By Bob Elliott
Canadian Baseball Network
Since James Brown was the Godfather of soul, Hamilton’s Gene Bartolozzi was the Godfather of elite baseball in the province of Ontario starting the Hamilton Blue Jays.
Next, Gary Wilson and Bill Byckowski took the next step fielding the Ontario Blue Jays and the elite boom was sprouted faster than a new sub division.
It reached the point this summer where there were 77 elite teams in the province playing in a number of leagues and independent schedules.
Now, a group of elite teams are forming their own new elite league -- the Canadian Premier Baseball League.
The founding teams are the Ontario Blue Jays, the Ontario Nationals, Team Ontario, once the dominant force in the province and the Toronto Mets, who also had its turn as top dog, all formerly of the Premier League of Ontario.
Joining them is Chris Robinson and Adam Stern’s Great Lake Canadians, although they take players from more than one lake.
The committee which formed the new league consists of Dan Bleiwas of the Ontario Blue Jays, Shawn Gillespie of the Ontario Nationals, Jason Booth of Team Ontario, Ryan McBride of the Toronto Mets and Robinson of the Great Lake Canadians.
The move leaves PBLO teams like the Windsor Selects, Ontario Royals, Ottawa-Nepean Canadians and the London Badgers without a league for next season. Of course, they could take on new members or merge with the Fergie Jenkins league.
Presently the five organizations have nine teams at both the 18U level (including 17U).
There will likely be 10 teams at each age grouping for 2016 so that may mean having an additional team join or having one of our members do an extra team.
Adding a second tier due to the interest expressed by others in joining.
The GL Canadians and Ontario Blue Jays will field 16U teams and 15u teams that will play in the two-year-age groupings. The Ontario Blue Jays will have two 16U, one 15U, while the Canadians will have one in each division. Plus one each for the other teams making for a minimum of eight teams.
The league says will entertain applications “other high-calibre teams,” from across Ontario according to the press release announcing the new loop. The CPBL hopes to host a national championship beginning next year with invitations being extended to top programs across the country.
The CPBL hopes to host the Can-Am Classic tournament in its inaugural year.
In the past two season CPBL teams accounted for
_ 11 out of the 12 Ontario high school players drafted.
_ 18 out of the 21 Ontario players selected including alumni players in college.
_ All eight of the Ontario players drafted in 2014 played for one of the original CPBL member franchises.
_ The 2015 draftees included high schoolers:
1B Josh Naylor (Mississauga) from the Ontario Blue Jays chosen in the first round by the Miami Marlins (12th over-all), INF J.D. Williams (Brampton) went to the Cincinnati Reds in the 17th, LHP Isaac Anesty (Guelph, Ont.) was selected by the Reds in the 18th and Darren Shred (Brampton) went to the Reds in the 22nd.
OF Miles Gordon (Oakville) from the Great Lake Canadians was selected in the fourth round by the Reds.
Or Eric Senior (Toronto) went in the 23rd round to the Oakland A’s and OF Tristan Pompey (Milton) both from the Toronto Mets was drafted by the Minnesota Twins. He is the younger brother of OF Dalton Pompey, one of the top prospects in the Toronto Blue Jays organization.
A year ago in June saw OF Gareth Morgan (Toronto) from the Ontario Blue Jays selected in the second round by the Seattle Mariners as the top high school player from Canada while the nation’s top college player selected was RHP Brock Dykxhoorn (Goderich) a graduate of the Ontario Nationals.
In addition to the success of the players in the draft, the CPBL member teams have had success placing players in college and watching their alumni succeed at that level. Notably this year
Toronto Mets graduate Connor Panas (Toronto) was MAAC Championship MVP and an ABCA/Rawlings All-American while at Canisius College and was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the ninth round.
Ontario Blue Jays grad SS Daniel Pinero (Toronto) led the University of Virginia Cavaliers to their second straight College World Series where he has started every game in Omaha for them the last two seasons as a freshman and sophomore.
The top two high schoolers for next June are C Andrew Yerzy (Toronto) of the Mets and C Luke Van Rycheghem (Kent Bridge) of the Ontario Blue Jays.
And in 2017 the top two Canucks are SS Adam Hall (London) of the Great Lake Canadians, followed by teammates 1B Malik Williams (Toronto, Ont.) and OF Cooper Davis (Mississauga) of the Ontario Blue Jays.
With the Team Canada Junior National Team this season 19 of the 22 players from Ontario to appear on the Junior National Team have come from member organizations while in the 2014 season, 21 out 24 Ontario players belonged to the original CPBL member teams.