By Nick Ashbourne
Canadian Baseball Network
Nathan Livingston was looking to help teammates adjust to the pressure of Tournament 12
With teams stacked with the top players in the country, and stands full of scouts, there’s no doubt that participating in Tournament 12 can be a pressure-packed experience.
Having represented the Atlantic Provinces last year, first baseman Nathan Livingston knows as well as anyone how hard it can be the first time around.
That’s why this year the Glace Bay, Nova Scotia native anticipates playing the role of the veteran helping newcomers on Atlantic Maroon adjust to the Tournament 12 the way he was helped in his first appearance.
“Last year it was nerve-wracking for sure, but when I got there a lot of the older guys made it easier,” he recalls. “That’s what I’d like to do this year, make it easier for everybody else.”
The 16-year-old may have a leg up on the competition when it comes to handling the stress, hailing from a town that takes a strong interest in its baseball players from a very early age.
“Glace Bay is a really big town for Little League,” Livingston explains. “They’ve been to the Little League World Series five times. You get so many fans watching you playing when you’re young, like 11 or 12.”
While Livingston acknowledges that tuning out external pressures can be difficult, it’s an essential part of having success against high-quality competition.
“When you’re taking batting practice with a lot of people standing around you and there’s scouts everywhere it’ll make you nervous,” he says. “But you’ve got to realize it’s just another game.”
Kevin Richardson, who coached Livingston at the Bantam and U17 levels, believes that the big first baseman is a good candidate to take on a leadership role.
“He supports other guys and can be a good motivator at times,” he says “He’s able to offer some advice to some younger guys and calm them down a bit.”
Making sure everyone is in the right headspace isn’t just essential for performing well at Tournament 12, it also makes it easier to enjoy some of the perks of participating in the event. Perhaps the most obvious of which is playing at Rogers Centre.
Livingston, who describes himself as a big Toronto Blue Jays fan, recalls being overjoyed when he set foot on the field that so many of his heroes call home.
“It was breathtaking when I stepped on the field,” he said. “I just thought ‘this is awesome’.”
Playing at the home of the Blue Jays was one thing, but getting the chance to interact with some of the franchise’s all-time greats was another all together for Livingston, who couldn’t say enough about the ever-present Roberto Alomar’s influence over his first Tournament 12 experience.
“I though Robbie Alomar was huge at the tournament,” he recalls. “He wasn’t just there because he had to be. I felt like he was there because he wanted to be.
“None of the games started until he was sitting behind the screen.”
When the games did get going Livingston accounted for himself well even though he was the second-youngest player at the tournament. The then-15-year-old went 2-for-7 with a walk in eight trips to the plate; good for a .286 average.
It’s was a solid first appearance, but Richardson believes he’s developed a great deal since then.
“His approach has improved significantly,” he says. “He’s moved into an elite hitter with power and the ability to spray the ball.”
Standing at 6’4” with a powerful left-handed swing Livingston has the look of a prototypical first baseman, but according to his long-time coach it’s his ability to hit the ball all over the ballpark with authority that makes him special.
“He’s got a lot of power to the opposite field,” he says. “The place where he likes to drive the ball is to left field.”
It’s largely for this reason that Richardson thinks Livingston is one of the best hitters to come out of Nova Scotia in recent memory.
“When I think about all the guys I’ve coached or seen come up through this program he’s probably one of those most natural hitters we’ve seen,” he says. “He’s definitely in that top-tier in his age group that we’ve seen from Nova Scotia.”
That’s high praise to live up to, but Livingston is more worried about the pressure his teammates face than the burden of expectations. For a 16-year-old that’s quite the veteran mindset.