By Bob Elliott
Canadian Baseball Network
OKOTOKS, Alta. _ Travel South from the Calgary International Airport on A-2 and what do you find?
Roughly 40 minutes into your trip you see ...
The Sheep River.
The town of Okotoks (pop. 24,000).
The home of the Okotoks Dawgs and all of that entails:
Spacious Seaman Stadium, Duvernay Fieldhouse, the Ircandia Outdoor Training Centre and Tourmaline Field. Put the stadium and the indoor facility and everything else together and you have the best local in Canada.
Anything else to see?
Of course ... The Great Dane.
1B Soren Graversen (Calgary, Alta.) joined OF Clayton Keyes (Calgary Alta.) on the Canadian Junior National Team roster this fall after impressing at Tournament 12 at the Rogers Centre.
Graversen of Danish decent, recalls walking into the Rogers Centre in September and looking at the mound where his one-time favorite Roy Halladay pitched for 12 seasons and then he looked over to first where Joey Votto went 4-for-5 with a homer and two RBIs during the 2009 World Baseball Classic, a 6-5 Canada loss to Team USA before 42,314 fans.
And Graversen wears the same Team Canada jersey that Votto wore.
“I’m a left-handed hitter, just like Joey,” said Graversen. “I also like his agressiveness. Plus he’s Canadian and hits home runs left and right.”
Votto finished third in the National League MVP voting this year behind Washington Nationals” Bryce Harper and Arizona Diamondbacks’ Paul Goldschmidt.
In his nine seasons Votto has received more MVP votes than Larry Walker, Canada’s greatest position player, did in 17 seasons. Votto hit .311 an on-base mark of .423 and slugged .534 is one of 10 players in history (including Walker) have gone .300/.400/.550. All but Walker and Manny Ramirez are in the HoF.
On his trip to Lake Buena Vista, Fla. in the fall the most impressive player he saw was Adam Hall.
“He’s younger than most of the players on the team,” said Graversen, who like Hall are both eligible for the 2017 draft, “his swing reminds me of Mike Trout.”
Graversen impressed some himself.
“He’s a a big tall, lanky kid with a loose swing,” said one evaluator. “He has some ease to his swing and a chance to grow into some power down the road once his frame fills out.
“His calling card will be his power.”
One of Graversen’s best games came against Sherwood Park it was a day he was struggling at the plate. He hit the first pitch he saw in the seventh over the right field fence. Later in the same inning he hit a three-run homer to centre. He was no longer struggling.
When he started, Graversen played for the Bow Ridge Royals in Calgary. He made the Canada Cup in Saskatoon and was plunked in the knee.
Yet, the Great Dane righted himself, went on to Tournament 12, the Junior National team ... and beyond.