* RHP Jason Tarapasky (Montreal, Que.) described the feeling of running in from the Rogers Centre bullpen as "awesome." Letters of Intent
By Bob Elliott
They came from near.
They came from far.
Rather than learning from a hard-working coach, the player with the same dream the coach once had as a youngster, the best 15 and 16-year-olds from across Canada learned from the best at the Mizuno Camp at the Rogers Centre.
Pitchers heard Bruce Walton tell them to stay over the rubber and pitch on a downward plane, just as he tells his ace lefty Ricky Romero.
Infielders heard Brian Butterfield telling them you have to get the first out on a double play ball before you can get the second, just as he tells Brett Lawrie.
Catchers were told to square up their left shoulder with second base on stolen base attempts by Jays bench coach Don Wakamatsu, the same way he works with J.P. Arencibia.
It’s flattering to be invited to the Mizuno Junior Elite Camp, work out, pitch on the same mound Roy Halladay and Chris Carpenter were so many others worked.
The next step for the Mizuno camps will be to take the lessons learned to their home clubs ... and maybe pass it on to teammates.
Instructors from the Toronto Blue Jays included: infield coach Luis Rivera, third base coach Butterfield, bench coach Wakamatsu, pitching coach Walton, i and former Blue Jays closer and World Series winner Duane Ward.
Former Blue Jays reliever and Junior National Team pitching coach and member of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, Paul Quantrill was be joined by former National Team players Adam Stern, who played for the Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles and the Milwaukee Brewers and plus former minor league right-hander T.J. Burton.
Junior National Team Head Coach Greg Hamilton also provided instruction along with Blue Jays director of Canadian scouting Jamie Lehman.
Amateur coaches from across the country were: Jaimie Bodaly (Langley, BC), CJ Jayakekera (St.Albert, Alta.), Riley Glew (Saskatoon, Sask.), Wes Pomarensky (Winnipeg, Man.), Mark Healey (St.John’s, Nfld.), Jason Monaghan (Stratford, PEI), Kevin Daurie (Halifax, NS), Jaimie MacLaggan (Bathurst, NB), Jeff Flesher (London, Ont.), Michael Belanger (Québec, Que.) and Patricia Landry (St-Etienne-des-Gres, Que.)
The Mizuno camp is a feeder system to the Canadian National Junior Team program.
The two most famous Mizuno graduates are Russell Martin (Montreal, Que.) of the New York Yankees and Adam Loewen (Surrey, B.C.) now with the Blue Jays.
Life skill seminars were conducted by Jays scouting director Andrew Tinnish and Lehnman, Hamilton, Stern and Burton.
Usually we interview a few players from each province during the game which serves as the finale of the Mizuno camp.
However, we were late to the game as we were at the funeral of the late Randy Echlin, who chaired the Canadian Baseall Hall of Fame committee.
We sent emails to 20 players, including one from each province.
Usually we’d go in alphabetical order, but this time around it was first to answer, first posted, like first into the pool.
First a look back at the:
And now on with the show ...
Name: Eric Swanson
Height: 6’ Weight: 155 lbs.
Bats: Left Throws: Left
Hometown: Stonewall, Man.
2011 teams: Interlake Blue Jays, Stonewall High School, Team Manitoba Youth Selects, Manitoba Prospects
2012 teams: Interlake Blue Jays, Stonewall High School
Baseball Influence: “My dad, Dwayne Swanson, he coached and supported me all the way through minor ball and would take me to the batting cages or catch for me whenever i asked him to.”
Favorite Player: “Brett Lawrie, (Langley, BC) I like how he’s a very exciting player and fun to watch. I also like him because he is a Canadian.”
Favorite Canadian Player: “Brett Lawrie, I like how he’s a very exciting player and fun to watch.”
Greatest baseball achievement: “Going 5-0 in the round robin at the Canada Cup with the Manitoba Youth Selects team this year and placing fourth.”
Highlight of Mizuno Camp: “Getting to pitch on the mound at the Rogers Centre and getting pitching instruction from pro coaches and former big league players.”
Name: Drew Simmons
Position: Centre field
Ht: 5’ 11” Wt: 170 lbs.
Bats: L Throws: R
Hometown: Woodbridge, Ont.
2011 Teams: Vaughan Vikings
2011 Teams: Ontario Blue Jays
Baseball Influence: “My dad Todd, he’s the one who taught me how to play, he takes me to all my games and practices and he’s been coaching me since I was four.”
Favorite Players: “Andrew McCutchen because he is fast, plays the outfield, and is a lot similar to me.”
Favorite Canadian Player: “George Kottaras (Markham, Ont.) because a long time ago he played for my next years team the Ontario Blue Jays. He was drafted and currently plays for the Milwaukee Brewers. He inspires me to work hard so I can one day get drafted and hopefully play in the MLB.”
