By Bob Elliott
Canadian Baseball Network
And we thought Joel Youngblood had a dizzying day away back in 1982.
On the afternoon of Aug. 4, Youngblood was in the New York Mets starting lineup batting third against future Hall of Famer RHP Ferguson Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.) at Wrigley Field. He struck out in the first, then had a two-run single in the third, giving the Mets a 3-1 lead on their way to a 7-4 victory. Manager George Bamberger took him out, told him he was traded to the Expos and Youngblood set off for Philadelphia, where the Expos were playing at night.
By the time he got to Veterans Stadium, Expos manager Jim Fanning sent Youngblood to right field in the sixth to replace Jerry White. Youngblood came up in the seventh and singled against future Hall of Famer Steve Carlton.
Youngblood’s day was nothing compared to the time pitchers RHP Brandon Deans add LHP Caden Griffin spent at the Rogers Centre this weekend.
_ Thursday, Friday and Saturday Griffin and Deans were in the Futures Navy dugout.
_ Sunday afternoon they sat beside each other at a bench at the end of the Blue Jays dugout with Ontario Green and were scheduled to pitch ... IF Ontario Green beat Atlantic Maroon in one Tournament 12 semi-finals. Atlantic advanced to the final with a 5-4 victory.
_ And Sunday night they were both in the first base dugout and on the mound combining on a no hitter for Atlantic in a 1-0 win over Quebec Blue in the final of the fifth annual Tournament 12.
Griffin (Nepean, Ont.) started and worked five innings walking two and fanning nine in his 53-pitch outing (34 strikes).
Deans (Mississauga, Ont.) worked the final two innings allowing the potential tying run to reach on a seventh-inning walk. After a stolen base, Deans recorded the final out when pinch hitter Rafael Xavier Pelletier popped up to shortstop Jake MacKinnon.
INF Cole Tucker (Mount Pearl, Nfld.) and RHP Ethan Francis (Miscouche, PEI) sprinted to the mound carrying a Gatorade bucket and dunked Deans.
Even though Griffin was “from away” Tucker and Francis were happy to have him aboard.
What was it like roaming from team to team from dugout to dugout? They wore navy with the Futures Navy, navy with Ontario Green and navy with Atlantic Maroon.
“The Futures dugout was kind of tense, the Ontario Green had more experience and it wasn’t as nervous,” said Griffin, who pitched the final two innings. “The Atlantic team? It was like their 500th game in here. They were loose.”
After pitching for coach Mike Tokessy with the 15U and 16U Ottawa-Nepean Canadians and is now with the Ontario Blue Jays.
Like Griffin, starter Deans is a member of the Ontario Blue Jays.
“Our coach Mike Steed (pitching coach with the Ontario Blue Jays and also Ontario Green) told us we’d be with him (Ontario Green) and if they lost we’d be with Atlantic in the final,” Deans said. “The Atlantic was a great bunch of guys, very welcoming. We kind of clicked.”
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The idea of Tournament 12 is to grow the game across the country. And the Toronto Blue Jays should be given credit for that -- from Canadian scouting director Jamie Lehman (Brampton, Ont.) to Blue Jays Academy boss T.J. Burton (Ottawa, Ont.), to the Blue Jays alumni, who didn’t miss a game giving points and encouragement to players along the way, led by Hall of Famer Robbie Alomar.
This T12 idea is quite unlike the 1990s the way the organization operated. The Jays would host Quebec teams indoors behind closed doors and lock out other scouts. Now, they are being excellent corporate citizens.
As in the winning dugout credit should go to coaches Matt Clark (Woodstock, NB), Steve Donahue (Mount Pearl, Nfld.), Darren Doucette (Halifax, NS) and Ken Lenihan (Bedford, NS).
Clark played at the Vauxhall Academy under coach Les McTavish graduating in 2010 and is now Baseball New Brunswick’s program coordinator. And out west he learned the phrase “better person, better player.”
Clark guided Team New Brunswick to a silver medal in the Ray Carter Cup 15U at Charlottetown, losing 2-1 to Quebec.
And now the gold medal.
