By Alexis Brudnicki
Canadian Baseball Network
THUNDER BAY, Ontario – When Canada takes the field in Port Arthur for the first time in the U18 Baseball World Cup in Thunder Bay, matching up against Chinese Taipei on Friday night, Wesley Moore will be the man on the mound looking to help the host nation to its first win.
The 17-year-old southpaw admits there have been some nerves, though more excitement than anything, and Moore has been helped by the experience he’s gained with the Canadian Junior National Team over the last year-and-a-half, matching up against professional competition, and is confident in his ability to take on the best in the world.
“What [Baseball Canada’s director of national teams] Greg Hamilton has done for us, putting us up against all the professional players, facing us against the Blue Jays and everything, has helped us an amazing amount,” Moore said. “Coming here, we’re going to be facing a lot of strong arms, so he put us against some of the toughest competition to be prepared for worlds.”
Since getting his start with Team Canada last March in St. Petersburg, Fla., Moore believes that his evolution as a pitcher and young player has been immeasurable.
“It’s crazy,” the 6-foot-2, 165-pound lefty said. “Since Grade 11, when Hamilton gave me the opportunity to come on this team, I came here with not a lot of confidence, coming in and seeing all the big guys like [Diamondbacks minor leaguer] Andrew Yerzy and those guys, I was a little intimidated. But playing with those guys and learning from the older guys, it’s helped me take my career to the next level. It’s amazing what Greg has done for us.”
Moore reached peak nervousness in his first appearance with Team Canada during that spring training, and since his rough debut, he is amazed by how much he’s learned and how much easier the games have gotten from his view on the top of the hill.
“My first outing against the Yankees, it was pretty nerve-wracking,” the Cal State Northridge commit said. “The first two batters hit home runs off me. Then after that, the next inning I went out and I settled in and then I ended up striking out the side the next inning. But yeah, the first inning was a little nerve-wracking seeing all those big pro guys…
“It’s been a crazy change since then. Every time I go out against pro guys now, you realize you don’t have to do anything special. You just have to be yourself. They’re still human, and they’re not anything crazy, so if you just pitch to your strengths, you’ll be fine.”
Those experiences, and the transition away from feeling all those nerves, are what Hamilton believes will help his squad the most as they match up against 11 of the world’s best baseball-playing nations.
“There’s obviously going to be energy, and some butterflies pregame, but we’ve got a good, seasoned team,” Canada’s manager said. “We believe in the schedule we have, we play an extensive pro schedule, so the only difference here is going to be the intensity and the crowds. These kids have played against really good players for quite some time, so they’re not going to be overwhelmed by the talent level, albeit it’s very good. But they’ve played pro players for a long time, so they’ll handle that side.”
Moore understands the challenge that awaits him with Chinese Taipei, and believes in his ability to get the job done.
“They’re more of a contact-hitting team, but I’m pretty much going to stick to my game plan and pitch from my strengths,” he said. “…I’m a left-handed pitcher who has a mid-to-high 80s fastball who can pitch backwards in counts. I have a pretty good changeup and a good curveball that I can throw early in the count. I just compete and go out there. I’m not an overpowering pitcher, I can just play with people.”
Looking to get his squad off to a good start to the tournament, Moore couldn’t be more proud to be wearing the red-and-white uniform on home soil to open the event for Team Canada.
“It’s pretty amazing,” he said. “This is something I’ve dreamed about for a long time, and it’s a pretty cool accomplishment…pitching for my country is amazing, so I’m really excited for that. It’s a pretty big honour. I’m pretty proud of it.”