By: Jamie Johnstone
DUNEDIN, Fla – Toronto Blue Jays prospect Owen Spiwak says there are many advantages to being Canadian in major and minor league baseball.
Despite the fact that there are less than 20 Canadians currently playing in the major leagues, and it is impossible to play outside year-round, the Canadian Junior National Team alumni values the importance of learning to play ball in Canada.
For Spiwak, being Canadian is more than just embracing national pride. It is about overcoming obstacles to achieve greatness.
“A lot of Canadians are tough because they have to go through so many adversities,” Spiwak says. “There are not many Canadians in baseball, but there are more now than in the past.”
When it comes to dealing with adversities, the catcher believes that having a strong work ethic and tough mentality towards training is a benefit for most players.
“We are grinders and we work hard because we have that tough mentality, which I think is going to really help me,” Spiwak says.
The importance of hard work and dedication is vital to Spiwak. He trains just as hard all year-round, even when the weather forces him to play inside.
“It is cold in Canada, but I am fortunate because my previous teams had good facilities” Spiwak says. “It is definitely not the same as being outdoors. The atmosphere is different, but you can still get the work done that you need to get done.”
Instead of sulking about not being able to play outdoors for almost half of the year, Spiwak has continued on his path of progression by keeping a strong mental focus at all times.
“I think the mental side is probably 90 percent of hitting,” Spiwak says. “You will see a lot of guys with great swings that can’t hit and a lot of guys with horrible looking swings that know how to hit. The mental side and your approach is everything. You can’t just go up there and hit.”
The Mississauga, Ontario, native also has a few tips for young Canadian players in order to be mentally prepared for the minor leagues.
“I would try and be around some of the veterans” says Spiwak. “Even if they have not been here for the longest time, guys that know what is going on get around the hitting coaches, the pitching coaches and the catching coaches, and try to soak it up.”
He says he never thought he would be signed by his hometown team. “I was very happy to be picked by any team, but especially by my home team. It’s a great honour.”