By Cody Malloy
Special to MLB.com
On a beautiful September day in Toronto, the third annual Tournament 12 began with amateur players from across Canada showcasing their abilities in front of an attentive audience. Day 1 of T12 served as Scout Day, which gives high school players with college eligibility an opportunity to prove their skills in front of college and professional scouts.
T12 commissioner Roberto Alomar, the Hall of Fame second baseman, praised how the tournament has gotten “more kids interested in the game of baseball.”
Alomar noted how the tournament has expanded since the inaugural tournament in 2013 as roster sizes have increased. Alomar thinks that T12 “is great for baseball in Canada, and that’s what I’m excited about.”
When asked about what he was looking for on Scout Day, Alomar said, “At least give me an effort. I’m looking for tools like speed, arm strength and power. But it depends on which position you play. For example, at first base I’m looking for a little more power.”
T.J. Burton, coordinator of amateur baseball for the Toronto Blue Jays, said that T12 gives players an opportunity to be seen on “an even playing field where kids get the chance to have equal exposure. Some provinces are at a disadvantage geographically, and kids from those provinces don’t have the representation that other provinces do.”
Burton emphasized how T12 gives players the ultimate chance to pursue their baseball careers at the college or professional level.
Another potential avenue for players is the junior national team route, which head coach and director of national teams for Baseball Canada, Greg Hamilton, is responsible for. Hamilton praised T12’s venue, the Rogers Centre, since the roof allows for a unique situation.
“Anytime that you can bring in the top amateur talent into a great environment and let them compete against one another, [it allows for] very thorough [exposure] in a sense that you’re guaranteed weather,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton noted how scouts are guaranteed the schedule, so they will get a chance to see all of the players.
“You’re getting the best young talent in the country all in one spot regardless of where they come from, and that’s a great opportunity to compare and contrast,” Hamilton said.
He further expressed how the players should take advantage of the Blue Jays alumni coaches who are available to the players, calling it an “invaluable” tool to help with skill developement.
For the 18U Canadian Junior National Team, Hamilton will certainly have his eye on the Futures Team. The Canadian Junior National Team is currently focusing on a two-year plan, since Canada is hosting the 2017 World Junior tournament in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
Hamilton is looking for players that can “embrace the speed of the game at a higher level.”
“We’re not necessarily looking for the best players here, but we’re looking for the projectable players,” Hamilton said. “If we get them in an environment where they’re challenged, and in a developmental environment day in and day out, their games have a chance to grow and mature.”
Players looking to go the college route in the near future need to be able to make an immediate impact. College teams do not have as much time for development, according to Hamilton. At the amateur level, Hamilton thinks that it is most important for players to figure out who they are because a majority of the kids have already had success being the most physically gifted in their age brackets.
Hamilton offered advice to players with aspirations of making it to higher levels: “Conceive with pride, you can’t be overly worried about deficiencies that may not play at the higher level, you have got to focus on the strengths that will play.”
Some players definitely made great strides at Scout Day. The 60-yard dash is a typical test during baseball showcases -- it allows for players to show off their speed. The top five 60 yard dash times today were as follows:
- Cooper Davis (Ontario Green) - 6.35 seconds
- Nick Howie (Ontario Green) - 6.54 seconds
- Adam Hall (Ontario Green) - 6.59 seconds
- Isaac Deveaux (Quebec Blue) - 6.65 seconds
- Luke Turino (Ontario Black) - 6.67 seconds
Blue Jays amateur scout Jamie Lehman, who is responsible for all of Canada, praised how T12 allows for “invaluable” efficiency from a scout’s perspective. Lehman said that there is a great “depth of talent” at T12 this year.
“It’s not just about pro prospects for us,” Lehman said. “It’s about getting guys to the next level, whether it’s collegiate or wherever that may be.”
When asked about the importance of a player’s performance at T12 and how it can affect their career, Lehman said that players showing off strong abilities is huge, noting the performances of Miles Gordon and Mike Soroka at T12 last year. Gordon and Soroka are members of the 2015 MLB Draft class.
Additionally, Josh Naylor, the Marlins’ 2015 first-round pick, was a 2014 T12 participant. This year, it is Josh’s brother, Noah, who gets to take the stage for the Futures team.
Being on a younger team, Noah does not seem too concerned about having to compete against older players.
“I usually compete against older guys,” Noah said. “It’s more of just adjusting to different challenges and sceneries.”
When asked about handling the nerves, Noah asserted, “I just have to do my thing and hopefully that will take me to have a good game like usual.”
Noah believes that he "showed pretty well" at Scout Day, especially with the help of Blue Jays alumni Roberto Alomar, Lloyd Moseby and Cito Gaston. Noah was able to hit a couple of home runs during batting practice, which hopefully caught the eyes of scouts.
T12’s round-robin games start Tuesday, and the championship will be on Friday morning.