* Mitch Robinson, who was taken in the 22nd round by the Miami Marlins in June, will head to Florida International University this fall. But before that, he's expected to help the Canadian Junior National Team secure a spot in next year's World Cup in Japan. (Photo: Alexis Brudnicki). .... 2014 Canadians drafted … Canadians in Minors … Canadians in college summer ball …. Canadians in College 2015 Canadian draft list Letters of Intent
By Alexis Brudnicki
Mitch Robinson has a lot to look forward to over the next little while.
Passing up an opportunity to join the Miami Marlins organization after being selected in the 22nd round of the draft in early June, the power-hitting third baseman will soon head off to start his collegiate career at Florida International University.
But first, Robinson is expected to reunite with the Canadian Junior National Team as the young squad heads to Mexico for the World Junior Qualification Tournament in an attempt to secure their berth in next year’s World Cup in Japan.
“Qualifying this team from Mexico is the No. 1 goal,” Robinson said. “Going down there and winning, ultimately, or at least coming in the top four…There’s a lot of stuff coming up [for me], so I try to go day by day and take it in stride.”
On his last Team Canada tour as a junior member of the squad, the 18-year-old is proud of what he’s been able to accomplish and of how much he’s grown throughout his time with the program.
“It’s an honour playing with the name across the chest,” Robinson said. “It’s obviously a little bittersweet because it’s coming to an end, because it is such a cool time and experience. But just to have the opportunity to get to play for the team and hopefully get to have an opportunity to qualify this team, it’s definitely a pride thing for the nation as a whole.”
The best part of the Surrey, B.C. native’s entire experience with Baseball Canada, as it is for many other current players and program alumni, is the relationships that he’s developed.
“It’s the bond that we have with the players here,” Robinson said. “It’s a special group of guys and we look forward to going on the different trips and different opportunities. We get to play here, Dominican, Cuba, and just having the Team Canada jersey with the name across the front is a huge deal and it’s a special feeling. It’s not hard to get excited for it and be motivated for it. It’s a special thing.”
So, too, was Robinson’s draft experience. One of just 17 Canadian players selected over the three-day process in June, and one of only eight Canuck high schoolers, he knows how significant his pick was.
“It’s incredibly special,” he said. “Seeing the talent I’m surrounded by, especially on this team, and back home there’s talent everywhere, so to be in that elite group is humbling and validating and just an honour. It feels great…
“The draft was really exciting. Just a cool experience all in all, and very validating to get selected, very rewarding for all the work I put in. It was definitely a good feeling that it paid off in the end.”
Right up until it happened, Robinson was unsure of what the selection process might hold for him. Several teams expressed interest in the young infielder ahead of time, and he made them aware of exactly what it might take to pull him away from playing for the Panthers in Miami, so he eagerly awaited his draft pick, not even knowing whether or not it would come.
“I didn’t really have any expectations,” Robinson said. “It was more hopes of what I wanted and what I was looking for. It was really a coin toss of if I was going to get it or not, or what was going to happen.
“I knew there were some possibilities and some teams who thought they could get me what I wanted and some who couldn’t, so it was a big coin toss.”
The Marlins were an organization that had expressed interest in Robinson early and often, so when he was selected it wasn't surprising to Robinson that Miami ultimately was the squad to use a pick on him.
“They were actually one of the first teams that I ever talked to,” the young third baseman said. “At the end of last season, at the end of my Grade 11 year, in the summer they talked to me. Gabe Sandy, the [northwest] area scout for the Marlins was the first one I had really talked to. They were on me early and I knew they were interested from the get-go.”
Happy with the way the draft unfolded, how he handled it, and what he did to prepare, Robinson does have some advice for young players who might be approaching that same process in the future.
“Honestly, just play the game the way that you play,” he said. “Don’t try to do anything else or anything more special, or worry about if the scouts are there. If they like you, they’re going to like you for the game you play.
“If they are there, it’s pretty hard to miss that they’re watching, so just play your game and play relaxed, and use the fact that they’re there to motivate you instead of making you scared or timid to play or making you nervous to play.”
No matter what happened during the draft, Robinson always had FIU in the back of his mind, looking forward to the opportunity that the Panthers had presented him.
“I’m really looking forward to that,” he said. “I was thinking before I went into the draft that even if I didn’t get drafted or it didn’t work out for me that I still had a great opportunity to go there. It was a win-win no matter what happened.”
And not going pro this early in his career allows Robinson the additional chance to play for the Junior National Team, something the Panthers seem happy to oblige.
“Beforehand, I let them know that was going to be something that I was hoping to happen and hoping to be able to do,” Robinson said. “They’ve probably had to deal with stuff like that before, so they were very understanding and handled it very well.
“It’s not ideal because we miss the beginning of the school year. It’s not a big deal to miss the baseball because we are playing at such a high level, but to miss the first couple weeks of school, at a university, and there’s a big jump from Grade 12, it might be a little interesting. But they’ve been really accommodating for me.”
When he gets to Miami, another exciting opportunity awaits Robinson. The power-hitting Panthers freshman will get to take on his Conference USA opponents with a metal bat, a weapon he hasn’t used for years and one that just might take his power numbers to the next level.
“That is exciting,” Robinson said. “Actually, the Langley Blaze are getting a taste of that firsthand right now. We’re playing in a Seattle premier league and we’re playing high schoolers who are using metal bats.
“It’s definitely a different game, there are a lot more long balls, a lot of harder-hit balls. It’s kind of exciting, and it will be cool to get the metal bat. I haven’t used one since Grade 8, at least…I’m looking forward to it. They’re lighter and balanced and it’s something to look forward to.”
-- Follow Alexis Brudnicki on Twitter @baseballexis