Greatest Baseball Achievement: “Getting a three run inside-the-park home run at the bantam national championships and winning the offensive player of the game award.”
Highlight of the Mizuno Camp: “One of the seminars where Adam Stern and T.J. Burton told their story about their careers and how far they they’ve gotten and how far they wish they have gotten. The best part was when TJ told his story about his injury and he had to quit baseball because of it.”
Name: Gareth Morgan
Ht: 6’3” Wt: 195lbs
Bats: R Throws: R
2011 Teams: North York Blues Bantam, Mets 16U, Toronto Mets 18U, Canadian Junior National Team
2011 Teams: Toronto Mets 18U, Canadian Junior National Team
Baseball Influence: “Early influences include Clyde King, who first taught me how to hit in the club house at Bond Park and Steve Davis who taught me the fundamentals of the game. Current influences include, Greg Hamilton who has given me some fantastic opportunities and all the guys on the JNT for showing me how much work it takes to get to the next stage.”
Favorite Players: “Andrew McCutchen for his baseball swag and athletic abilities and Carl Crawford for his speed and hitting ability.”
Favorite Canadian Player: “Brett Lawrie, he’s a work horse and inspires me to work harder on my training and conditioning.”
Greatest Baseball Achievement: “Getting selected for the Junior National Team following last year’s Mizuno Camp then playing at Wrigley Field in the 2011 Under Armour All-American Game and being coached by Larry Bowa and Cal Ripken Jr. “
Highlight of the Mizuno Camp: “Playing in the final game with players from across Canada and being selected as MVP for Team Burton.”
Name: Liam Stroud
Ht: 6’3” Wt: 178 lbs
Bats: R Throws: R
Hometown: Maple Ridge, BC
2011 Teams: Langley Jr. Blaze, Team BC for Pacific Northwest Championship
2011 Teams: Langley Blaze
Baseball Influence: “Fred Sabatine (owner of The Bullpen School in New Westminster, BC). Fred believed in me enough to award me the Jesse Penner Scholarship. He consistently gave me expert guidance and top-notch coaching. He helped me believe in myself and taught me that with a positive work ethic anything is possible. He helped renew my love for the game. Ron Montgomery (my grandpa) He instilled in me a love of the game from a very young age. He also inspired me to do my best as when he was younger he played a high level of baseball and got invited to a St. Louis Browns training camp. He has always been my biggest fan and my biggest supporter. Nor Ljunggren (former head coach of the Ridge Meadows Royals Midget AAA and current assistant coach of the Langley Blaze). Nor gave me an opportunity to play Midget (grades 10-12) when I was only bantam aged (grade 9). This opportunity helped boost my confidence and prepare me for my future in baseball.”
Favorite Players: “Roy Halladay (RHP, Philadelphia Phillies). Halladay’s work ethic, how he carries himself on and off the ball field, and the incredible things he has been able to accomplish in his career make him an amazing role model.”
Favorite Canadian Player: “Joey Votto (1st baseman, Cincinnati Reds). All the issues and problems Votto had to overcome after the passing of his father to become an MVP calibre player, really shows his determination and love for the game.”
Greatest Baseball Achievement: “In my last three starts of the BCJPBL regular season this past year, I threw a seven-inning complete game with nine strikeouts, four hits, and two earned runs against the Abbotsford Cardinals in a 5-3 victory. A seven-inning complete game with 12 strikeouts, three hits, and one earned run against the Fraser Valley Chiefs in a 5-1 victory. Lastly, a five-inning complete game with nine strikeouts, one hit and zero runs against the Nanaimo Pirates in a 10-0 victory. Also I lead the British Columbia Junior Premiere League in strikeouts with 99 last season.”
Highlight of the Mizuno Camp: “Sitting in the Bullpen with Duane Ward for an hour getting to ask him questions about his pro career and all other things baseball, the knowledge he passed on was incredible. Also, the pitching coaching from Bruce Walton, TJ Burton, Paul Quantrill and Ward. They all really emphasized the importance of keeping your weight back and driving straight towards home plate.”
Name: Nick Rutckyj
Ht: 5’11” Wt: 175 lbs
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Hometown: South Surrey, BC
2011 Teams: Jr. Langley Blaze
2011 Teams: Sr. Langley Blaze
Baseball Influence: “My father, John Rutckyj. My dad played ball himself and was my first coach. Ever since I started playing ball he’s put in countless hours practicing with me. Everyday we go to the park; he hits 100s of ground balls and then throws BP till his arm aches and he can’t lift it past his shoulder. He not only practices with me, but taught me to play with heart, to work hard, never give up and hustle my a** off.
Favorite Players: “I have too many favorite players to list. Some are: Derek Jeter, Kevin Youkilis and David Wright. All of my favorite players give it 110% and have heart.”
