JNT Spring: Bloodlines run strong in annual All-Canadian contest
By Adam Morissette
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.
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.”
-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.
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.