By Bob Elliott
Canadian Baseball Network
The non-waiver July 31 trade deadline is days away.
Then comes August, then September and a teacher will assign a project: “What I did on my summer vacation.”
Owen Diodati will have an easy project to write. Diodati (Niagara Falls, Ont.) is in the midst of participating in the East Coast Pro Showcase tour as he:
_ Played at Fenway Park against an all-star team from the Cape Cod League.
_ Squatted at the Rogers Centre for the Toronto Blue Jays Scout Team against the Red Sox-Yankees Scout Team.
_ And he is one of three Canucks off to play for the Boston Red Sox team in the East Coast Pro in Hoover, Ala. The others are INF Cesar Valero (Calgary, Alta.) of the Okotoks Dawgs and LHP Keegan Pulford-Thorpe (Newmarket, Ont.) of the Toronto Mets.
Then, Pulford-Thorpe will pitch for the Yankees and Valero will be with the Royals Pacific Northwest team at the Area Codes Games at Blair Field in Long Beach, Calif. Diodati will not attend this event.
The most influential person in Diodati’s baseball life is his father, Ryan Diodati, who played shortstop and third base for the University of Niagara Purple Eagles. Ryan just didn’t play. He was honoured in 1994 with the Kevin Mulkern Senior Athletic Award given annually to the senior student-athlete who has the highest ideals of sportsmanship, competition and fair play in the spirit of Niagara. The award was handed out for the 42nd year this spring.
Diodati has done what few sandlot players have ever accomplished winning five straight OBA titles with the Niagara Falls Falcons, coached by Mike McRae (Niagara Falls, Ont.) and Owen’s father. The Falcons knocked off North London in the final once, Tecumseh three times and Georgetown once.
One final, Diodati won the game single handily going 5-for-5 with two homers, two doubles and a single. How Many RBIs? “I can’t remember,” he said.
“Watching Owen play in those early years was always a pleasure, it was a lot like the movie ‘the Sandlot’ and he was Benny the Jet (although they clearly did not share the same speed),” said McRae. “As he progressed through the years, you could see his dedication and hard work towards his craft. This separated him from a lot of other aspiring young ball players. These qualities are evident in his success not only in baseball and hockey, but also in his commitment to being an outstanding student.”
McRae said that there were plenty of stories about Diodati’s athletic prowess, like “Winning hits, Cooperstown home runs, nabbing aggressive base runners. Yet McRae’s favorite story took place on a small field at Oakes Park in Niagara Falls Ont.
“Owen’s younger brother or sister would wander down to the bench to hand Owen a drink,” said McRae. “Now many boys would’ve been annoyed by this, especially from a sibling. Yet O (as we called him) took the beverage with a warm and loving smile. It is exactly the response that reflects the type of boy he was, the man he is becoming, and why success is sure to follow him.”
Diodati then spent two seasons playing in Buffalo for the Canisius Jr. Griffins, coached by McRae, the former Canisius coach, Chris Gruarin and Ron Bernick. Now, he plays for coach Brock Kjeldgaard and the Great Lake Canadians 17U and the Canadian Junior National Team.
When the Junior team went to the Dominican Republic this summer he was successfully recruited by the Alabama Crimson Tide recruiters. Now, INF Daniel Carinci (Ajax, Ont.) of the Toronto Mets has also signed to attend Alabama.
At Fenway Diodati, singled to left and walked, as well as bouncing a double off the Rogers Centre blue wall, gave credit to his current coaches.
“Brock shaped me into the player I am today, he really helped with the mental side of the game,” said Diodati, who credited catching guru Chris Robinson with his development behind the plate, Adam Arnold for developing his strength and conditioning and Adam Stern with his hitting stroke.
Mason McRae, McRae’s son, was a Falcons teammate, as was Cal Theal (Niagara Falls, Ont.). Theal is also with Great Lakes and has committed to Niagara.
* * *
LHP Pulford-Thorpe (Newmarket, Ont.) of the Mets pitched two scoreless innings as the Toronto Blue Jays Scout Team edged the Red Sox-Yankees Scout Team 7-6 at the Rogers Centre on Thursday.
Noah Hull (Toronto, Ont.) of the Mets tripled, while Tyler Black (Stoufvillle, Ont.) of the Mets, Austin Gomm (Mississauga, Ont.) of the Ontario Terriers, Zach Gardiner (Oakville, Ont.) of the Mets and Diodati each doubled.
LHP Connor O’Hallloran (Mississauga, Ont.) of the Terriers LHP Adam Parker (Toronto, Ont.) of the Mets and former University of British Columbia Thunderbird Tyler Gillies (London, Ont.), who pitched for the Quebec Capitales last year, all had scoreless outings..
Brian Zapp (Waterloo, Ont.) of the Great Lake Canadians zipped around the bases stealing four bags.
The Jays Scout Team consisted of eight Mets: INF Daniel Carinci (Ajax, Ont.), OF Noel McGarry-Doyle (Maple, Ont.), C Ryan Leitch (Whitby, Ont.), Pulford-Thorpe, Hull, Black, Gardiner and Parker
Five Great Lakes Canadians 2B Kyle Maves (Burlington, Ont.), C Ryan Faragher (London, Ont.), OF Eric Martin (Kitchener, Ont.), Zapp and Diodati.
Two Terriers in Gomm and O’Halloran.
One Brampton Royal in LHP Mitch Bratt (Newmarket, Ont.).
One Ottawa-Nepean Canadian, which send Doug Frobel, Dave MacQuarrie and Phil Franko to the pros, in LHP Ben Adams (Ottawa, Ont.).
Coaching the Red Sox-Yankees Scout Team were Ray Fagnant (Red Sox), Ty Blankmeyer (Milwaukee Brewers) along with Matt Hyde and Tim Alexander (both of the Yankees).
A number of scouts were on hand including Peter Orr (Richmond Hill, Ont.) of the Milwaukee Brewers, along with assistant general manager Tony LaCava, scouting director Steve Sanders and Northeast scout Pete Holmes, all of the Blue Jays.