Langley, B.C. Canada’s baseball hot bed
*The Langley Blaze circle of success … from Ryan Lennerton, Scott Mathieson and Adam Parliament to Brooklin Foster, Kellin Deglan and Mike Ellis.
By Bryan Mcwilliam
The city of Langley, B.C., a municipality in Metro Vancouver with a population of 23,831 has certainly been making a name for itself of late in the baseball world.
The Langley Majors recently represented Canada at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa. stunning one of the tournament favourites Chinese Taipei, before eventually being knocked out of the tournament, while Langley native Brett Lawrie has become a serious threat in the Toronto Blue Jays line-up with his recent success.
Langley has become a focal point for Canadian baseball and Major League Baseball is aware. One reason is thanks to the Langley Blaze program. The program has trained and prepared baseball players for success at a higher level. Players such as Kellin Deglan, Tyson Gillies, Tom Robson, Dustin Houle and Lawrie have all been recently drafted by MLB teams and were all at one time a member of the Blaze.
According to the team website, the Blaze “work collaboratively to provide positive reinforcement, character mentoring, and developmental training while introducing the players to the Blaze tradition and our lead by example’ mentality,” which could be reasons as to why they have separated themselves as one of, if not, the best baseball program in Canada.
Baseball America recently ranked the Blaze as the best baseball program in Canada for 2011 and with the success of Lawrie; eyes are certainly focussed on the type of program a player of that calibre derived from.
One of the reasons a program succeeds is great planning, as well as coaching. Canadian Baseball Network recently spoke with Jamie Bodaly, current head coach of the Blaze, to discuss the team and its overall success.
How honoured were to be named as the Blaze to be recognized by Baseball America best baseball program in Canada, “We’re very honoured,” said Bodaly. “Its cool and we’re very proud of it actually. It’s one of the top baseball publications in the world, so it’s really cool.”
The Blaze are one of the most competitive teams in the country, and in doing so have separated themselves from other programs by bringing a different level of competition to the program.
What separates the Blaze program from the other programs across Canada? “We have good coaching, good facilities, year round training,” Bodaly said. “We were the first team, at least in BC that started going to Arizona for spring training and getting a jump on everyone else. Now everyone is following us, copying what we do. We took a lot of heat at the beginning for going down there. Everyone thought it was a waste of money. Basically, we started doing that and playing a really good schedule, playing college and pro teams. We play a lot of games; attend a lot of tough competitions. You need to play to get better. We play at least 120 games a year or more. Five or six games a week, at least.”
With a schedule of 120 games a year against stiff college and professional competition it is no wonder the players on this team are ahead of the pack as far as talent and experience goes. Lawrie, for instance, looked poised and ready for the majors level upon his arrival.
What does Bodaly think of Lawrie as a player and his recent success with Toronto, “He’s doing the same kind of thing he did with us,” said Bodaly. “He’s a competitor. Whenever there is a situation where you need a big hit or whatever, he will come through for you in the clutch, he’s just a gamer and he wants to win and he gets it done.”
Bodaly’s thoughts about other players drafted out of the Blaze program, such as Deglan and Gillies? “Kellin is struggling a little with the bat, his defense is really good. He’ll learn how to hit one day. He’s projecting to be a .250 hitter, hit 12 home runs, 60 RBIs so he’ll be in the show one day. Tyson has got to get healthy, but it’s pretty cool to watch him. I was rooting for him and hopefully he’ll move on from where he is.”
And who should baseball fans, as well as scouts, watch for coming out of the Blaze program in the near future? Bodaly responded: “This is probably the first year where we’ve had our weakest team ever, from that standpoint. I don’t know if we’ll have any draftable players, even B.C. may not have any draftable players. It’s the weakest group we’ve ever had. I expect Dustin Houle and Tom Robson to hopefully be in the show one day; they were both drafted out of our program this year. Other guys that are potentially really high up are guys like Liam Stroud, or Mitchell Robinson, those are 2013, 2014 guys.”
Maybe in the future members of the Canadian Little League representative from this year will one day be a member of the Blaze? “I don’t want to say that they do or do not have a chance one day. We’d like to have them all come out if they can. If they love the game then they have a good chance to make this team, but I don’t want to put any kind of pressure on kids that early.” Bodaly continued speaking about the success of the Langley Little League team. “It’s awesome. We’re really proud (of their success) and we’re really looking forward to some of those guys coming out to play with us in a couple of years.”
With an incredible crop of talent to choose from in its current state, as well as future potential stars such as members of the Little League representative the city of Langley seems to have depth coming their way I would not estimate anything but continued success for the Blaze, thanks to the legitimate and well-organized baseball program in place.
The city of Langley may not be familiar to everyone, but if organizations such as the Blaze continue to breed top-tier baseball talent such as Lawrie, Deglin, Gillies and Robson, while the city represents Canada at major competitions such as the Little League World Series, it will certainly garner more attention as time goes on, similar to the way it has recently.
Thanks to programs such as the Blaze the city could in fact be noticed on more of a national level and this could only lead to promising opportunities for the city as a whole.