By Alexis Brudnicki
Canadian Baseball Network
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what might be Isaac Deveaux’s most striking attribute.
The 16-year-old outfielder got his first glimpse of a big league stage at the inaugural Tournament 12, two years ago. At just 14 years old, as one of the youngest players the event has welcomed in its short history, he was already showing flashes of brilliance and insights into what kind of player he might become.
“Just stepping on the field for the first time was breathtaking,” Deveaux said. “The Blue Jays are my favourite team, so playing on the same field as them is an amazing feeling.”
On the field, he’s been exciting at the plate – launching what might have been the longest home run that last year’s tournament saw – and has made many strides defensively since joining the Canadian Junior National Team. The native of Montreal, Que., was invited to join Team Canada for the first time last October after his impressive T12 showing.
“My best experience so far would be representing Canada in the U18 world championships in Japan,” Deveaux said. “It’s more than just a tournament. The whole team has the same goal, and we try to represent our country the best way we can by competing against the best in the world, and show that Canada is a very good baseball country. And the atmosphere is unreal.”
The fact that Deveaux has been able to perform in that atmosphere is nothing short of unbelievable. The young outfielder has shown an incredible amount of resilience in facing adversity over the last several months, and he has remarkably used his heartbreak and misfortune to fuel his baseball fire, turning tragedy into motivation.
“He’s a tough kid,” Isaac’s father Darrin Deveaux said, barely touching on the best way to describe his son’s perseverance.
In March, just a day before the right-handed hitting outfielder left for St. Petersburg, Fla., to start his second trip with the Junior National Team, Liviya Deveaux passed away. At seven months old, she was the youngest of Isaac’s four sisters. Not long into her life, Liviya went into cardiac arrest and spent 43 days in the hospital. When she died due to complications, her brother was there.
One month and one day later, Deveaux’s grandmother Anita Fiset died. Fiset, who had been living with Isaac and his family, suffered from a variety of health problems before her passing, but the stress of losing her baby granddaughter proved to be too much for her to handle.
In the wake of tragedy, Deveaux didn’t tell anyone. He didn’t want help, or for anyone to make excuses for him, and he certainly didn’t want pity. Still not quite ready to talk about it, It would seem that the teenager wanted to be strong for those around him, leaving his father awestruck by his son’s courage and maturity.
“I’m so proud of the way he’s handled himself,” Darrin said.
He continued with Team Canada to St. Pete’s, and then to Orlando in April, to the Dominican Republic in May, and then finally to Australia in August for an exhibition series before finishing his Junior National Team season at the U18 World Cup in Japan, the whole time playing for his lost family members and dedicating his season to Liviya and Anita.
“It’s been a lot of fun playing with the Junior National Team,” Deveaux said. “The best part would be playing against strong competition. That helps your game and lets you know where you are compared to other players across the world. Putting the jersey on for the first time was a blessing. To be a part of a small group of some of the best players in Canada was a true accomplishment.”
While he couldn’t be more proud to represent Canada, the country north of the border is not the place Deveaux first knew. Growing up in the Bahamas, where his mother Erica Patricia Saunders lives, he moved to Canada for the first time when he was three years old. He soon went back, before returning to Canada full-time several years later and pursuing baseball in Montreal.
Deveaux will look to continue the success he’s found with the Canadian squad at the third-annual Tournament 12, an event he’s felt privileged to be a part of since its beginning.
“It’s meant a lot to have participated in the past two tournaments,” Deveaux said. “Just the fact of playing in the home of the Blue Jays, and playing against some of the finest competition in Canada, and being coached by Robbie Alomar, is a huge honour. I’m fired up to play another T12. It is always fun playing in a big event like this.”
The young player has come a long way since his first appearance at the event two years ago, helped both by his coaches at home in Quebec and during his time with Team Canada.
“My game has grown a lot thanks to [national team coach] Adam Stern and [Académie de baseball du Canada instructor] Ray Callari,” Deveaux said. “Defensively and hitting-wise, I was rusty. Stern helped me a lot on how to anticipate a fly ball hit my way, and with my bat path, just so my swing doesn’t have to be perfect to make hard contact. Ray has mostly helped me with my hitting, how to stay through the ball and finish my swing.”
With at least another year full of opportunities to play for his country, and perhaps with another T12 in his future, Deveaux is excited for what more may come his way as he continues down the path he’s on, one that keeps becoming more improbable and impressive as the days unfold.
“I am looking forward to where baseball takes me in the future,” Deveaux said. “I have already been a lot of places because of baseball, so I’m excited to see where it takes me next.”