Proud Canadian Abram set to begin college career with Sooners
By Danielle Obal
Canadian Baseball Network
Within the first few bars of the national anthem echoing through the speakers, it’s easy to feel an immense amount of pride for your country.
Standing with fans alike in a packed stadium belting out the national anthem is a moment that sports fans and patriots truly live for.
No matter how imperfect your tone and no matter how much beer or popcorn gets stuck to the soles of your shoes, those few minutes of the anthem truly exemplify living in the moment.
But imagine having the opportunity to play for and represent your country in an esteemed tournament with all eyes on you and your team.
That moment inspires a new wave of emotion.
Georgetown, Ont. local Ben Abram got the call. He got the news that he would be a part of the pitching rotation for the Canadian junior team in almost the most Canadian way possible.
“I was sitting in my French class in the tenth grade and my phone started ringing. I just let it go to voicemail because I was in the middle of a lesson,” Abram says.
In 2017, Abram was ranked the fourth best prospect in all of Canada. Harbouring the responsibilities of a student is one thing, but getting the green light to live out an athletic dream is a rare opportunity that many don’t get to experience.
“I was able to listen to it shortly after and it was Greg Hamilton on the phone. He wanted to talk to me about playing for the junior team. I was ecstatic that my dream was finally coming true,” Abram says.
Abram stands out for more than one reason. He towers over the mound at 6’8” but it’s his determination to succeed and his athleticism and maturity as a starting RHP that gives him that extra edge.
That athletic ability was on full display at the U18 Pan Am baseball championship at Rod Carew Stadium in Panama. Abram gave up three runs, two earned, and scattered six hits over 4 1/3 innings before giving way to reliever Antoine Jean.
“I just tried to go one pitch at a time. I hadn’t been having the best game, so I was just trying to take every out I could to get my team in the best position to win,” Abram says.
It’s easy to get lost in tournaments like these where baseball players put on professional performances.
Sometimes, we forget that the athletes we’re watching are more than just athletes – they’re teenagers finding their way and still growing and maturing into their own.
“Personally I love to pitch in the big games, so it’s very easy to get pumped up but I always stick to my same routines and preparations to keep my performances consistent,” Abram says.
With routine and exact groundwork often comes superstition. Detroit Tigers ex-pitcher Jose Valverde always had a unique entrance to the game, as did Phil Coke, who would sprint to the mound before every game appearance.
These practices seem out of the ordinary to the viewers and are likely deemed downright strange to some fans watching.
“I’m not big on superstitions. I find I can get too caught up in them,” Abram says.
Having a European background, I’ve grown up throwing salt over my left shoulder for good luck or never putting a hat on a table because that meant an argument would start, so I appreciate the game day routines that athletes become accustomed to.
“I have exact routines that I do the night before a game that includes visualizing all of my pitches in certain locations. Before a game, I keep my warm up and stretching the same to keep everything consistent and I have a necklace that I wear for every game. If I do everything right, I feel at my best,” Abram says.
Armed with a fastball that approaches 90mph, a low 80’s slider with good tilt and a changeup that’s in the works, Abram made waves with the scouting community. The San Diego Padres eventually selected him in the 37th round in the 2018 draft.
Abrams favourite baseball player is four-time Cy Young winner and Hall of Famer Greg Maddux. He quickly identified with his pitching style and Maddux continues to be an inspiration to the young hurler.
“He may have played before my time, but watching replays and highlights made me want to emulate what he was doing. He could spot his fastball on either corner of the plate and how effective it was and I really tried to learn how to do the same,” Abram says.
Abram earned a scholarship with the University of Oklahoma, but instead of signing with the Padres, he chose to pitch for the Sooners.
“OU feels like home to me and that’s what made me want to commit there. The coaching staff has a lot to offer and I felt like I can really thrive there. When it comes to the draft, I just felt it was a much better decision to go to school first to get my education and improve my skills,” Abram says.
The U18 Canadian team ultimately won bronze at the tournament, securing a spot for the 2019 WBSC U18 World Cup.
Abrams ability to step into a professional mindset and display work ethic way beyond his years only goes to show what it truly meant for him to play for Canada.
“There really is nothing like playing for your country. It’s such an incredible honour to wear the red and white,” Abram says.
While his studies may have taken him miles away from home, Abram still wears that maple leaf proudly on his chest.