ABC heads south on Perfect Game tour

Sunday, June 18, 2017

ABC using WWBA for exposure
By Steven Walters
Perfect Game Scouting Service

MARIETTA, Ga. - The WWBA tournaments always attract teams from all over. Seventy-two teams decided to participate in the 18u WWBA National Championship in Georgia this summer, including the Academy Baseball Canada who came all the way from Montreal to play in the event. The team selects its squad on April 1. They then travel to the U.S. to play in multiple Perfect Game events, making them no stranger to baseball in the south.

“Our big thing is that we have winter in Canada. The toughest thing is that we have to travel down south where the weather is better,” said head coach Dave Dufour. “It’s our second time here [in Georgia this season]. We were here at the beginning of June. We were here with our u 17 team as well and then after this tournament we’re driving down to Fort Myers for another Perfect Game event.”

The team does things differently than most. Instead of their guys going to other places to work out in the offseason, the team has staff on hand that trains with the players, which allows them to grow more familiar with them and aid them in the development process.

“We’re all together all year long,” Dufour said. “We have the same coaches, and we get to work with the guys on any techniques or anything that’s related to baseball from in the weight room and agility, and we got to do that with the guys in the winter, and then we’re ready to face some good ball teams in the U.S. for the summer.”

“We have great coaches and we know when we train what we have to do,” said Pierre-Olivier Avoine. “We know what to work on and the little things [we want to] be perfect at.”

The 1991 season marked the first year of the ABC baseball program, but they only began traveling with a summer team a year ago. Dufour said that Robert Fatal really helped energize the program by realizing that traveling to play in U.S. tournaments, like the ones that Perfect Game puts on over the summer, could increase the exposure for their players.

“Our main goal is to send our players to college, so we felt like playing in those big tournaments would give us a better shot at trying to send our guys to college,” Dufour said.

Archer Brookman, a catcher on this year’s ABC squad, said that Perfect Game tournaments are a great opportunity for exposure.

“It’s a really cool experience,” Brookman said. “There’s a lot of scouts here, and you get seen, so it should be good.”

Besides just playing in tournaments, the team travels to U.S. colleges to give their team even more experience in facing top of the line competition.

“In the fall, we’re playing at some colleges and universities, like last year we played Duke and NC State, so we get to know what baseball [is like] in the NCAA and the NCJAA,” Dufour said. “So that’s pretty cool for everyone and they get to know what it’s like to face a good college team.”

Multiple Canadian baseball organizations have said that recruiting their players to U.S. colleges is a challenge because of the location barrier. Dufour said that one of the challenges that they face is the connections, but because they have been around for a while, they have a few professional scouts who aid them in the process.

“That’s the biggest challenge is to try to get to know someone that knows someone that can send the kid maybe to a DII college or a DI is the toughest thing. We do have some scouts that are working for us,” Dufour said. “These guys know a lot of people and they try to help us throughout our season.”

The team is no stranger to talent, having had Major League players such as Russell Martin and Eric Gagne pass through their system, and this team is no exception. In last year’s draft, William Sierra was selected in the 28th round by the New York Mets as a 16-year-old. The 6-foot-1, 170-pound righthander has been clocked at 91 mph, and consistently sits in the high-80s.

“That’s what we work for. We want to get guys to another level, and William Sierra is going to Chipola College next August. He’s one of our best athletes, and we are really proud of that, and that puts a good stamp on our program. Every time a guy from Quebec gets drafted, it’s awesome for us, and most of the time they went through our organization,” Dufour said.

The organization had two more players drafted in recent years, both after attending Seminole State College. Jonathan Lacroix was drafted in the 12th round by the Astros this year, while Abraham Toro-Hernandez was drafted in the 5th round in 2016. Brookman is set to follow both to Seminole State College this upcoming year.

Avoine is committed to Galveston College in Texas, and is excited for the opportunity to play at the next level.

“I think it was the best fit for me,” Avoine said. “I had a coach that went there and said that it was a really good place for me and a really good coach too.”

The team’s roster is comprised of a few 2016 graduates, which is not common to see in summer baseball. In Canada, though, high school is only three years, with there being a two-year program between college and high school that is called CEGEP. CEGEP is considered a part of higher education. Under that system, players who graduate in 2016 in Canada would be 2017 graduates in the U.S. making them eligible to play in the tournament. 

The team is 1-0-1 so far in the tournament and were rained out of their Sunday afternoon game at Kell High School. They won their first game 5-1 against eXposure 18u Louisville Slugger. Jonathan Lamarche provided 4 1/3 innings of one run ball to put his team in a position to win. Brookman led the team at the plate, going 3-for-3 with two RBIs. Hector Romero started Game 2 and pitched 5 1/3 scoreless frames for ABC. They will play their next game against Baseball’s Elite.