional scouts and college recruiters than ever before, with the tournament consistently growing in that department each year.

“It was huge this year,” Burton said of the evaluating turnout. “We doubled in schools for sure, and there were a lot of pro scouts given that we had guys like Adam Hall and Noah Naylor playing here, but that’s what builds the tournament. That’s what makes the tournament and that’s why we do the tournament, is so the kids can have an opportunity to be seen. So the more schools and scouts we can get here the better.”

The championship victory was just the icing on the cake at the end of a successful tournament for all of the players invited to attend.

“You have to understand what the big picture is,” Orr said of balancing the showcase with the competition. “When you’re an athlete, as these kids will learn, that’s what you always try to understand every time you step out on the field – the big picture. And the big picture of this is for them to be seen. Of course it’s great to win, but this is a showcase. It’s more about them having an opportunity to be seen, but at the same time it’s fun to win, and winning is something you can learn from.”