“We let Jamie Lehman know that we had some tender arms and didn’t want to risk injury,” Clark said.
There were fresh arms available.
Deans pitched two scoreless innings in the opener allowing two hits as the Futures edged Quebec 6-4 on Thursday. Griffin pitched one inning on Saturday as The Futures scored in the bottom of the seventh for a 1-0 win over Prairies Purple. He recorded the win against the Prairies and again in the gold medal game.
Deans, a former Mississauga North Tiger, enjoyed pitching with each hitter starting off with a 1-1 count.
“It was fun to do, pitchers have the advantage,” Deans said. Especially if they bury the first pitch for a strike.
So Griffin combined for five innings in his two outings allowing one hit and zero runs, while Deans worked four innings allowing two hits and zero runs.
Now, someone in the 100 Level might object to an Ontario player pitching for Atlantic. The reality is the No. 1 goal of the tournament is always going to be to protect the health of the athletes. A couple years ago the Atlantic was asked to pull Garret Nicholson (Sydney Mines, NS) with a no hitter because his workload was getting too high. This year worked out the other way. Atlantic was provided with arms so that they weren’t forced to risk the health of one of their young players.
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Atlantic’s Micah McDowell (Coldbrook, NS) earned tournament MVP honours, hitting .300, while scoring three runs, stealing four bases, with two RBIs with an OPS of .708. McDowell ran a 7.07 60 and attends Okotoks Dawgs Academy in Alberta.
He was hitless in two at-bats in a loss to Prairies Purple in the opener..
He was 3-for-4 with an RBI in a win over Futures Navy.
He was 1-for-3 against Quebec.
He didn’t have an at-bat against BC Orange
He was 0-for-3 with an RBI in a win over Ontario Green.
He was 1-for-3 in the final against Quebec to finish 5-for-15.
How big a deal is winning Tournament 12.
“Basically it is at the top,” said McDowell, who takes bragging rights back to Okotoks where he had 22 Dawgs teammates who were in T12.
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Ontario Black with Noah Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.) the top prospect for next June didn’t make the semi-final. Ontario Green was knocked out in the semi-final.
Before the finale, someone wondered aloud in the pressbox if the lack of either of the two teams from the major market would hurt the crowd for the final.
“What do you mean? There are four big ones here?” said Maritimer Keegan Matheson of BlueJays.com referring to the Atlantic represented by Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland.
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The tourney started on Thursday as Atlantic lost 3-2 to Prairies Purple. The Atlantic did not score until the seventh. PH Noah Duckworth (Charlottetown, PEI) and C Max Grant (Fredericton, NB) each knocked in runs. Patrick McWilliams (Moncton, NB) doubled for Atlantic, which saw RHP Jordan Fortin (Quispamsis, NB) throw three scoreless and Cameron Brewer (Conception Bay South, Nfld.) toss one scoreless.
Next came a 6-1 win over Futures Navy as Micah McDowell had three hits and knocked in a run. Ryan Scott (Quimpasis, NB) pitched four innings allowing one unearned run. Brewer pitched two scoreless and Evan O’Toole (Bridgewater, NS) one. 3B Phillip Rail (Dieppe, NB) singled in a pair of runs.
Next was a 4-1 loss to Quebec on Saturday, dropping Atlantic to 1-2, as Jaden Griffin (Lower Sackville, NS) pitched five innings allowing two unearned runs and striking out nine. Scott and Grant had the only hits for Atlantic.
A six-run fourth gave Atlantic an 8-5 win over BC Orange. INF Cole Tucker (Mount Pearl, Nfld.) knocked in a pair of runs with two outs. 2B Gabriel Penalver (Charlottetown, PEI) also drove in a run. Jordan Fortin (Quispamsis, NB) picked up the win allowing two runs on three hits and two walks. Brewer pitched the final two innings allowing one run. That put Atlantic into the top four teams.
Carter Morris (Vernon, BC) worked four scoreless and left up 5-0. Ontario Green scored four times in the fifth but Jake MacKinnon (Cole Harbour, NS) put up zeros in the final two innings for the save. Grant had two hits and knocked in three runs for Atlantic, while McDowell and Tucker also drove in runs.