* RHP Jaz Shergill (Toronto, Ont.) earned a spot in the ABL all-star fan vote. He joins Kellin Deglan (Langley, BC), Maxx Tissenbaum (Toronto, Ont.) and Tim Smith (Toronto, Ont.) on the World Tean of the all-star game. Photo: SMP Images/ABL Media. .... 2014 Canadians in the Minors … Canadians in College 2015 Canadian draft list …. Canadians in College 2016 Canadian draft list Letters of Intent
By Alexis Brudnicki
BRISBANE, Queensland, Australia – Jaz Shergill is looking to make the most of his first chance at professional baseball.
After finishing his season with the Toronto Maple Leafs of the Intercounty Baseball League, the 23-year-old right-hander felt strong and wanted to pursue opportunities for the winter.
Through the International Baseball Community website, he found his way to Australia to play for a club ball team – the Redcliffe Padres – before being picked up by the Brisbane Bandits to start the Australian Baseball League season.
“I’m having a great time,” he said. “Basically you wake up every morning thinking about baseball, thinking about training that day, what’s going on that day, if we’ve got games. It’s a great feeling that baseball is my No. 1 concern and it’s the only thing I have to worry about.
“I’m loving it and I’m enjoying every single day. Being a starter I’m only pitching one day a week but a day like this, coming out and being with the boys, being on the field for a couple hours every day – it’s a great feeling. I love being out here.”
In his professional debut so far, Shergill has made six starts for the Bandits and has posted a 2.42 ERA over 26 innings, holding opponents to a .191 average and putting up a 1.08 WHIP. He feels as though he is finally getting a chance to prove to others what he always felt he was capable of.
“At the end of the day I’ve always had confidence in myself,” the Toronto native said. “A lot of it is because of the defence – I can’t take the credit myself – I’m just basically throwing strikes. If you look at my past outings there have been some fantastic plays in the field … I’m doing what I can do and then letting the boys behind me take care of the rest.”
Making sure to give as much credit as possible to the players behind him out on the diamond, Shergill believes the defensive prowess of the Brisbane squad has made a huge difference in his success.
“The defence has been the main thing,” he said. “Playing in Toronto it’s really tough because they have the gravel infield, the 300-foot fences, everything like that. I felt pretty good this past summer but here it’s coming down to having more confidence and being able to throw strikes, get ahead of batters, force contact, and really trusting everyone behind me and knowing they’re going to do whatever they can to make that play.”
A pure hitter until he was 18 years old, Shergill took to the mound later than most. Named to the final roster spot on the World team at the upcoming ABL All-Star Game, he is looking forward to the remainder of his first professional season and hoping for continued success with whatever other opportunities may follow.
“My dream is to play at the highest competition level as possible,” Shergill said. “Wherever that may be – whether it’s here in Australia, maybe Japan, maybe America – I just want to play as high competition level as possible.
“My aspirations obviously are to play in the major leagues. I put in the work every day for that but whatever happens, happens. At this point I’m just going to go out there, enjoy baseball for what it is, and compete as hard as I possibly can.”
His goals for the season down under are simple.
“I just want to get better every outing,” the young hurler said. “Grow, know where I’ve done well and where I haven’t done so well and learn. I want to be able to throw all my pitches for strikes and basically just compete at a higher level.”
So far, Shergill has enjoyed every chance he’s been afforded and is happy to be in the warm weather away from the cold at home and playing baseball every day.
“It’s my first time in Australia and I am loving it,” he said. “I was just talking with my parents back home and it’s negative five degrees with snow, so you won’t hear me complaining. There was a game here in Brisbane against Melbourne and it was 42 degrees. I came out after the third inning and they actually said I had heat stroke that day…that was a new experience for me, that kind of heat…
“I haven’t done as much as I want to, but on my days off I like to go out and take the bus up to the beach and hang out. To be able to sit on the beach and enjoy the sand, the waves, the breeze – it’s a beautiful experience.
It’s different from home, that’s for sure.”
Shergill is also happy to have been embraced by the Bandits and the people in Brisbane.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “You’ve got some guys here who have some great talent, [White Sox farmhand] CJ Beatty being one of them. I roomed with him a couple times and he has a great personality on and off the field.
“You really feel like a family here because it is a baseball community. People have their outside lives but it seems once you’re on that baseball field it becomes strictly about baseball. Everything is about getting better and the only way you can get better is by having a good team around you. You can really get that feeling and atmosphere on this team.”
Comparable to the Canadian baseball community, Shergill has found Aussie baseball to be incredibly similar, and is proud to be a part of it.
“You have a lot of American players who are older, have been drafted or playing [professionally], but for me this is the highest level of competition I’ve ever played,” he said. “I feel like I’m being absorbed into the [Australian baseball] community because it’s the first time I’ve ever been treated as a professional…
“They have a lot of passion. I can feel it with the host family I’m staying with, [the Whitsons]. They have two younger boys [Joel and Cooper] who play for the Redcliffe Padres and they love the fact that I’m on the Bandits.
They’re the biggest supporters and it really makes me realize how special I am to be playing for this team.”