July 2, 2017
From Bermuda to Sarasota, my life as it led to the Orioles
By Adam Hall
It all started in Bermuda.
That’s where I was born, and where I was raised until I turned 12. I played every sport I could, and I knew they came easier to me than other people, and that if I worked hard, I could hope to be the best. I also knew that if I stayed on the island, I would probably max out my athletic years in track and field.
But I wanted to play baseball.
It wasn’t popular in Bermuda. I played for the Diamondbacks, and was lucky to play with kids older than I was so that I could get better. There wasn’t a ton of competition around, but it was a sport where you could always be working on something, even if you had no one else to play with. I gravitated to it because I could always be doing something to try and get better, and you can see improvements without even playing games.
My ceiling was up to me, and that has always been something I’ve enjoyed about it.
There haven’t ever been any professional baseball players from Bermuda before. I’ll be the first, when I officially take the field in Sarasota, Florida with the Gulf Coast League Orioles. It’s a cool fact, but I don’t feel like I overcame any odds to get here.
I’ve been fortunate to be on the path I took.
First, my parents, Helen and Tyler, let me move to Canada before I was even a teenager. We had visited every summer, coming to see my grandparents, and I got a glimpse of baseball in London, Ontario with the Badgers. My coaches now, who saw me then, said that I stood out, and that was probably what helped convince my mom and dad to let me leave. They mentioned it could be a possibility in the future, and I talked them into it that year, when I was 12.
That was the start of the next step.
I never really thought much about moving away from home, because I just wanted to go and play. I wasn’t too concerned about leaving my parents. I lived with Ken Frohwerk and Karen Stone, whose son Zach also played for the Badgers, and didn’t find it difficult to be in another country, although my mom might say something different. But I was playing baseball, so I was happy.
The next summer, a new program was starting in London. Adam Stern, who played in the big leagues with the Red Sox, had built a baseball facility in London when he retired, and with a few other pro guys from the area retiring from playing, they started the Great Lake Canadians, an elite program comparable to a travel-ball team in the States.
I went from playing 10 games a year with maybe 10 practices in Bermuda, to 60 games a season in London. During the off-season, I was probably going to Centrefield Sports, Sterny’s facility, three to five times a week.
That was when I started hearing about the draft, and what it might be like. My GLC coaches Sterny, Chris Robinson or ‘Robbie’, Jamie Romak and Brock Kjeldgaard all told me about their experiences and how different it was for all of them. Jamie went out of the same high school I did, A.B. Lucas Secondary, Brock from Indian Hills Community College, and Sterny and Robbie both went out of university, the University of Nebraska and the University of Illinois, so I got to hear their views and opinions on it. They told me what to expect either way, and tried to help me make sure that I would someday make the decision I wanted to make, not what other people wanted me to do, or thought was best for me.
Being with the Canadians helped me get to Team Canada, where I’ve had some of my best moments on the field. The junior national team has been my favourite thing to do, and I’m lucky I have been able to do it for three years. I couldn’t have been more excited when I first found out I made the team. It was a goal I had set for myself, and something I knew I wanted to do. I’m as much Canadian as I am Bermudian and it meant a lot to make the team.
The trips with Team Canada are the best, just because of how close you get with all the guys, and I’m pretty fortunate because I’ve been able to travel all over with them. I’ll keep some of the best moments with the team, but I’ve been to Australia, Japan, Dominican, Cuba, and throughout the States, and the whole experience has really been the best thing that I’ve done so far. It does so much for Canadian baseball players, and it did so much for me.
Even though I don’t know right now what the plan will be, I do hope I get one more trip with the junior team this summer, to the world championships on home soil in Thunder Bay, Ontario. I’d like to be able to support the program and give back a little bit of what it gave to me, and I’m optimistic about it. I’ve heard really good things about the crowds in Thunder Bay, and having that many fans behind you as you’re representing your country, just thinking about it gives me chills.
When I started with the national team, that was when things really kicked into gear leading up to this summer. I began to look at college options, falling in love with Texas A & M and committing to the Aggies, and really started to get a feel for what the draft process was going to be like.
My parents and I learned a lot. Eventually they both moved to London and we got to be together again, and a lot of our life was about baseball. We were pretty unaware of the whole process of what would happen leading up to this year’s draft, and the whole extent of everything there is involved with it. There’s definitely more than you can expect, even if someone explains it all to you ahead of time. It’s a lot more when you go through it yourself.
We had a lot of meetings and phone calls, being introduced to agents and college recruiters and area scouts and cross checkers and scouting directors, having people visit our home, ask questions, answer questions, go to showcases, go to big league stadiums, more meetings, more phone calls. Each one of us learned through it all.
