Case made case to be signed
* Was Tournament 12 a success? Ask RHP Andrew Case (Saint John, NB) who worked nine hitless inning striking out 19 — he signed a free-agent contract with the Blue Jays and their Canadian scout Jamie Lehman on Saturday morning. Photo: Michelle Prata/Toronto Blue Jays. ….
CAMPBELL: The Big O throws 000-000s
HORNE: Others who came to play too.
PERROTTE: Beckett carrying on family tradition
ELJAWHARY: Hrynkiw dressed early
VERGE: Camping with Alomars
By Alexis Brudnicki
Wouldn’t that be a great story?
That’s what everyone said after Andrew Case’s performance at the inaugural Tournament 12 generated interest from pro scouts.
The event hosted by the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre is one that young baseball dreams are made of – playing under the lights on a professionally manicured field, touring the Toronto clubhouse, and hearing a big-league announcer say your name while you watch it appear on the biggest of big screens.
But what’s more is that the tournament is also seemingly built to make the impossible possible.
It did just that when the Toronto Blue Jays signed Case to a pro contract on Saturday morning.
“Tournament 12 has changed our whole family’s lives,” Jade McDermott, Andrew’s father, said.
The idea of the event is centred on dreams not unlike Case’s, though at this point he remains in a class of his own. The showcase is meant for high school baseball players to earn looks from the 28 pro scouts from 24 different organizations and 25 college recruiters that were in attendance, and those numbers will only grow.
Case came to the tournament having graduated high school over two years ago and entering his second year pitching for the at Prairie Baseball Academy while attending classes at Lethbridge Community College in Alberta. The Saint John, New Brunswick native was giving it, “one last kick at the can,” as his father called it.
After his son’s dominant seven-inning, complete-game, no-hit performance for the Maritimes in the semi-final round of Tournament 12, Jade felt comfort in the fact that he and his wife Kathy were right all along – this is where their son belonged.
Hopping on a flight back to New Brunswick immediately following the eye-opening pitching display and before Andrew’s team would eventually win the entire tournament, Jade McDermott was in tears every minute of the way home.
The last kick at the can had already generated interest from the Milwaukee Brewers and the host Blue Jays, and little did McDermott know that the Oakland Athletics would also come calling the next day.
In the four days that followed, McDermott was already anticipating news that his son’s future could forever change at any moment. The loving father couldn’t eat, with nerves overcoming his appetite; couldn’t sleep, working the night shift as a supervisor at a local drywall plant; and he couldn’t help but get a little choked up at the idea of Andrew’s success.
“Sorry for getting a little emotional,” he said. “But no one from New Brunswick ever plays professional baseball and he might have a shot.”
McDermott made sure to mention that Matt Stairs was the last guy to get signed out of the province, and Stairs is certainly no spring chicken. He also alluded to the fact that the anticipated news would be so exciting that it could be deserving of a town parade.
Amidst the waiting and the dreaming, the call finally came. Four night shifts later, Jade’s phone still hasn’t been turned off for even one second. It felt like it took forever but, all of a sudden in one quick moment, all of the Case family’s dreams had come true.
“It’s something just to sign with any major league team,” Jade said through tears immediately following the signing. “But this is Toronto. This is unbelievable … [Andrew and I] got to cry together on the phone for a minute and then he had to go pitch.”
Everything that Kathy and Jade McDermott have done for their son over the years has come to fruition. It isn’t Andrew’s dream that came true on Saturday morning, but it’s every parent’s wish for their young baseball-playing spawn.
“All the sacrifices by sending Andrew away …” Jade trailed off as his words got lost in his excitement. “Sorry I’m crying and quivering, but all the times we sent him away and he was the only kid going away, and money-wise, sending him out to Alberta – it’s worth triple what we paid. It’s unbelievable …
“This is our dream too. When we started sending him out west our goal was to get him at least into an organization where he could show what he could do. And now he’s going to get that opportunity.”
Everything has now gone exactly as the Cases had hoped. They knew that he could get to this point, but weren’t sure if it was ever going to happen for him. Andrew’s display at Tournament 12 was enough for the Blue Jays, however, and for the man who made his dreams come true, signing scout Jamie Lehman.
“Andrew is a special competitor,” Lehman said. “His ability to attack hitters with a feel for three pitches, in a big game, is impressive. I really think he knows his strengths, knows how to work hitters, and is going to have success in our system as a result.”
While the young hurler opened the eyes of many at the tournament at Rogers Centre, the 6-foot-2, 190-pound right-hander’s coach at the PBA has seen his potential since their first encounter.
“He needed a couple more years to develop,” Hubka said. “I guess you could call that a late bloomer, but all kids don’t develop at the same time. When we got Andrew into our program last year he needed to go find out what a weight room was and learn a little bit about conditioning and throwing programs. He’s done a great job with that and the results are finally starting to show for him. We’re proud of him with the work ethic that he has on a baseball field.”
“One thing about Canadian kids is they’re all late developers,” Hubka continued. “They don’t come from the powerhouses like California, Arizona, Texas, Louisiana; Florida. These kids’ arms are very fresh and they don’t have a lot of innings in them. Kids down south start throwing long toss at 10 years old and for eight or nine months of the year where Canadian kids play baseball for 20 games a year at that age.”
Hubka believes the ceiling is incredibly high for his pitcher and compares him to Dustin Molleken.
“When we had [Molleken] at 18 years old he was very similar to Andrew,” Hubka said. “He was sitting 87-90 mph and now he sits 94-96. So it takes time for kids to develop here. The ceiling is going to go up … I’m sure his arm strength will someday get him up into the mid-90s.”
Andrew Case went from zero to hero after his time at Tournament 12. The Blue Jays have already made one dream come true and there’s no lack of confidence that many more will follow.
And now the 20-year-old from Saint John can start trying to work his way back to the Rogers Centre mound. And wouldn’t that be a great story?