By Alexis Brudnicki
Canadian Baseball Network
The torch has been passed.
Josh Naylor solidified his spot at the top of the game in Canada when he was selected 12th overall by the Miami Marlins in Major League Baseball’s draft in June, becoming the highest position player ever chosen from the country north of the border.
It was then, after years of playing for the Canadian Junior National Team – the first Canuck to ever participate in three world championships at the junior level – and making his mark at various showcases across the world, including appearances at the first two Tournament 12 events, that the 18-year-old handed the flame down to his brother Noah.
At just 15 years old, Noah Naylor was one of the younger participant in the tournament, suiting up for the Futures squad. The left-handed hitting catcher is getting an earlier start than his brother did, and Josh believes that his sibling’s chance to be a part of such a prestigious event will only help him stay ahead of the curve.
“Unfortunately, T12 wasn’t offered when I was 15 years old, but being a part of the inaugural year of T12 was extremely exciting for me,” Josh said. “I wasn’t sure what to expect, and I thought it was going to be pretty much the same as the other showcases I attended.
“I learned that the T12 experience was much different, in that the participants were given the chance to learn directly from some of the best ex-MLBers in the game. Having players like Roberto Alomar [commissioner of the tournament], Sandy Alomar Sr., Lloyd Moseby, Duane Ward, and more, give participants tips and firsthand instruction on how to improve their game is an honour that not too many young baseball players have.
“They have a genuine interest in giving Canadian kids exposure to scouts and recruiters. Knowing that Noah will be able to tap into that type of knowledge and experience of the T12 coaching staff makes me even more confident that he will be dynamic in his journey to become a great baseball player. I can’t help but feed off of his excitement.”
Noah has already had a chance to start the showcase circuit on a smaller scale, participating in an MLB bureau camp earlier this summer and taking part in the Ontario Blue Jays bureau camp in February. The Tournament 12 experience will be different and something he’s been looking forward to, but he’s excited about what he’s already been able to do.
“It’s great because I get to get the experience early, and get to know how these [events] work and what to focus on to impress the scouts and recruiters out here,” Noah said. “I think I’ve done well so far. Obviously there’s always room for improvement, so I’m always going to look for my mistakes and I want to improve on that, but I think I’ve done pretty well. I’ve just got to keep getting better.”
Like his older brother, Noah is a fierce competitor who accepts nothing less than the best from himself. Listed at 5-foot-4 and 145 pounds with what are sure to be old measurements for a growing young man, the backstop cites many differences between his game and that of Josh, mostly because of the difference in position.
“I’m similar to Josh in my confidence,” Noah said. “I have a lot of confidence in my game play, and in game play overall we’re very intense and we show when we get on the field that we’re here to play every game. Some differences probably are the level of play and positions. Josh plays first base and is focusing on the pitcher, and I feel like I do the same but I’m in control of everyone on the field.”
Behind the dish, Noah has been nothing short of impressive, working with the Ontario Blue Jays development program and playing for the Mississauga North Tigers for the last several years. He’s also spent some time at shortstop, but OBJ catching coordinator Kyle DeGrace has no doubt that the young Mississauga native has a future as a backstop.
“Noah is flat-out one of the best defensive catchers I’ve had a chance to work with,” DeGrace said. “I understand saying that is setting the bar pretty high, but it’s the truth. He, like Josh, is a very strong kid, and that shows in his ability to catch and throw. The biggest similarity between Josh and Noah is their drive to be the best. They both have great work ethic, and always strive to be better than the next guy …
“What sets them apart is the fact that Noah can really go anywhere on the field. His athleticism is really starting to show now that he is starting to physically mature. That’s no knock on Josh, who at times has been a very underrated athlete and defended himself at first base. Tournament 12 will be a great experience for Noah and he will thrive in the moment, competing against the best players in the country.”
Looking forward to playing on the big stage, at the major-league home of his favourite team – at least before his brother became a Marlin – Noah feels ready for his next experience, thanks to what his older brother has shared with him along the way.
“It’s good to have Josh because he gets us used to all this stuff,” Noah said. “It’s good because he teaches me and [their 10-year-old brother] Myles what to do for the scouts and how to make our mark. He has all the experience and it’s good to have a brother who has that experience because he can help us for the future … He’s taught me to always keep my head up and never get down on myself.”
Josh has consistently encouraged both of his brothers to learn as much as they can from their coaches and teammates along the way, and placed the most emphasis on telling them just to enjoy the moment, because,
“Some days will be good and some days will be bad, but it’s important to have fun, be patient, and carry on.”
Miami’s first pick in the draft is looking forward to seeing what his brothers might accomplish over the next several years, starting with Tournament 12 – where Myles will likely resume his position as a bat boy – and is excited to see them learn and progress and become better players than he was at their age.
“There is no doubt that Noah has a bright future because he is a tremendous baseball player,” Josh said. “He’s a big-game player and has always been that way. Coaches, scouts, recruiters and anyone who has contact with my brother can’t help but to love everything about him.
“Noah wants to learn and he wants to be the best in what he does. I have always told him that I figured out at an early age that you should never settle for being good because you should want to be great, and better than you were yesterday or the game before. An event like T12 will expose him to players and coaches he can learn from because everyone is approachable…
“Watching Noah do his thing makes me so proud of him.”