I learned that I can’t control everything that happens. I went into it all with the mentality to just keep playing my game and not worry about trying to impress scouts. Obviously, I didn’t know if that was how you should approach it, before getting into that situation, but that’s what I did learn, to just try to go out and play my game and be myself.
The process did not go the way I thought it would.
Last year, the year before my draft year, when I was in Grade 11, I performed pretty well in the spring and throughout that summer on the showcase circuit. I was having fun and playing well.
Then this spring, I had some difficulties getting my game back and getting ready.
This was my year, and I expected it to keep going into this year. That was a little bit of a problem for me. I was frustrated, of course. Anytime you’re not doing what you want to be able to be doing, you’re going to get frustrated. But I had to try to manage that, so that it was healthy instead of trying to do too much and pushing myself too hard.
Hopefully it has helped me. Now I have a better idea of how to get through a slump when it’s an important time and I might be pressing a little bit. I was able to find myself again, and if it ever happens again (hopefully it doesn’t), I will know I can get through it.
In the days leading up to the draft, there weren’t a ton of phone calls, definitely less than I might have expected. There were probably five teams that I talked to within a couple days of the draft. I had a bunch of workouts pop up right before, but I expected that. I went to Kansas City to work out for the Royals, and then to Florida for the Astros and Padres, and then there was one in Milwaukee for the Brewers.
The night of the first two rounds of the draft, every pick took a really long time. I was with my mom and dad, and the family who took me in when I moved to London at their house. We were all watching it, not really distracting ourselves with anything else, and I was getting restless. The time between selections was painful.
When the second round started, with the first pick, the Minnesota Twins took my Team Canada teammate Landon Leach. That was a temporary distraction because I was really happy for him. He’s worked hard and improved a lot, and it was definitely something he deserved.
About 10 seconds before the 60th pick of the night and of the draft, my agent Matt Colleran called me and told me the Baltimore Orioles were going to take me, and my name would be the next one to be called. Matt told me what they were offering and asked if I was good with it, and that was the extent of the call before I got to hear my name.
I was pretty happy, to say the least.
So were my parents, friends, and everyone around me.
Right afterward, Chris Reitsma called to congratulate me. Reits is a national cross checker with the Orioles now, but when I met him, he was coaching the junior national team. Other than playing for Team Canada while he was a pitching coach, I had never talked to the Orioles before the draft. He was my only interaction with the organization at all.
It was a little bit surprising, but I knew that was something to expect. That’s what had happened to Sterny when he got drafted. I knew it was a possibility. And it didn’t really matter who it was in that moment, it was exciting.
My next interaction with the Orioles came when the draft was all over, and they made arrangements for me to come to Baltimore to put pen to paper and make it official. I graduated high school a little earlier than my peers, and I was about to leave London and become a professional baseball player.
I flew to Maryland with my mom and dad, and the first night we got to walk around the city a little bit. It was my first time in Baltimore, and it was definitely interesting. It’s right on a bay, so I guess you could say it has some similarities to Bermuda.
We got to go to Orioles Park at Camden Yards the next day. First, I had to go through all of their medical examinations, so they could make sure they were getting a healthy player before signing over their money and committing to me, but then we got to go to the field. They gave us a tour, and we got to watch the team take batting practice, and we stayed for a game against the Cleveland Indians.
The ballpark was a lot different than I expected, but most are. I really liked that out in right field, on Eutaw Street, they have a marker for every home run ball that’s been hit in a game on the ground in the street, with the distance and the name of the guy who hit it.
It would have to be a pretty deep opposite-field shot for me to get there, but maybe someday.
We met quite a few guys in the Orioles’ front office, and it was good to get to talk to them, because they’re people I’ll be dealing with in the future now. It was with them that we made it official.
The actual signing of the paperwork wasn’t very ceremonious. They took a picture with me and my parents and the contract after I had gone through it all, but you just go through and sign what needs to be signed, and it’s all done with less importance than you might think.
But the Baltimore Orioles made me a millionaire. I don’t have the money yet, so technically I’m not, but I signed with them for $1.3 million, and I wouldn’t even say it if it wasn’t posted everywhere for anyone to see. I don’t think I’m going to do anything with it right away. A lot of guys I know bought cars with their bonuses, but I won’t need one down in Sarasota, so I’m not going to get a car right away.
I would like to do something for my parents, but they won’t want me to do that. I’m going to have to try to figure that out.
But now it’s official.
I’ve been fortunate with what I’ve been able to do, being able to move from Bermuda, being able to play with the Badgers, and then the Great Lake Canadians, and then with the junior team. I don’t think I could have been in a better position from where I’ve been, with my parents and all the support they’ve given me.
Obviously growing up in Bermuda and playing baseball isn’t the most ideal place to start, and maybe the odds were not necessarily in my favour, but I feel like they’ve been pretty good.
They worked for me, and here I am, ready to move again.