By Tyler Partridge
Canadian Baseball Network
TORONTO - Ontario Green pitcher Ben Abram is looking to take a leap forward in his career.
At 6-foot-8, 235 pounds, the Georgetown native takes big strides, but he also shares something only 14 players in the history of Major League Baseball share – a birthday on Feb. 29.
For legal purposes the U-18 Team Canada star is 17, but being born in a leap year the big righty has only had four birthdays and won’t have his fifth until 2020.
“It’s kind of difficult every time someone asks you when your birthday is,” Abram said prior to a Friday evening start at Tournament 12, which brings the best 14-17 year old players across the country together at the Rogers Centre. “I say (February) 29th and they ask, ‘how old are you?’ And I have to think to myself – I don’t actually know.”
From 1876 to the present, leap year players start with St Louis Cardinals shortstop Dicky Pearce (born February 29, 1836) all the way up to pitcher Gerardo Concepcion (1992), who made his debut with the Chicago Cubs last season.
“To be part of that (group) would be kind of cool,” the Ontario Green ace said. “I’ve got to make it (to the Majors) first."
“But that would be something, to say I’m one of 15 players to ever do that – that would be pretty cool.”
He would not be the first Canadian pro athlete born on the most infrequent calendar date. Hockey Hall of Famer Henri Richard (1936), as well as NHL all stars Simon Gagne (1980) and Cam Ward (1984) are all leap year babies.
But Abram’s unusual birthday is not the only thing that makes him standout. This will be his third T12 and last year he pitched the final three innings and earned the win in the championship game for Ontario Black.
“It’s amazing,” he said about his T12 career. “I’ve been here for three years, so you kind of get use to it. But every year is exciting.
“You get to play at the Rogers Centre.”
He went 1-0 with a 3.86 ERA last year, striking out 10 batters in seven innings. The University of Oklahoma recruit had the chance to play alongside 2017 Baltimore Orioles second-round pick Adam Hall (London, Ont.).
Abram, who is draft eligible in 2018, is encouraged by the success of his former teammate.
“You’ve seen what (Hall) has done, obviously he’s different than I am,” Abram said. “But you can just tell playing for the national program and playing (at the T12), it’s all pushing you in the same direction and it leads to a lot of success.”