Tag: San Diego Padres

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.

Noah Naylor enters final summer with Blue Jays and Team Canada

The final countdown is on for Noah Naylor.

Entering his last summer with the Ontario Blue Jays and Canadian Junior National Team programs, the country’s top high school position-playing prospect is grateful for everything he’s been afforded through the process and is excited about what more lay ahead. 

“I’m very thankful to have been part of such a special team,” Naylor said. “I have been gifted with some amazing coaches and amazing players as teammates to play with, so I’m definitely going to miss that, whichever way I go. I’m going to take the time I have with them and make the most of it and play every day like it’s my last with these guys. 

“As of now, I’m just playing my game, working hard, and trying to make the best future I can possibly make for myself. Whichever way I go, whatever happens after the draft, I know it’s going to be a positive decision on my part so I’m just looking forward to it. I’m not trying to put too much pressure on myself. I’m looking forward to the process.” 

It’s been multiple years – and a variety of high-profile showcase tournaments and games – since the 18-year-old got his start with Team Canada, and since he made his collegiate commitment to the Texas A&M Aggies, and now that the last few months before this year’s draft process, and next season’s college recruits report to their respective schools are here, it seems as though it’s gone by in a flash. 

“Looking back at it now, it’s definitely gone pretty quick,” the Mississauga native said. “But I’ve done a pretty good job of taking everything I can from all those showcases and just doing what I can to have fun. That’s something I like to do with my game, just make sure I’m having fun with it. So although it’s gone pretty fast, I’m thankful I got these opportunities and I’m glad I’m moving forward.” 

Three years ago, another Naylor was in the same position, when Noah’s older brother Josh was preparing for Major League Baseball’s selection process as Canada’s top high school position player. Before Josh was made the 12th overall pick in the draft by the Miami Marlins, however, the process was a painstakingly slow one for the older Naylor. 

“Honestly it was really slow; it wasn’t fast at all,” Josh said. “It was really slow and I wish every day was quicker than what it was, because I would think about it all day and night. That’s anything thing I would change. 

“I should have not – not necessarily not cared but – paid as much attention to it, and maybe paid more attention to being with my family or doing something else to take the time to get out of my head, because it will eat you away and kill you inside if you think about it too much.” 

This time around, time is flying for Josh as he watches every move his brother makes, from near when he can and from afar as he continues his journey up the minor league ladder, currently with the Double-A San Antonio Missions in the San Diego Padres organization. 

“It’s going very fast watching Noah, especially because I’m not in it,” Josh said. “It’s going very fast and I think he realizes that too, so he feels a lot of pressure. When I’m with him, I try not to take about anything baseball-related because I don’t want him to go down the wrong road and start thinking too much and then his baseball game goes bad, but it is going extremely fast with him.” 

Noah is grateful for the experiences his brother has had, and everything he has shared in an attempt to make things easier for the younger Naylor as he goes through a similar process. 

“My brother Josh always tells me to have fun with it; it’s the most important part of it all,” Noah said. “Just stick to your game and whatever happens, happens. You can’t control everything that goes on with your career, so the stuff that you can control, just make sure you’re doing whatever you can to make your game better on and off the field.” 

Added Josh: “I’m extremely excited for him. I don’t want to think about it too much or talk to him about it too much or bring it up in family conversations because I don’t want him to feel any pressure. I just want him, on the day of [the draft] to relax and not get too anxious or worry too much about the things that can happen and can’t happen, because you can only control what you can control. It’s all about relaxing and if he goes where he should, then he does, and if he doesn’t, it’s not the end of the world.” 

A mainstay in the Canadian Junior National Team lineup both behind the dish and at the hot corner, the catcher and infielder has left a strong impression on his teammates and coaches, who can’t wait to see what more is in store for the young Naylor. 

“He’s really ready,” Baseball Canada’s director of national teams Greg Hamilton said. “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, it’s just not necessarily extroverted, but it’s 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.” 

Spending time both with and around the Ontario Blue Jays program for the majority of his life, the staff and players within Naylor’s local organization are also patiently waiting for the upcoming season to unfold. 

“It’s been a long time, and probably the last four or five yeas have been kind of just waiting for this year,” OBJ president and director of player development Sean Travers said. “He’s always been a special player and a special kid, and nothing has changed. He works his butt off, he’s still a really humble and great kid, and it’s fun to watch him do all of these things. 

“I’m sure he feels pressure, but to be able to go out there with a smile on his face and compete and just be Noah, he hasn’t changed. I’ve known him for 10 or 11 years and he hasn’t changed at all; he’s the same Noah as when we started. He’s always been super confident but also super humble, and the hardest worker in the building.” 

With his time as a Blue Jay and junior team member coming to a close, Naylor is looking forward to making his mark and helping the next group of players as they move forward and into his shoes. 

“We’ve got a younger group of guys now, so I’m going to try to help guide them to be the best that they can be,” he said. “Obviously me being with the Junior National Team for quite some time now, I’ve definitely learned a lot of things, so passing that down to the next generation is definitely something I’m going to do, just try to make everybody better and understand that Baseball Canada is a very unique program, so it’s a gift to be a part of this whole process. Have fun with it and take whatever you can away from that experience.”