DeSouza fast tracked, Canucks rained out
* OF Nathan DeSouza (Milton, Ont.), extreme left, with other outfielders listening to coach Greg Hamilton at the Rogers Centre. DeSouza was drafted in June, like 100s of others high schoolers. Unlike others, DeSouza he was on the Blue Jays’ turf, before heading to the World Juniors in Soeul, Korea. DeSouza was signed by Jamie Lehman, didn’t get a chance to play as all games were rained out on Day 1 at the Worlds ….
By Alexis Brudnicki
Nathan DeSouza was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in June.
In August, he was already taking the field at Rogers Centre.
The 18-year-old took to the major league diamond with the Canadian junior national team in preparation for the Italian Baseball Week tournament on his way to the IBAF 18U World Championships in Seoul, Korea, but the feeling still has to hit pretty close to home.
DeSouza wasn’t even concentrating on the draft when his hometown team took him in the 26th round. He didn’t have big dreams of stepping out on the Astroturf in front of his family and friends and being the local hero. He hadn’t really given much thought to the possibility of being selected by Toronto.
“I actually had no idea it was going to be the Blue Jays,” he said. “I thought it would be either Seattle or San Francisco. I never would have thought it would be the Blue Jays.”
The Milton native thinks that being taken by the only team north of the border does carry an additional factor of being something that much more special.
“I grew up outside of Toronto, so I was always a Blue Jays fan,” DeSouza said. “It was definitely extra exciting for me.”
The outfielder didn’t sign until almost a month after the draft was completed, though his decision to go pro was a pretty easy one. A couple of weeks after the deal was done, he headed to Florida and he started his pro career with the Rookie-class Gulf Coast League Blue Jays.
The GCL is notorious for high heat, an absence of fans, and a level of competition in which development is more important than winning. That can be tough for some young players who are new to the pro ranks, but DeSouza took his first season in stride.
“It does get really hot and that’s the only bad thing,” he said. “But it’s really fun being in Florida and we’re in a nice area.”
The Bobby Mattick Training Complex in Dunedin, is home to the GCL Blue Jays. It also happens to be the destination for any player in the Toronto organization in need of rehabilitation. With so many Blue Jays taking turns on the disabled list this year, there have been a lot of familiar faces in and around the complex.
Though DeSouza hasn’t had the chance to ask questions or talk to many of the big leaguers who happen to be hanging around the GCL, it does give a little bit of added motivation to everyone around them.
“I haven’t talked to any of them but I did see some of them around the clubhouse,” he said. “I saw Brett Lawrie, Adam Lind and a couple of the pitchers as well. It was pretty cool … But I was doing my own stuff and getting ready. We were always playing on the field when they were around.”
DeSouza’s GCL season came to an early end when he set off with Team Canada, but he’s been pretty happy with his pro career thus far.
“It’s not a whole lot different,” he said of playing pro ball. “I guess it’s different waking up really early every morning and being at the ballpark for seven or more hours every day. That’s definitely different. But the best part is playing baseball every day.”
Even though he’s not currently playing professionally, DeSouza will continue to play every day as Team Canada makes an attempt to bring home gold from the world championships. The young hitter is happy to have one last opportunity with the team that he believes helped him get to where he is now and has been.
“Playing with the junior team definitely helped,” DeSouza said. “It helped by playing other pro teams and that helped a lot with skill. It also gave us a chance at getting noticed by pro teams, so that really helped a lot too.”
The junior national team member wouldn’t be able to acknowledge what the squad has done for him without taking some time to talk about the head coach of the team and the national teams’ director, Greg Hamilton.
“Greg’s a really nice guy,” DeSouza said. “He’s probably the best coach I’ve ever had. He definitely knows a lot about baseball and that helps a lot.”
DeSouza is under Hamilton’s wing for likely his last time as a junior team member and is looking forward to seeing what he and the other Canadians can accomplish in South Korea.
“I think if we all play together and as hard as we can, I think we can actually win the worlds,” he said.
“I think we’re good enough to be in the mix for a medal,” the national teams’ director said. “You want to put yourself in a spot where you have an opportunity to medal and ideally win that gold medal. I think we have a ball club capable of doing that …
“For our guys it’s about controlling their energy level. They’re still young; not letting that take over, and simplifying the game and playing the way they’re capable of. We’ve got a good schedule where they’ve played a lot of pro competition. They’re ready from a competitive perspective.”