THUNDER BAY, Ontario – Following the finish of the second Canadian Premier Baseball League season, several of the circuit’s players will continue to play on the highest stages right at home, with eight current or former players competing at the U18 Baseball World Cup in Thunder Bay, and 39 players and five coaches representing the loop at the fifth-annual Tournament 12.
A graduate of the Toronto Mets program, right-handed hurler Landon Leach joined the Minnnesota Twins earlier this summer after being selected in the second round – 37th overall – of the draft. After getting his pro start in the Gulf Coast League, posting a 3.38 ERA over five games and 13 1/3 innings with 10 strikeouts, the righty will help lead Team Canada’s staff at the World Cup.
Leach is joined by fellow Toronto Mets Dondrae Bremner and Denzel Clarke in Thunder Bay, along with Great Lake Canadians Eric Cerantola, Lucas Parente and Griffin Hassall, and Ontario Blue Jays Harley Gollert and Noah Naylor, currently the top-ranked Canadian prospect heading into next year’s draft.
“This is one of the biggest events overall,” Naylor said. “Playing against different countries, representing Canada across my chest, it’s definitely something to be thankful for and something to look forward to.
“Events as big as that, seeing other players go through it, like [former Mets player and 2016 second-rounder Andrew] Yerzy, Josh [Naylor, Noah’s brother and the 12th overall pick in the 2015 draft], and a whole bunch of others, it’s just something that I’ve always dreamed of being it, and to have that opportunity, I’m definitely pumped for it.”
In his third year with the Canadian Junior National Team, the 17-year-old catcher and third baseman from Mississauga is excited for the chance to play in the world tournament right at home, in front of the Canadian crowd.
“This is amazing,” Naylor said. “Having the home crowd behind you, and Greg [Hamilton, Baseball Canada’s director of national teams] has preached this a lot, having the sea of red in the crowd, it’s going to be an unreal moment for a few days, and I look forward to everything that comes along the way.”
When Team Canada’s tenure in Thunder Bay comes to an end after matching up against 11 of the best baseball-playing nations in the world, Tournament 12 will take over Rogers Centre to host 160 of the country’s best up-and-coming players. Among the 55 Ontario players selected to the Black, Navy and Green rosters, 39 hail from the CPBL, in addition to five of the league’s coaches.
“Tournament 12 was a great experience and I really loved playing at Rogers Centre,” GLC right-hander Cerantola said. “Honestly, I wasn’t quite familiar with what it was at the beginning of the year, but it was a really good experience, and good exposure at the same time. From last T12 to this one, I’ve matured a lot physically. My stuff has gotten better, I have cleaner mechanics, and it’s a lot better than it was last year.”
Added Naylor: “I look forward to T12 every year. Playing at a big-league ballpark, Rogers Centre, I love the park. I’ve been around it for a while, but playing in that event, around some great talent, and being around some great coaches, it’s definitely something to look forward to each year, getting different opinions and advice, and meeting new people. I’m going to try to make the most of this one.”
Before getting his first taste of the world competition in northern Ontario, the highlight of Cerantola’s young career so far was his first shot at the Blue Jays-hosted event in Toronto, and the Oakville native can’t wait for his second opportunity.
“T12 last year was a really fun experience and the best thing I’ve done over the last couple of years so far,” the 17-year-old said. “I don’t think I’ve had anything quite like that, and our team made it that way. The team was a really fun group, and then add the fact that you’re playing in a major league stadium, there’s no better feeling than that.”