Shields, Jones, Virdo, Berczi draw scouts opening weekend

By Alexis Brudnicki
Canadian Premier Baseball League

Let the games begin. 

With the kickoff tournament done and dusted, and the Canadian Premier Baseball League’s exhibition matchups in the books, the inaugural season is set to start. 

In pre-season games from Friday to Sunday, Dorchester’s Field of Dreams hosted the Fieldhouse Pirates, Great Lake Canadians and Ontario Nationals programs, while the Ontario Blue Jays, Toronto Mets and Team Ontario played out the eastern bracket in Scarborough at Dan Lang Field at the University of Toronto. 

“It was great to get outside this weekend and play some games to get prepared for the season,” said Jimmy Richardson, director of player development for the Fieldhouse Pirates. “Looking at the quality of play all weekend is an indication of why we started this league, with great players on every roster.” 

Added Chris Robinson, director of baseball operations for the Great Lake Canadians: “The weather was cold, but it was good for our guys to get out. Any time you can play games in April, it’s a bonus.” 

While the early games tested the players who haven’t seen much time out on the field, the opportunity to play and the calibre of competition were exciting for all those involved. 

“You could certainly tell it was early as far as the defence was concerned,” said Ryan McBride, vice president and director of baseball operations for the Toronto Mets. “And the pitching was definitely ahead of the hitting. 

“What was worth noting from what I saw was that there were five scouts present at the games at U of T on Friday and Saturday with representatives from the Oakland Athletics, New York Yankees, Minnesota Twins, Milwaukee Brewers, and Arizona Diamondbacks organizations in attendance.” 

Added Jeremy Jayaweera, Ontario Nationals 16U Red manager: “It was very exciting for all three of our teams to get out and play. Offensively, working on having quality at-bats and seeing pitches was huge. For pitching, it was good to get through a rotation and see what the players could do. Working on all different pitches and different defensive situations was key, and a great weekend to work on all of it.” 

While each team had several standouts throughout the weekend tournament, coaches noted especially impressive appearances from Canadians right-hander Austin Shields, who was up to 94 off the mound, from Mets’ arms Matt Jones and Nick Virdo, Blue Jays hurler Jack Berczi, and 2017 pitcher Jake English, from Great Lake. 

Nats 18U outfielder Riley Perks impressed at the plate with quality at-bats every time he stepped up. 16U Nationals catchers Curtis Chambers and David Mendham held down the fort both behind and at the dish, totalling 13 hits and nine runs scored between them over the weekend.  

With plenty to be excited about already, each of the teams involved is just looking forward to more. 

“Our organization is very excited for the CPBL season to start,” Jayaweera said. “We have been preparing a long time for this and we are excited to play quality teams every weekend. The players’ development is the most important, and playing quality teams each weekend allows for all our players to keep improving.” 

Said Richardson: “With the regular season starting this week, I’m looking forward to having my guys, each and every weekend, play against teams who are going to push their limits. For 28 innings each weekend, it is going to be a battle, and every team is going to be tough.” 

Added Robinson: “What we’re looking forward to the most is the level of competition we will be playing every single weekend. Even with this short snapshot of what the league is going to be like, it is exciting to know every weekend our guys will be challenged. This is a great development opportunity for our guys and will only help when we get off into tournaments down south.” 

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Alexis Brudnicki

Baseball has been a part of Alexis' life since her parents took her brother to sign up for Eager Beaver Baseball in London. Alexis wanted to play and asked to sign up, too. Alexis played ball until the boys were all twice her size and then switched to competitive fastball. Her first job was as an umpire for rookies with the EBBA and since then Alexis has completed her education with an undergraduate degree from the University of Western Ontario and graduate studies in Sports Journalism at Centennial College