Robson a rarity: a speedy Canadian
*OF Jacob Robson(Windsor, Ont.) has marks, a line-drive swing and speed/PHOTO Melissa Couto ….
By Melissa Couto
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — When Jacob Robson watches baseball, he idolizes Ichiro Suzuki and Jacoby Ellsbury.
As an outfielder with the Canadian junior national team, he has tried to adopt their playing style too.
The Windsor, Ont. native, who represented his country at the 2012 St. Petersburg International tournament, has respected the elite-but-petite leadoff batters of Major League Baseball since childhood.
“I’ve always admired Ichiro,” the 17-year-old said before a pre-game workout at Al Lang Field. “He’s really made a name for the guys who aren’t the biggest and it shows that you don’t have to be huge to be an amazing player.
“But Ellsbury’s my favourite player to watch right now. He’s a speed guy like me. He’ll drop a bunt down but he can also hit a ball into the seats. I definitely aspire to be like him.”
The 5-foot-10, 175-pound outfielder has been described by his Ontario Blue Jays coach, Dan Bleiwas, as the “prototype lead-off hitter,” and grand things are expected from him.
“He’s got great on-base ability,” Bleiwas said. “He’s a speed player, but not limited to that because he’s also got the ability to really drive the ball.”
Marc Picard, Robson’s coach during last summer’s Canada Cup tournament, has also witnessed the youngster’s impressive talent, even after only working with him for a short period of time.
“Speed is definitely a problem with Canadian ball players,” Picard admitted. “The lack of quality outfielders in Canada, particularly those that can run and hit makes Jacob an immediate prospect.”
The quick-footed teen displayed his skills last in a 12-0 loss to St. Peterbsburg College, drawing a walk and stealing second in his first at-bat, then ending the next inning with a dazzling running catch in right-centre field.
Robson’s next step within the sport is currently undecided, though the Vincent Massey High School senior suggests that he would love an opportunity to concentrate on his academics while playing baseball.
“I’m more academically focused so I want to go to a four-year school, and a good one, hopefully,” the studious Robson said. “I’ve gotten a couple [scholarship] offers and I’m talking to more schools that seem to be interested, so we’ll just see what happens.”
Major League ambitions won’t be thwarted yet, however.
“You never know what’s going to happen with the draft in June,” Robson said. “Depending on the offer, who knows? But I’m definitely excited for the future.”
Last month, the native of Windsor traveled two hours north to Centrefield Sports, Team Canada coach Adam Stern’s training facility in London, where he showcased his talents in front of regional MLB scouts.
“I was invited by Walt Burrows (the director of scouting for the MLB Scouting Bureau in Canada), who sends out invitations to the best players from that region,” Robson said. “I talked to a couple of scouts and came out of it feeling positive.”
Bleiwas definitely sees potential in his young player.
“Whether he gets an opportunity (to play pro) or not coming out of high school will be dictated by his performance in the next few months, both with Team Canada and the Ontario Blue Jays.
“With Jacob, a player where all the tools are there, all we need to do really is bide time and let those tools develop.”
Picard agrees, although he suggested that his former Canada Cup star may be better suited to college ball for the time being.
“There is a strong possibility that Jacob will get drafted but because he is well above average academically, his tools make him a very attractive college prospect.”
Robson will have to make a decision before the mid-April NCAA signing period, but for the next two weeks, he is focused on training and playing at historic Al Lang Field.