Favorite Canadian Player: “Brett Lawrie. He’s not only a very talented ball player but leaves it all on the field every game. He doesn’t let anything faze him; in his mind nobody can beat him - I admire that. I had the great fortune to meet him at the camp.”
Greatest Baseball Achievement: “My greatest baseball achievement was winning “triple crown” in the Jr. BC Premier Baseball League this year. I led the league in batting average .403, RBIs 38, and home runs twp.”
Highlight of the Mizuno Camp: “There were many highlights for me: first, being selected as one of the top players in Canada to go to the Mizuno camp, getting coached by the Toronto Blue Jays’ and Team Canada’s coaching staff and playing at Rogers’ Center, a field where so many great players have played. It was an amazing experience.”
Name: Jason Tarapasky
Ht: 5’ 11” Wt: 193
Bats: R Throws: R
2011 Teams: Lachine AAA
2011 Teams: Lachine AAA
Baseball Influence: “My dad, James, he throws with me every day.”
Favorite Players: “Cliff Lee, beacuse he is a great starting pitcher and he throws six distinct pitches: four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, cut fastball, changeup, curveball, and a slider.”
Favorite Canadian Player: “Brett Lawrie, because he was born in Canada and an amazing player all around.”
Greatest Baseball Achievement: “To play in 2010 bantam national championships in Vaughan, with Team Quebec, I struck out 14 in a complete game and earned the Game MVP and Gold Glove honours.”
Highlight of the Mizuno Camp: “Running in from the bullpen and standing on the mound and looking at the plate. Just awesome!!”
Name: John Patrick Stevenson
Ht: 5’ 10” Wt: 140
Bats: Right. Throws: Left
Hometown: New Glasgow, PEI
2011 Teams: Summerside Bantam AAA, P.E.I. Youth Selects, P.E.I. Bantam All Star
2011 Teams: Unsure.
Baseball Influence: “I have had many baseball influences such as my dad, Chris my brother, Jordan and numerous coaches throughout my years playing on organized teams. My father was a big influence because he was always there to play catch with me out in our backyard and was one of the first people to show me how to pitch a ball. My brother has also helped me a lot throughout the years too; he has always played catch with me either with our father or alone. He is a pitcher too so he would show me things he learned and help me learn new ways to throw the ball. Both my dad and brother have helped me be the pitcher I am today. All the coaches I have had throughout the years have been very patient and were quick to show me things to help me improve my pitching.”
Favorite Player: “Ricky Romero is a favorrite player of mine because he is so dedicated and works really hard to perform well on the field.
Favorite Canadian Player: “Adam Loewen.”
Greatest Baseball Achievement: “A 19 strikeout, two hitter complete game for bantam AAA Atlantics has been my greatest achievement this ball season.
Highlight of the Mizuno Camp: “Getting to work with and hear advice from the Blue Jays pitching coach Bruce Walton, was the highlight of the Mizuno Camp for me.”
Name: Jager Toffan
Height: 6’ 2” Weight: 185
Bats: L. Throws: R
Hometown: Regina, Sask.
2011 Teams: Regina Wolfpack, Team Saskatchewan 16u & 17u, Vauxhall Jets
2012 Teams: Regina Wolfpack, Vauxhall Jets
Baseball Influence: “My father Calvin, when I wasn’t even in school yet my dad use to take me to the diamond in our back yard to take batting practice and throw the ball around.”
Favorite Players: “Robinson Cano of the New York Yankees because of his unbelievable swag and athleticism.”
Favorite Canadian Player: “Joey Votto for his dominance at the plate.”
Greatest Baseball Achievement: “Making the Canada Cup All Star Team as an outfielder.”
Highlight of the Mizuno Camp: “Greg Hamilton’s speech, it inspired me to go back home and become the best that I can be. I know his speech will play a key role for my development in the future.”
Name: Kurt Horne
Height: 6’4” Weight: 175
Bats: Left Throws: Left
Hometown: Sooke, BC.
2011 teams: Team BC at bantam AAA Nationals, Team B.C. Futures, Victoria Eagles Sr. Bantam AAA
2012 Teams: Victoria Premier Eagles, BCPBL
Baseball Influence: “My dad, Rocky, who took a lot of time an effort to teach me the fundamentals of the game and my mechanics, he coached me from age 7-12. Marty Hall my pitching instructor, who has helped me become a better pitcher and to refine my mechanics.”
Favorite Player: “Tim Lincecum, because he is amazing, there is no one in baseball who can throw the way he does.”
Favorite Canadian Player: “Joey Votto, because he shows that lots of hard work produces results.”
Greatest Baseball Achievement: “Having 15 strikeouts in the semi finals of the provincials this year, with one unearned run, one walk, three hits and a complete game.”
