Will McAffer excited to play pro ball at home in Vancouver
By Cole Shelton
Canadian Baseball Network
Baseball’s draft is not as hyped as the other major sports (NBA, NFL, NHL) and that is because there are 40 rounds and many of the players drafted may not turn pro, while some are five years away if not longer. The NHL and the NBA on the other hand use the university programs as a farm system ... so drafted players are game ready.
So when the Toronto Blue Jays drafted Will McAffer (North Vancouver, BC) in the 25th round, one of 21 Canucks selected, it was not headline news. After signing with the Blue Jays for a $50,000 US signing bonus from Blue Jays scout Brian Johnston, McAffer is pitching for the class-A Vancouver Canadians and excelling.
Entering the draft, McAffer was pegged as someone who would be drafted in the 20th-to-30th rounds and that is exactly what happened for the 6-foot-2 right-hander. But what team would draft McAffer was up in the air and then he got a call from the lone Canadian team.
“It was definitely a pleasant surprise because I didn’t know it was going to happen,” said McAffer in a phone interview about what it was like to be drafted by the Blue Jays. “When I found out I was definitely excited.”
Some questioned the Blue Jays' selection given that McAffer struggled at Tulane: going 0-4 record with a 6.91 ERA in 23 appearances which included one start. For many pitchers having that tough a year would weigh heavily on them and their draft status, but McAffer was not worried at all.
After pitching for the North Shore Twins and the Canadian Junior National Team, he headed to the South Dakota State Jackrabbits, transferred to the Central Arizona Vaqueros and then Tulane.
“I always believed in myself,” said McAffer. “There are always ups and downs. I didn’t have a great season, but I believe in myself and in my ability and I believe it is paying off.”
McAffer was quick to sign with Toronto after being drafted.
“I really wanted to play pro ball so it was a pretty easy decision for me,” added McAffer. “Pretty much whatever they gave me I was going. So it wasn’t a tough decision.”
With McAffer’s contract situation handled the next step was for him to start his pro career and the Blue Jays decided to send him home to pitch in Vancouver, and for McAffer it is a unique opportunity.
“It is definitely awesome,” McAffer said of playing in Vancouver. “Being close to home, friends and family that can come to games, watch and support. As well, I can always pop back at home if I want and head across town and hang out with them for a bit.”
Not only is McAffer pitching so close to home he is also pitching effectively out of the bullpen for the defending champion Canadians. McAffer has appeared in six games and has already pitched to a 3-1 record with a 2.53 ERA in 10 2/3 innings. He was credited wins over the Eugene Emeralds (a scoreless 1 1/3 innings), Tri-City Dust Devils (two scoreless) and Salem-Keizer Volcanoes (3 1/3 scoreless). He took his lone loss against the Boise Hawks allowing the final two runs in a 6-5 loss.
McAffer is starting to seem like a totally different pitcher in such a short period of time from his time at Tulane to now being a professional.
“I’d say in pro ball they take a more educated approach to things," explained McAffer. "I definitely enjoy the transition and my time here.”
While McAffer is enjoying his success, the first pro season for a pitcher is about trying to become the best pitcher they can possibly be. Has the Blue Jays pitching staff told him to change anything yet?
“No, they have pretty much said that for the first year they are going to watch and see what you do, then if they want to do anything with you or change anything they will do that after,” said McAffer. “But they kind of want to see what you have and if you are here obviously what you have been doing in the past has been working ... so they aren’t going to change stuff right away.”
Keeping everything the same has worked so far for McAffer but his first pro season isn’t just about pitching well for him.
“Pretty much first-year is kind of getting your feet wet and getting into the swing of things, trying to throw well where it counts,” said McAffer.
Even though McAffer has only been a pro for a few weeks he is starting to understand what it takes to succeed in pro ball. If all things go as planned, the Canadian will be pitching out of the bullpen for the Blue Jays sometime in the future.