JNT Spring: Bloodlines run strong in annual All-Canadian contest

 Right-hander Braden Halladay tossed a scoreless eighth inning against a team of Toronto Blue Jays prospects for the Canadian Junior National Team at Dunedin Stadium on Saturday. Photo Credit: Amanda Fewer

Right-hander Braden Halladay tossed a scoreless eighth inning against a team of Toronto Blue Jays prospects for the Canadian Junior National Team at Dunedin Stadium on Saturday. Photo Credit: Amanda Fewer

By Adam Morissette

Baseball Canada

DUNEDIN, Florida – There were plenty of notable big league bloodlines on the field at Dunedin Stadium as the Junior National Team met the Toronto Blue Jays in an annual spring training contest bringing together Canada’s only Major League Baseball team against the best high school prospects the country has to offer.

Box Score

Junior National Team hurler Braden Halladay (Toronto, Ont.), son of Blue Jays legend Roy Halladay, was joined by Blue Jays Cavan Biggio (Craig), Bo Bichette (Dante), Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Vladimir), Kacy Clemens (Roger) and Dwight Smith Jr. (Dwight) as sons of former big league stars playing in today’s contest. Also in the game, Blue Jays minor leaguer Brandon Grudzielanek, is the nephew of former big leaguer, Mark Grudzielanek.

Halladay entered the game to a rousing ovation in the eighth and proceeded to sit down the Blue Jays in order in what was an emotional moment for the 17-year-old after the tragic passing of his father last November.

After getting a pair of fly outs, Halladay got Bichette to ground out to shortstop Jaden Brown (Toronto, Ont.) for the final out of the inning that garnered applause from both sides.

“It was pretty surreal being out there,” said Halladay after the game. “I just tried to enjoy the experience as much as I could and I’m glad that I was able to do that.”

Bichette enjoyed a solid afternoon at the plate hitting a two-run homer in the first and collected four RBIs on the day as the Jays cruised to an 11-3 win.

The juniors struck for two runs in the sixth as LaRon Smith (Spruce Grove, Alta.) drilled a double down the left field line to score Damiano Palmegiani (Surrey, B.C.) before Ryan Faragher (London, Ont.) cashed in Smith on a RBI ground out. Denzel Clarke smoked a triple to the gap in right to cash in Noah Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.) in the top of the ninth to round out the Junior National Team scoring.

The Jays came out of the gate strong scoring two runs in each of the first three innings off Canadian starter Ben Abram (Georgetown, Ont.) before adding a run in the fifth off reliever Eric Cerantola (Oakville, Ont.).

For the Canadian juniors, this wasn’t any ordinary baseball game as they got to experience the big league life for a day.

“It’s awesome,” said Noah Naylor who was playing against the Blue Jays for the third time in his career. “This game is always something to look forward to and an experience that I’m extremely grateful to have.”

QUICK HITS

-In addition to starting catcher Russell Martin (Montreal, Que.), the Jays roster featured several Canadian Blue Jays minor leaguers including Shane Dawson (Drayton Valley, Alta.), Owen Spiwak (Mississauga, Ont.), Mattingly Romanin (Burlington, Ont.), Connor Panas (Toronto, Ont.)

-Panas went 2-for-3 with a double and drove in a run.

-Spiwak played for the Junior National Team in 2012 and 2013.

UP NEXT

The Junior National Team will be back at the Walter Fuller Complex in St. Petersburg tomorrow and host a prospects squad from the Philadelphia Phillies organization at 1 p.m. E.T.…It will be Carter Morris (Vernon, B.C.) getting the start for Team Canada… Fans can listen to the contest that will be broadcast at radiostpete.com.

Adam Morissette

Adam Morissette was born and raised in Ottawa, Ont. where sports were always a big part of his life whether it be baseball, hockey or football, including playing two seasons as centre for coach Pat Sheahan with the Queen's University Golden Gaels in Kingston -- Canada's first capital. Morissette has always have been passionate about baseball and has fond memories of attending Montreal Expos games with his father, Mike, and listening to his recollection of watching baseball in Montreal at Jarry Park and stories about Gary Carter, Rusty Staub and Steve Rodgers. Morissette could often be found in a near empty Lynx Stadium watching Joe Siddall, Bert Heffernan, Curtis Pride and Jamie Carroll soaking in a beautiful summer night at the ballpark. He was a member of the provincial championship Orleans Red Sox Little League teams also played with the Ottawa White Sox for the late Lyle Anderson and Todd Burke in OBA Midget and American Legion play and the Capital City Crushers (NCBL), primarily as a catcher. Has also spent time coaching Little League in Orleans and South Ottawa. He wanted to turn his passion into a career and enrolled in Sport Business Management at Algonquin College in Ottawa in 2007. After working for the Ottawa 67's OHL team as the Ticket Coordinator, Morissette jumped at the opportunity to become the Media and Public Relations Coordinator with Baseball Canada in 2010. He loves watching and reading about pro, college or amateur baseball and is a long-time subscriber to Baseball America. Morissette is thrilled about the idea of writing about baseball and is interested in covering any story that his car -- and time -- will allow him to cover.