Pompey in camp after a busy winter
*Dalton Pompey (Mississauga, Ont.) former Oakville Royals OF amongst early arrivals at mini-camp at Bobby Mattick training facility. Photo: Alexis Brudnicki ….
by Alexis Brudnicki
Being drafted out of high school means beginning a career at a very early age.
Few 17-year-olds even have career aspirations, and for those with big dreams, realizing them and finding gainful employment is no easy task.
There is at least one exception to every rule, however, and Dalton Pompey has found great success after being taken in the 16th round of the 2010 draft by the Toronto Blue Jays. Now 19 years old, the Mississauga native is already taking the field with the big leaguers, even just as a part of a mini-camp put on by the organization.
Though baseball is still a game in the mind of Pompey, he’s at a point in his career where fun is no longer foremost, and it’s time to get down to business.
“This is kind of my job now, in a way,” Pompey said. “I have to take it seriously. I still love to play baseball but at the end of the day you’ve still got to perform, you’ve still got to work hard, you’ve got to do all the things that you need to do to get to where you need to be.”
The mini-camp at the Bobby Mattick Training Centre allows the organization to get an extra look at some of the farm system’s top prospects. It has also given Pompey the opportunity at a head start for getting himself ready for the upcoming season, as well as a chance to receive more personal attention from the coaches running the training sessions.
“I’m just working on little things that I have to work on, that I worked on in the off-season that I’m trying to refine,” the young outfielder said. “It’s more of a time for me to get one-on-one coaching with the coaches and work on the things that I need to so when the season does come around I kind of already have that foundation set from being in this mini-camp.”
During the winter, Pompey, who was drafted by Jays scout Jamie Lehman, enhanced his workout regimen in order to become better prepared for the year ahead. After finishing up last season in the Rookie Appalachian League with the Bluefield Blue Jays, it is likely that the young outfielder will be heading to a full-season league this summer.
“I would work out five times a week, where the year before I only worked out three times a week,” Pompey said of his off-season routine. “It was more purposeful. I had a purpose to what I was doing and what I needed to do.”
The native of Mississauga didn’t do it all on his own, as he enlisted some local help to assist him in getting into the shape that he wanted to be in.
“I had a trainer,” Pompey said. “I worked out at Mind to Muscle, in Mississauga. They got me in good shape and I gained 12 pounds. So it was a good off-season for me and they’ve seen the gains in it and the coaches and staff of the Blue Jays are seeing it too, so it’s definitely a positive.”
Prior to the last season, Pompey could occasionally be found taking swings in the batting cages at Rogers Centre with fellow Canadian and mini-camp participant Marcus Knecht (Toronto, Ont.). Though during the most recent off-season, he didn’t make his way downtown as often.
“Not as much this winter,” Pompey said of hitting at the home of the Blue Jays. “Marcus wasn’t really around so I couldn’t really hit with him. Going to Toronto, it’s kind of an on-your-own thing. It’s hard because all you’ve got really is a tee and a pitching machine. I trained with the Oakville Royals, my old team, and I got some of the coaches to work with me and flip me balls and throw with me, whatever I needed. So that was more convenient and it was closer.”
Knecht had a pretty good reason for not being around to take swings in the cages with Pompey this winter. He was touring with Team Canada, bringing home a bronze medal from the World Cup in Panama and a gold medal from the Pan Am Games in Mexico.
Though the two didn’t spend time playing ball together in Toronto, they have been reunited in Florida at the mini-camp. Knecht is one of the players that Pompey spends time with and looks up to.
“I like to hang out with some of the older guys and just learn from them, watch the things that they do, and just try to copy the things that they do because they’re in a good place right now and that’s where I want to be,” the 19-year-old said. “I kind of just try to learn from each and every one of them and take little things, and it’s been helping me so far.”
Who does Pompey spend the most time with?
“I hang around Michael Crouse (Port Moody, BC), Marcus Knecht and Jake Marisnick,” he said. “Those guys I like to follow around and see what they’re doing because in my eyes, they’re role models for me and some of the younger guys. So I just try to learn from them as best I can.”
It’s no coincidence that two of the three young men that Pompey looks up to the most at Bobby Mattick are Canadians. Though the trio never played together with the national team, they share a special relationship just because of their affiliation with Baseball Canada.
“There definitely is,” Pompey said of the Canuck bond. “When we walk around here, everyone calls us the Canadian Connection, and they have all these kind of nicknames for us. We definitely have a connection because they came from the same spot, we all played on the national team, at different times, but it’s kind of like a brotherhood kind of thing.”
Pompey thinks extremely highly of his Canadian companions and mentors. When asked specifically about Crouse, the young Canuck had many kind words for his 21-year-old counterpart.
“He’s a leader,” Pompey said of Crouse. “He goes about his business the right way every day. Guys look up to him. He leads by example. When he does something, people notice. He always works hard. He’s someone that you just want to follow. You want to try to be like him because the coaches like him and the players like him and he’s just a well-liked guy.”
When asked separately about Knecht, Pompey had to revert to his opinion about Crouse. It’s not surprising that he would say similar things about the two, since they are often connected to each other, playing together, hanging out together, living together and working out together on most occasions.
“I’d probably say the same thing,” Pompey said about Knecht. “They’re the same person. They hang out together. They’re the same. They just good people and they’re good baseball players and they’re people that you want to follow.”
There’s a chance that all three members of the mini-camp’s Canadian Connection will be suiting up together for a game that will be played on March 13 between a Blue Jays split-squad team and the Canadian junior national team. Pompey took part in the game as a junior player just two springs ago, and relished the experience.
“It was great,” Pompey said. “I got to come out here and play against guys who were playing professional baseball and that’s where I wanted to get to. So it was a good learning experience for me and I built on that and I can apply it to what I’m doing right now.”
Pompey’s time with Team Canada has always been special for him, and though he currently has two seasons in the minor leagues under his belt, the highlight of Pompey’s baseball career stems from his time with Baseball Canada.
“It was definitely playing in the World Junior Championships in 2010 with Team Canada,” Pompey said. “That was as emotional as it could come. There were ups and downs and we actually had a chance to win the tournament. That was pretty good, playing with all those guys that are either in pro ball or in college right now and it’s an experience I’ll never forget.”
After seeing the success of the senior national team in October and hearing about the experiences of Crouse and Knecht, Pompey looks forward to someday joining his fellow Blue Jays farmhands and getting a chance to play for Team Canada at a higher level.
“That’s somewhere I want to be,” he said. “Eventually somewhere down the road I’d like to play for the senior national team and maybe one day the WBC team. But I’ve just got to take it one step at a time, work on what I need to work on today and then those are all positive things that come out of me working hard and progressing.”