Tournament 12 kicks off with strong CPBL presence

Tournament 12 got underway at Rogers Centre on Thursday, and the Canadian Premier Baseball League is incredibly well-represented at the fourth-annual Toronto Blue Jays-hosted event, with 52 players and four coaches from around the circuit participating at the tournament.

In its fourth year, the showcase has brought together more than 160 of Canada’s top draft and college-eligible players from across the country, with almost a third of them coming from CPBL programs including the Great Lake Canadians, Ontario Blue Jays, Ontario Nationals and Toronto Mets.

“It’s a great sign to what our league has accomplished in such a short time,” said Kyle Fillier, 16U field manager for the Toronto Mets program. “We are confident that we have the best players, coaches, and teams in the province. This is a testament to the league, and we will continue to showcase the best players to the most scouts and colleges.”

The showcase began Thursday with a combine day for upwards of 60 professional scouts and college coaches at the big-league stadium. Players from each of the eight teams participating took turns running, throwing, and getting in some batting practice before games are set to begin on Friday morning, with the first players from Ontario seeing the field in the afternoon.

“We’ve gotten a lot better over the four years,” said Jamie Lehman, the Blue Jays area scout for Canada and New York. “That relates to player selection, and our footprint across the country, we’re seeing who we need to see now, and that’s led to a higher calibre of player in the tournament. Then at the same time, that’s been reflected in the colleges and pro teams that have come.

“Our tournament’s the best it’s been this year. The [T12] alumni and what they’re doing in professional baseball and college baseball are helping us prove that worth, and it’s only getting better.”

Named for and commissioned by Hall of Fame second baseman Roberto Alomar, the event is something that he is extremely proud to be a part of, and he believes the results have and will continue to speak for themselves.

“T12 is an opportunity for the young guys here in Canada to be seen by the scouts, from college and professional baseball, and hopefully we can make their dreams come true,” Alomar said. “This is our fourth year doing Tournament 12 and over 50 guys have been signed, going to play professionally and going to college, and I’m so glad that we have touched on this great opportunity.”

Alongside the 12-time All-Star are several other former major league players, who work as alumni coaches at the event. Returning to the showcase this year are Alomar’s father Sandy, former big-league infielder Mario Diaz, and fellow former Blue Jays George Bell, Lloyd Moseby, Duane Ward, Tanyon Sturtze and Devon White. Carlos Delgado joined the staff for the first time on Thursday, and was impressed by what the tournament provides.

“This is a great opportunity,” Delgado said. “Sometimes kids don’t get the exposure they need, and bringing them to Toronto and having all the scouts in the stands, it’s great. And the competition itself, playing against the best amateur players in the country, it would be a great experience. It’s a nice treat for the kids to come out and play here at Rogers Centre, and with some of the alumni. Robbie’s done a fantastic job to give these kids an opportunity.”

Only two players have participated in each of the four years of the event, GLC middle infielder Adam Hall and OBJ outfielder Cooper Davis. Back for their final turn at the tournament, Alomar is excited to see what they can bring to the showcase this year, and they’re just happy to return once again to Canada’s only major league field.

“This is their year,” Alomar said. “Now it’s time for them to show their skills. I know Cooper really well, and I like Cooper and Adam a lot. I’ve worked with them with the [Canadian Junior National] Team, so I know what they can bring to the table. It’s up to them now to showcase their skills here, in front of the scouts…they’re getting better, they’re getting stronger, they’re getting smarter.”

Said Hall: “It’s like graduating Tournament 12 now. The actual tournament itself hasn’t changed too much but my mindset on it has changed. Obviously the first year I was kind of just going there and not really knowing what to expect, not really knowing what exactly Canadian baseball was. But now, having the experiences that I’ve had there, I understand and I get what it’s going to be.”

Among the tournament’s coaching staffs are CPBL coaches Adam Stern and Chris Robinson, from the GLC program, John Marriotti of the Mets, and OBJ coach Mike Steed.