By Jose Alfonso Taboada
Canadian Baseball Network
TORONTO – Hall of Fame infielder Roberto Alomar was asked on Friday if there was a player participating in this year’s Tournament 12 that reminded him of himself in his younger days.
“I don’t know about that, but it’ll be tough to answer,” he said. “Put it this way: they’re trying their best, they’re playing the game the right way, and like I’ve always told them, respect the game.”
For the fifth consecutive year, the Blue Jays and Alomar are hosting Tournament 12 with players from across Canada coming to the Rogers Centre for a chance to be noticed by pro scouts and college recruiters.
On the second day of the tournament, with each team having an hour on the field running drills for the scouts, Alomar was filled with admiration for how far the youngsters have come over five seasons.
“I see a lot more pitching. There are some pitchers out there who are throwing over 85 miles per hour, some young guys who are only 16, 17, throwing that hard,” said Alomar, to a scrum of reporters. “I think it’s a good velocity for that age. I’ve seen bigger kids, stronger kids.
“The motivation is still the same. I’m glad that I’m seeing that.”
With another slate of round robin games happening on Saturday before the finals on Sunday, Alomar also expressed how great it was to find (every more) talent in Canada.
“I think it’s growing. It’s our fifth year of doing this tournament. The last four years, we’ve had over a 100 players going to colleges and had 40 guys sign professionally. I think this is huge for Canada,” said Alomar.
“We don’t have this in my home country of Puerto Rico. I wish we had a tournament like this and help a lot of kids to continue to grow.”
Indeed, the tournament has brought success for past alumni.
Josh Naylor, who participated in the 2013 tournament, was drafted 12th overall in the 2015 MLB Draft by the Miami Marlins, the highest pick a Canadian position player has been drafted in history. He was traded in a blockbuster deal that sent him to the San Diego Padres in 2016. He was elected to play in both the 2016 and 2017 Futures Game during their respective all-star weekends.
Another example is Tristan Pompey, brother of Blue Jays outfielder Dalton Pompey. He participated in the 2014 edition of Tournament 12 and was once regarded as one of Canada’s top prospects. He was drafted by the Minnesota Twins before turning down the offer and is now playing collegiate ball at Division 1 Kentucky.
Tournament 12 wraps up Sunday with the championship game at 6 p.m. at Rogers Centre.