By: George Redak
Canadian Baseball Network
Blake Flinn came to Tournament 12 with a mindset years in the making. He just wanted to play ball.
Although few kids make it to the major leagues, showcase tournaments like the one in Toronto present an opportunity to get noticed. While many of the players don’t raise any eyebrows when it comes to scouts, their passion for the sport of baseball seldom goes away.
For Flinn, a left-handed pitcher from Riverside, New Brunswick, there is nothing he loves more than to take the mound.
“Blake just wants to play baseball,” said his mother. “He doesn’t know what he wants to be, all he knows is that he loves baseball.”
He entered Tournament 12 looking for an opportunity. He pitched a total of five innings for team Atlantic Maroon, giving up one earned run on two hits and four walks, while striking out four batters.
“I think he had a good tournament overall,” said his coach Jason Dickson, a former Major League pitcher with the Anaheim Angels. “It’s a tournament he came to before and its just good to get him into situations where he faces tough hitting in an environment that is a little nerve-racking in the sense of scouts and location.”
The 17-year-old may not be the hardest thrower, his fastball averaging in the mid to high 70’s, but he prides himself on controlling his secondary pitches which he can consistently throw for strikes.
“I throw my curveball a lot and I locate it pretty well,” said Flinn. “I threw my changeup pretty good too. I don’t throw all that hard so I have to rely on those pitches (to be effective).”
Flinn threw a total of 101 pitches over his two outings, 64 for strikes.
The numbers suggest that the southpaw compensates for his lack of velocity by successfully locating all his pitches. Dickson has nothing but praise for the youngster’s approach when it comes to stepping on the mound.
“Blake has a good understanding of the type of pitcher he is from the sense of changing speeds and hitting his spots,” explains the former pitcher. “He knows not to overthrow if he is too excited and to make sure he is down in the zone mixing the pitches.”
But like any aspiring athlete, the desire to improve his craft will always be there. For Flinn, who is entering his first year of college baseball at the University of New Brunswick, there will be plenty of opportunities to further develop his pitching.
“Our university coach runs Baseball New Brunswick as well and he started doing a workout program for us,” explains Flinn. “Dickson said he will get me into a throwing program as well. I want to get better and get more velocity.”
Pitching for the Metro Mudcats Triple-A team in New Brunswick, Flinn is no stranger to benefiting from the advice and training of good instructors, namely Mike Donahoe, the head coach of the team
“Donahoe from Riverview coached me since I was eight. He helped me a lot and has given me a lot of confidence.”
Flinn began his baseball journey at the age of four thanks to an early ability to catch the ball. By the time he was eight he made his provincial team as a pitcher.
It was at that early stage in his life that he received his first real baseball lessons from Dickson, a former all-star who spent five years with the Anaheim Angels organization.
“With most young kids, you see some little things and you help them work on their craft,” said Dickson. “You remind him that we are pitchers, not throwers, we talked about the good days (on the mound) and the bad.
Flinn will face these challenges going into his first year as a starter for the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds. So long as he continues to play his game, Dickson is sure success will follow.
“I think Blake will have success at the university level,” said Dickson. “He is a smart pitcher and he understands what he has to offer and what he can do. That is probably his biggest weapon. If he stays within himself and understands what he does (well), he will have success.”