By Eddie Michels
CLEARWATER, Fla. _ Just another quiet day in the Florida sun for a Canadian on Thursday.
Well, not quite.
First J.D. Osborne (Whitby, Ont.) spent the day playing in a major-league park as his Tampa Spartans visited the Spectrum Field and the Philadelphia Phillies as the Grapefruit was squeezed for the first time in Clearwater. The Phillies scored a 6-0 seven-inning win.
While he went hitless in two at-bats, Osborne did go deep -- he was honored at the NCAA Division II National hitter of the week by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association.
Facing Mark Leiter, Jr., 26, who pitched at double-A Reading last season, with one out and a man on first in the first inning, Osborne bounced to Scott Kingery, who threw to SS J.P. Crawford for the force and the final out. Leiter, whose father pitched for the Detroit Tigers, was 6-3 with a 3.39 ERA in 23 games, making 17 starts. He walked 30 and fanned 94 in 103 2/3 innings.
Three innings later going against Miguel Nunez, 24, Osborne came up with one out and a man on first. Osborne popped up to 2B Kingery. Nunez was 4-3 last year spending time between class-A Clearwater and Reading. He was 4-3 with a 3.13 ERRA in 51 games walking 28 and whiffing 73 in 54 2/3 innings.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling coming out here and facing the Phillies,” said Osborne. “Thank you to them also. It is a big learning experience to a lot of the guys, especially the seniors on the team to go play at the next level. It gives them a taste of what it’s like to play at the next level.”
A senior at UT, Osborne was ask what lies ahead for him in ball?
“Hopefully pro ball, that’s the main goal,” said Ocborne, “But we are in school right now so we are going to try and get our degrees. Then hopefully go to the next level and play some professional baseball.”
Initially Osborne, who had two stints with the Canadian National Junior Team earned Sunshine State Conference Player of the Week honours. He led Tampa to a series win over No. 23 Southern Indiana Screaming Eagles. Starting in all three games, Osborne recorded a .615 average, along with a .643 on-base mark and slugging 1.358 against the. He went 8-for-13 with nine RBIs, three home runs, a double and a walk. His top game was in the last game as he went 4-for-4 with three runs scored, three RBI, a home run and a walk.
Osborne’s father Clare Osborne is a former Ontario Baseball Association coach of the year and winner of four straight OBA titles. Osborne pitched for -- to mention a few -- the Oshawa Legionaries, Little Britain, Kingston Ponies and the Ottawa-Nepean Canadians for his favorite manager.