Pony Pompey ready to put up frisky numbers
* OF Dalton Pompey (Mississauga, Ont.) a graduate of the Oakville Royals program, earned a nickname and some companions since turning pro with the Blue Jays ….
Alexis’ extended trip to extended spring training:
RHP Nick Purdy (Grafton, Ont.), RHP Brandon Kaye (Langley, BC.), RHP Les Williams (Scarborough, Ont.), LHP Shane Davis (Belmont, Ont.), RHP Zach Breault (Amherstburg, Ont.), SS Justin Atkinson (Surrey, BC) and what RHP Tom Robson (Ladner, BC) would tell LHP Ryan Kellogg (Whitby, Ont.).
By Alexis Brudnicki
DUNEDIN, Fla. – Who’s the guy walking around Toronto Blue Jays extended spring training with three My Little Pony figurines in hand?
That would be Dalton Pompey, the Mississauga native drafted in the 16th round by Jays Canadian scout Jamie Lehman in 2010.
What is the young outfielder doing with the tiny colourful horses?
“My nickname is ‘Pony’,” Pompey said. “One of the coaches got me a [My Little] Pony and he wrote my numbers from last year and 2010 on them. Then he gave me [another] one that’s blank and he said that I have to make my own future. Then after this year, whatever it is, I have to write it on the pony.”
The 19-year-old went on to further explain the significance of the gifts from his coach.
“The [smallest] one [represents] my first year,” Pompey said. “That’s why it’s a baby because when I first came here, I was 17. It says, ‘.191’ for when I hit .191 in the [Gulf Coast League]. Then one is for last year when I hit .259 in the GCL. Then now they have this one that’s all blank. He said that at the end of the year I’ve got to fill it out and keep them all in a line.”
So Pompey’s collection of My Little Ponies allows him to reflect upon his performances of past seasons and continue his improvements for the future.
But how did he get the nickname in the first place?
“When I first came [to the organization] one of the coaches, Steve Springer, he was here and I was talking to him,” Pompey said. “I was really skinny and I was 17 and I was probably about 160 pounds.
“He said, ‘I’m going to call you ‘Pony’ because you’re really small right now, but one day you’ll grow up to be a thoroughbred.’ He said, ‘So until then, I’m going to call you ‘Pony’ because you’re small, you’re weak, your legs are shaking; all that stuff.’”
Pompey has made vast improvements since his knee-knocking days when he joined the Toronto club out of John Fraser Secondary School. Entering his third season in the system, he feels as if this year has already made a huge difference in his career.
“I’ve seen a big improvement in my mental approach and just how I go out every single day and I just play,” he said. “In the past it kind of felt like it was a job at some points. I would show up and I would have to go through the motions. But now it’s kind of like I have fun and I appreciate it more.”
The young hitter’s mindset has certainly taken a turn from where his head was at when he took part in the mini-camp put on by the organization at the end of February.
“This is kind of my job now, in a way,” Pompey said at spring training. “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.”
While Pompey certainly still takes his pro career seriously, he’s learned that the game is better all-around when you’re enjoying every day. Through the end of extended spring training, Pompey has so far been successful in achieving his goal of not being too hard on himself, and hopes to continue that this season.
“I want to stay confident in myself and stay positive, because a lot of times I would get down on myself,” he said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself. I want to stay consistent in what I do and if things aren’t going right, [I don’t want to] be afraid to make mistakes or be afraid of what success is, because that’s been my problem over the last two years. I’ve been afraid to do well, without knowing it. That’s one thing I learned about myself.”
Pompey’s confidence got a big boost early this spring when the big club called him up for a few games on the major league roster. Despite fighting nerves, that was where the outfielder was reminded that baseball can be fun at the same time that it is a job.
“It was nerve-racking because you want to do so well,” Pompey said. “Everybody wants to do well and you’re competing against guys who are more experienced and better. You’ve got a whole bunch of people watching you that have never seen you play and it’s almost like you have to make a first impression.
“You’re honestly trying to do as well as you can but then you’ve just got to try and stay within yourself and do what you know how to do. One of the players told me, ‘It’s just grown men playing a kids’ game,’ and that’s exactly what it is. It’s just old guys playing a kids’ game. That’s how I had to look at it and it helped calm me down a little bit.”
Getting the call to big league camp was surreal for Pompey. The young fielder with just one year of service time under his belt enjoyed every single moment with the major leaguers.
“It was awesome,” he said. “I wasn’t really expecting anything. I wasn’t expecting to play. I was going, just to see and experience and watch and to try to learn from the other guys. Then I got into a few games and it was an unreal experience.
“It wasn’t the major leagues but being on the same field as someone like the players that you watch on TV and thinking that, ‘I’m here in extended, but I’m really not that far away,’ especially if I get that opportunity.”
Pompey got the opportunity in March to start a very memorable game on a split-squad roster with major leaguers. When the Blue Jays took on Canada’s junior national team, the same lineup that Pompey once found his name in, the man from Mississauga was on the other side of the field sporting the maple leaf, only this time in Toronto’s new logo.
“That was pretty cool,” he said. “I never got to play against the Blue Jays but I always knew that after I got drafted I would get a chance to because I remember that we came and played against the minor league team. But I didn’t think I was going to play with some of the major league players and play against [Team Canada]. It was a pretty cool experience.
“It was kind of like seeing myself two years prior, being in the same position as them. They were nervous and excited at the same time because they get to play against these major league players. Also, there were a bunch of fans there. Just to be a part of that, on both sides, so I could see where I was and where I am now, I was pretty proud of myself on that day.”
And what did Pompey’s major league counterparts think of his pony collection?
“I talked to Jose Bautista,” he said. “When he found out my nickname he gave me a bunch of protein and he told me to take it. He gave me a whole case of it.”