Originally published on September 15, 2014
By Alexis Brudnicki
Vancouver, BC – Tournament 12 changed Andrew Case’s life.
The inaugural event at Rogers Centre last fall was his last chance at baseball before he'd have been forced to return home to Saint John, N.B. from Lethbridge Community College to work a “real job” and forget about living the dream on the diamond.
But after two outstanding appearances on the mound for the championship-winning Maritimes team, including a seven-inning no-hitter, Case didn’t have to worry about that. Four days after the tournament, Canadian scout Jamie Lehman and the Toronto Blue Jays offered the right-hander a professional contract.
“To be honest, I don’t know what I would be doing without baseball,” Case said. “I went to Tournament 12 with that mentality of trying to get a pro contract because if I didn’t, I don’t know what I would be doing. It worked out and I couldn’t be happier, really. I wouldn’t change it for anything.”
The only part of the process the young hurler might have altered in the slightest is the time between the event’s end and the moment he signed his contract. He travelled back to Lethbridge, anxiously awaiting several phone calls, with his family on pins and needs at home across the country, and those four days were among the longest of his life.
“I ended up going back to Alberta and I actually ended up pitching because [scouts from] Seattle and Oakland were there to watch me in Okotoks,” Case said. “I got warmed up and my coach came over to me and handed me the phone and said, ‘Congratulations.’ It was [Canadian scout] Jamie Lehman of the Blue Jays offering me a contract. I said yes right away, no questions asked.”
After playing in the instructional league last fall and heading to the Dominican Republic to rehabilitate a pectoral injury in the winter, the 21-year-old hurler came into spring training this season ready for his first professional year, though a little apprehensive in his adjustment to the professional game.
“I was nervous going into extended spring training, but pitching against those teams got me thinking to honestly just go out and throw strikes and make them hit it,” Case said. “Don’t try to strike everyone out because that’s when you get into walks and your pitch count gets up, so pitch to contact and good things will happen.”
From extended spring, Case had his sights set on pitching in the rookie Gulf Coast League, or maybe even with the advanced-rookie team Bluefield Blue Jays. Instead, he was assigned to the short-season affiliate Vancouver Canadians as the only Canuck to start the season on the roster.
“I made it to Vancouver and I never thought I would do that,” the righty said. “I thought I would start in the GCL and maybe get to Bluefield, but making it to Canada’s only team other than the Blue Jays is cool. And getting to pitch in front of a sold-out crowd every night and doing as well as I am, it’s pretty amazing.”
Never having spent much time in BC before, Case enjoyed his first taste of Vancouver and its passionate baseball following.
“I drove through Vancouver playing Prospects in Grade 12, but everyone always says it’s a big-league city with a minor-league team,” Case said. “It’s unreal. It’s great. The fans sell out every night with 5,500, but it feels like there’s twenty thousand up in the stands, it’s so loud.”
Case was also afforded the opportunity to not only come into Vancouver’s game on Canada Day at Scotiabank Field at Nat Bailey Stadium, but to close it out for the team in front of an enthusiastic crowd that embraces his place of birth as much as he does.
“They know I’m Canadian, they know my walkout song is real Canadian [by Newfoundlanders Great Big Sea], and they know I’m from the Maritimes,” Case said. “That was a very, very classy act by [manager] John Schneider to give me the opportunity to close on the nation’s day, being Canadian, getting a win, getting the save. It was a good feeling.”
Over 24 games and 44 regular-season innings with the club, Case dominated. The Northwest League All-Star posted a 2.45 ERA, starting one game and finishing six others, notching two saves along the way. He walked 13 and struck out 37 on the season.
“I never really get into setting goals stats-wise, but my ERA is really good and I’ve got the most innings out of the bullpen so I really couldn’t ask for much more,” he said. “Getting a couple saves here and there, and getting to start in my first pro year, it’s pretty crazy. Altogether it’s been a crazy year, but I couldn’t imagine anything else.”
With an opportunity to take on several different roles as part of the Canadians' pitching staff this season, Case got a feel for what he enjoyed the most, embracing his time as a reliever and learning to love it.
“I like the bullpen more because you can come out and know your situation,” Case said. “I know the [scenarios] where I can get called on and I can come in for two innings, come in for three batters, and know the game situation. I can come out and let it eat for an inning, get outs; make the coach happy.”
Though Case is even surprising himself a little bit with the success he’s continued to find, he believes everything he’s been able to accomplish has proven what his father, Jade McDermott, always thought he could do.
“He always said there was something special with me,” Case said. “But I’ve never seen it; never believed it because I always played ball in New Brunswick where the competition wasn’t as strong and we just did what we had to do to win.
“But me throwing that no-hitter in the semi-final at Tournament 12, I never knew I could do it. I did it and it got me here and that’s pretty amazing. It just goes to show to people with dreams who don’t think they can come true.
“My dream came true and now I’m here.”
- Follow Alexis Brudnicki on Twitter @baseballexis
Note: This profile on Andrew Case appears in the official Tournament 12 program, which can be purchased at the Rogers Centre throughout the tournament. Look for stories like this and more by the CBN staff in this year's program. Get your copy at the park starting Tuesday!