By Nick Ashbourne
Canadian Baseball Network
*Originally published in the official Tournament 12 program that was printed before the tournament began.
From recent Baltimore Orioles draftee Adam Hall, to 2015 T12 favourite Cooper Davis, to this year’s headliner Noah Naylor, the biggest names at Tournament 12 tend to first make their mark on the Futures Navy team.
Justin Thorsteinson is hoping to be the next name added to that list. The native of Richmond, B.C. is appearing at the tournament for the first time this year, looking to impress scouts with both his sweet left-handed swing and his stuff as a southpaw on the mound.
“My goals for T12 are to work and perform as hard as I can in every situation to support the Futures Navy team, win games and show the Toronto Blue Jays organization and other scouts what type of player I am,” he said in the run-up to the event. “Being that this will be my first T12 event, I want to show everyone in attendance what I am capable of and enjoy every minute of the experience.”
In the field, Thorsteinson is primarily a first baseman where his length at 6”3’ comes in handy and his strong, accurate left arm is an asset many at his position don’t share. Unsurprisingly for a young ballplayer growing up in British Columbia, New Westminster native Justin Morneau is someone he looks to as a role model.
“I have always looked up to Justin Morneau from New Westminster, BC as he has had a very successful career,” he said. “I have also met him on a couple of occasions which was also motivating for me as a young Canadian who wants to play in the big leagues one day.”
Playing with the North Delta Jr. Blue Jays, the 15-year-old hit a robust .467 with one home run and eight doubles this summer and showed an advanced approach at the plate walking 13 times against just eight strikeouts.
On the mound, Thorsteinson likes to emulate big-time lefty starters like Jon Lester and Clayton Kershaw. The southpaw is already tossing in the mid-to-high 80’s and struck out 38 batters in 28 2/3 innings this season. Although his ERA of 4.39 was a little higher than he might have liked, he brought it down to 1.44 during his team’s playoff BCJPBL playoff run.
For Thorsteinson, the biggest accomplishment of his summer was showing he can go up against older competition and hold his own - something that he and his Futures Navy teammates will be asked to do throughout T12 if they are going to pull off an upset.
“I feel I had a successful season because I proved to myself I could play at a higher level and against kids that are older than me,” he said. “I was pleased with my consistency at the plate and helping my team win whenever I had the chance.”
Even so, he is quick to acknowledge that there’s a long way to go yet.
“I need to work on all aspects of my game to become a better baseball player,” he said. “This includes pitching, hitting, and my conditioning. The next three years will be very important for my development so I have to work very hard to accomplish my goals.”
As a player with significant talent both on the mound and at the dish, there are a number of ways Thorsteinson’s developmental path could take him. While Japanese superstar Shohei Otani is paving the way for two-way players - and Canadian Adam Loewen is a pertinent example of a someone who dabbled in both sides of the game at the highest level - the most likely scenario is that some day the British Columbian is going to have to choose a specialization.
For now, though, Thorsteinson enters Tournament 12 trying to show scouts, and the Canadian baseball community as a whole, that he can do it all.
For those who haven’t seen him yet, here’s what you can expect - right from the horse’s mouth:
“Every time I step on the field I play the game with energy and passion. I love the game of baseball more than anything and winning makes it even better. Team success is important to me so I will do whatever I can do to help my team win whether it is on the mound, playing first base or getting a clutch hit at the plate.”