By Alexis Brudnicki
Canadian Baseball Network
In what has already been a huge year for Canadian baseball, Andy Yerzy has found a way to stand out.
June saw one of the best drafts the country has ever had, with two first-round picks, 10 Canucks selected in the first 10 rounds – matching the nation’s best-ever number – and 30 Canadians chosen overall.
That was just after the 17-year-old catcher and his Canadian Junior National Team teammates had returned from March, April and May trips to St. Petersburg, Fla., Orlando, and the Dominican Republic, and when he solidified his commitment to the University of Notre Dame, the second Canadian to do so since Colorado Rockies reliever John Axford went to the Indiana school.
July saw Baseball Canada’s Senior National Team winning its second-consecutive gold medal at the Pan Am Games on home soil in Toronto, and the Women’s National Team nabbing silver in its first-ever appearance in a multi-sport event. It was also a month where Yerzy headed to Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game to participate in – and win – the junior home run derby at Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park.
In August, Yerzy went to the Area Code Games in California before heading back across the country to play at Wrigley Field in Baseball Factory’s Under Armour All-America Game, where he was named the event’s Most Valuable Player.
And then he took off for Australia with Team Canada for an exhibition series against the Aussies in preparation for the U18 World Cup in Japan, before returning just in time for the third-annual Tournament 12 at Rogers Centre.
“T12 has been awesome, and has helped me compete against some of the high-level kids in Canada,” Yerzy said. “It’s the best competition you’re going to get back home, because they bring the best players from each province. It’s always awesome playing on a major league field…
“Playing in all those events [around the world] are unreal. Just playing against the highest-level players in my class is awesome … I definitely always carry around the pride that I’m from Canada, and I love to show that in Canada we play high-level baseball and I just try to compete my best.”
His schedule has been jam-packed, before even mentioning the time he spends with his Toronto Mets squad, and Yerzy’s performance has been nothing short of impressive. He’s worked his way up to the very top of his draft class, continuing to get better, and has set himself out among the best players in the nation.
“What impresses me the most about Andy is the maturity, and how educated he is about the game,” mets coach Hyung Cho said. “He is constantly learning the game at the highest level. He has made huge adjustments over the past year with his swing, specifically staying through the zone more efficiently on the back side of the plate, and making his barrel travel through the zone longer, and increasing his consistency with barrelling balls that he normally would have missed.
“He is also training his eyes visually, and he’s come a long way in being able to slow down the game with his eyes. You put all that together with physicality, athleticism, and his work ethic, you’re bound to get a pretty darn good baseball player.”
Added the 6-foot-3, 215-pound catcher: “My overall game has improved. I’ve worked hard to try and become a more complete player with [national team coach] Chris Robinson on defence and Hyung Cho on offence.”
Yerzy has also developed and evolved as a man, as his parents Patricia Wong and Dave Yerzy can attest. Their youngest son went from being a baseball player to a world traveller and a more mature young adult right in front of their eyes.
“He is focused, goal-oriented, and pretty internally driven,” Yerzy’s parents said. “He’s grounded and still humble. He’s a hard worker on and off the field, and he knows that he must continually improve to get to the next level.
“He’s mature – he just turned 17 but he has travelled the airport, navigating airports, dealing with cultural differences, and balancing his academics; it hasn’t been easy. It makes us feel good that he is developing into an independent and well-adjusted individual. This has provided us with reassurance that he will be able to handle the challenges of being a student-athlete at Notre Dame…
“This year in particular he has had so many wonderful experiences. As his parents, we just remind him to take it all in and to enjoy the moment.”
Some of the moments that highlight Yerzy’s young career have been with Team Canada, fighting for a spot at the top of the world. More of the same is what the young backstop looks forward to as he continues to put in work, and he is excited for what the future might bring.
“Playing with the national team and travelling the world with them has been the best experience I’ve had,” Yerzy said. “Playing in Japan [at the U18 World Cup] has been amazing and the best experience. Playing in a world championship tournament is amazing, but competing to see if your country can be No. 1 is unbelievable …
“I’m looking forward to the entire next year of baseball with Team Canada, school at Notre Dame, and hopefully the draft.”