No.1 Thing Learned At Mizuno Camp: “I learned form Bruce Walton that the longer you ride your back hip the better you can control the ball and the easier it is to keep the ball low in the strike zone.”
Highlight of Mizuno Camp: “Pitching on the mound at Rogers Centre. It was nerve-racking. There’s a lot of pressure.”
Name: Travis Taylor
Age: 16 years
Ht: 5’ 10” Wt: 150Ibs
Bats: Left. Throws: right
Hometown: Cornerbrook, Nfld.
2011 Teams: Cornerbrook Midget Barons, Conerbrook Junior Barons, Terra Nova Select Team
2011 Teams: Cornerbrook Midget Barons
Baseball Influence: “My Dad, Tom, he taught me ever since I was five, we would play catch and take ground balls out on the road.”
Favorite Players: “John MacDonald because he’s so slick with the glove and he gives 100%.”
Favorite Canadian Player: “Brett Lawrie because he has great hands, great bat and he going to be a superstar also gives 100% no matter what the score.”
Greatest Baseball Achievement: “Getting team MVP for Newfoundland in Vaughan at the bantam Nationals.”
Highlight of the Mizuno Camp: “Meeting Brian Butterfield, because he knows so much about the game and I learned so much from him base running and in the field and about being confindent.”
Name: Blake Weston
Ht: 6’ 3” Wt: 180 lb
Bats: R. Throws: R
Hometown: Oakville, Ont.
2011 Teams: Oakville A’s, Ontario Youth Team.
2012 Teams: Oakville A’s
Baseball Influence: “My step dad, Ron Belluomini, because he has been my coach since rookie Ball. He taught me to not get too high and not get too low It has helped me stay relaxed on the field and play the game the way its supposed to be played which I believe has helped me play to my full potential.”
Favorite Player: “Mariano Rivera because whenever he takes the mound he stays calm and delivers each pitch with the confidence it won’t get hit which is how I try to approach each of my outings.”
Favorite Canadian Player: “Brett Lawrie because he has taken the path that I am on and has reached his ultimate goal which I would love to someday accomplish.”
Greatest Baseball Achievement: “Winning a gold medal with Ontario at the 2011 Canada Cup as an underager, pitching 2 1/3 innings, 0.00 ERA, allowing two Hits, a walk and striking out one.”
Highlight of the Mizuno Camp: “It was a great feeling running out of the Blue Jays bullpen onto the field and taking the mound. Pitching a perfect frame and getting advice from some of the top coaches in baseball.”
Name: Nolan Bumstead
Ht: 6’ 1” Wt: 175lbs
Bats: Right. Throws: Right
Hometown: Calgary Alta.
2011 Teams: Calgary AAA Redbirds, Team Alberta 15u WCSG
2011 Teams: Calgary AAA Redbirds
Baseball Influence: “One of my coaches for the 2010-11 season Chris Reitsma, who taught me how to be a better player on and off the field.”
Favorite Players: “Dustin Pedroia, he always works hard and takes nothing for granted.”
Favorite Canadian Player: “Joey Votto, he has tremendous power to all fields and plays the game with pride for his country, representing Canada several times.”
Greatest Baseball Achievement: “My greatest achievement was representing my province in the final game of the 2011 WCSG, where I threw a complete game and went 1-3 at the dish. We won the game 6-4.”
Highlight of the Mizuno Camp: “Learning from Blue Jays infielding coaches Luis Rivera and Brian Butterfield.”
Name: Travis Seabrooke
Ht: 6’5” Wt: 175 lbs
Bats: R Throws: L
Hometown: Peterborough, Ont.
2011 Teams: Ontario Terriers U17, Ontario U17 Youth Team, Canada Sunbelt U16
2011 Teams: Ontario Terriers U18
Baseball Influence: "The No. 1 person in my baseball career who has had the biggest impact is my father, Glen. Ever since Day 1 he has always been there whether that be playing catch in the back yard or driving me to the field. He has helped me make life-changing decisions including which teams would best fit my interests and help further my career as a baseball player. My coaches, Paul Quantrill, Rick Johnston and Pete Sanderson have also had an enormous impact on my career.
Favorite Players: "Roy Halladay, because of his unbelievable control and concentration on the mound."
Favorite Canadian Player: "Joey Votto, because he is a career .300-plus hitter in the majors and he plays first base which is a position I also play at times."
Greatest Baseball Achievement: Competing at the 2011 U17 Canada Cup tournament in Moncton, N.B. I pitched a complete game four hitter against Alberta in round robin play. We won that game 3-2 in the bottom of the seventh. Our team then went on to beat Saskatchewan in the final, again in a bottom of the seventh, claiming the championship title."
Highlight of the Mizuno Camp: "Being the starting pitcher and throwing from the mound that the best pitchers in the world pitch from. My first batter grounded out. I walked my second batter and then was able to strike the next two batters out to finish my inning."