By: Alexis Brudnicki
Canadian Baseball Network
GOODYEAR, Arizona – So far, so good for Isaac Anesty.
Selected last year in the 18th round of the draft by Canadian scout Bill Byckowski and the Cincinnati Reds out of Our Lady of Lourdes High School, the native of Guelph, Ont., knew exactly what he wanted to do, and he is enjoying doing just that.
“I’m happy with my decision,” Anesty said. “The way I look at it is that if I went to school I’d be doing everything I’m doing now, but not getting paid for it and I’d be doing school on the side. I mean, this is just one step closer to the big dream and the sooner you start, hopefully the sooner you get up to where you want to be.”
The left-handed hurler’s professional journey began last summer when he joined the rookie-class Arizona League Reds partway through the season. Anesty and fellow Canadian Reds draft picks Jade Williams and Miles Gordon all arrived later than most, because of issues in securing visas to work in another country. Canuck catcher-turned-pitcher Darren Shred joined them even later.
“Me and Jade and Miles all had problems with the visas and we came down on the exact same day about three weeks late,” Anesty said. “They applied for them, they just took a longer time…
“I was practicing with the [Ontario Blue Jays] in the meantime. I believe I pitched one or two more games because I got clearance from Byckowski to do so and then I just practiced with them. Then about a week before I left they told me to shut it down and that they would see me when I got down here, because I was racking up the high school innings.”
As soon as the 18-year-old got on the field in the professional realm, he knew he’d made the right choice, and he’s enjoyed the process ever since.
“It’s been great,” Anesty said. “We’ve been doing well. They’ve got us working a lot and it’s good for us. Me personally, I’ve been putting in work. For every player it’s different, so they work on certain strengths and then they’ll work on our weaknesses a lot as well.
“We just put two and two together and try to do well. The actual [Arizona] League was great. It was really well put together and I did well in that league, and then in instructs it was good as well.”
Coming from the Ontario Blue Jays and Canadian Junior National Team programs, the 6-foot-2, 190-pound southpaw found the transition to professional baseball very simple, having plenty of experience against college and pro competition under his belt from throughout his high school days.
“Team Canada definitely helped the transition,” Anesty said. “What we did on those trips is basically every day here. As far as pitchers’ routines, it really got me set up for the routine of pro ball because you get here and you do one thing after another. You get so used to it that it’s an everyday thing. It was a little nerve-wracking at first but once you get used to it you get better.”
Between the Fall Instructional League and spring training with Cincinnati, the young hurler changed up his winter routine a little bit, both to accommodate everything the Reds had asked him to do and to brace himself for a longer season than he’s ever had before after experiencing some weakness in the fall.
“I did what they wanted us to do and then I also added a little bit of extra stuff because I wanted to get a little more in shape before I came down here,” Anesty said. “I did a lot more running this year, a lot more athletic workouts instead of more bodybuilding-type workouts, which I did in years past, and that’s basically it.
“I started throwing a little bit later than normal, just to give my arm some extra time and that benefitted me a lot…My shoulder got a little weak in autumn, it was early September it got a little weak, but it took me a week of just a little bit more strengthening exercises and we got back on track, it wasn’t an injury or anything.”
In just the few months since Anesty first joined the Reds and began the minor-league road to fulfilling his dreams, he’s already gained a plethora of on-field education and has found himself making big strides in a short time, and he is looking forward to more of the same.
“I’ve learned a lot,” he said. “It’s been a great experience. In instructs, that’s when they work with you one-on-one and teach you things, and that’s when I learned the most. They helped me out with my mechanics a lot and getting in on the zone.
“My command has been so much better than it has in years past, just because of these little tweaks and things they fix. I’m working with guys who have been there and they’ve done it, and they show you.”
Not knowing a whole lot about the organization before he ventured out to Arizona, Anesty has also learned a lot about the history of the franchise and the former Team Canada lefty has become increasingly excited about suiting up in a new red-and-white uniform every day.
“I knew a little bit about the Reds before I came because we had Dan [Bleiwas, former Cincinnati scout] as our coach at OBJ and then we had Byckowski, who was in and out of the organization a lot,” Anesty said. “Really the only thing other than that that I knew was that I was going to be in Arizona and not Florida.
“But when I got down here, I learned really quickly a lot of the history behind it. They have a pretty great history going back, with the Big Red Machine and everything. It’s great to be a part of it.”