Elliott on baseball: Quantrill does Terriers proud, 8th overall to Padres

By Bob Elliott
Canadian Baseball Network

The waitress has seen some wild get-togethers before in her section at the Buffalo Wild Wings in Buffalo, N.Y.

Fans gathering to watch the Buffalo Bills or the Buffalo Sabres, get togethers before and after Buffalo Bison games or sandlot tilts and long lunches during March Madness.

This one was a puzzler. 

Here was this group of players, parents and coaches gathered -- 40 or 50 in all -- around the big screen wolfing down wings like every other table, except they were ordering pop instead of soda, they were being very, very polite. saying “please and thank you” even when they ordered “extra napkins too, please,”   

And when not eating this team from Ontario wearing blue and gold uniforms was hooting and hollering when the guy on the TV in a red and white uniform struck out a hitter.

It was puzzling to the Buffalo Wild Wings staff.

Not to the Ontario Terriers who cheered on Stanford University Cardinal right-hander Cal Quantrill as he battled Carson Fulmer and the Vanderbilt Commodores from Nashville, Tenn. on ESPNU.

Quantrill left with a 4-3 lead in the eighth and his Cardinal eventually evened the best-of-three NCAA Super Regional with a 5-4 walk-off win in 10 on July 7, 2014. 

A year to the day before the Terriers watched Quantrill on TV, Quantrill wore blue and gold as he pitched a one hitter in the tournament final as the Terriers took the title.  

And Thursday night he went eighth over-all to the San Diego Padres. Slot money for eighth over-all $3,630,900 US. He’s the third highest Canadian ever selected, one spot ahead of LHP Jeff Francis. Among Canadians, Quantrill was the third highest Canadian slected behind only RHP Jameson Taillon (The Woodlands, Tx.), second over-all to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2010 and LHP Adam Loewen (Surrey, BC) of the Whalley Chiefs fourth over-all to the Orioles in 2002. 

This despite the fact he underwent Tommy John surgery March 20, 2015 and has not pitched in a game, only throwing bullpens for teams. 

Fulmer pitched 6 1/3 innings allowing four runs on seven hits as he fanned nine. Quantrill pitched seven innings giving up three runs on six hits and three walks, while fanning five. Fulmer was selected eighth over-all last June by the Chicago Cubs. Vandy won the deciding game the next day and was off to the College World Series in Omaha.

* * *
Claire Osborne coached the Whitby Chiefs against Paul Quantrill’s Port Hope peewee team. 

“Paul phoned at the end of the season and said ‘we can’t beat you, can we join you?’” recalled Osborne, who quickly said yes. Quantrill played minor bantam and bantam for Osborne in 2009-10, reaching the national bantam finals in Vaughn. 

“Cal was instrumental in us getting through the eliminations, he was a good teammate,” said Osborne from Whitby. “I have nothing but good memories. You could see him grow as a young man. He had an outstanding change up, Paul wouldn’t allow him to throw a curve ball.

“When he was younger Cal tried to throw the ball past everyone but he was smart and he transformed from a thrower into a pitcher. He’s a very intelligent kid.”

Osborne, whose son J.D. earned all-conference honors with the Tampa University Spartans, was a vagabond touring the Ontario hinterlands for years as a player. He played with Little Britain, the Oshawa Legionaires, the Kingston Ponies, Ottawa-Nepean Canadians (and was part of the best Canadians team ever, the 1979 senior squad) and made return visits.

Osborne used to tell Paul Quantrill that there was someone who batted 1.000 against him. 

“It was either 1986 or 1987 Paul came home for the summer from the University of Wisconsin to pitch for Port Hope and man did he throw hard,” Osborne said. “He threw a lot harder than anything we had around here. Anyway, Kingston is playing Port Hope. I barely saw the first pitch, but I did hit the 3-2 pitch over the second baseman for a line drive single.” 

So, who is the better pitcher? Paul, a member of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, who appeared in 841 games (more than any other Canadian) including 384 in six years with the Blue Jays, or the highly-ranked Cal Quantrill.

“I don’t know,” said Osborne with a laugh, “I never faced Cal.” 

* * *
Terriers coach Scott VandeValk remembers the first time Quantrill hit 90 mph, a big deal in any man’s life. He was pitching for the Terriers 17U in a 2012 Buckeye Elite tournament at Miami of Ohio University’s Hayden Park in Oxford, Ohio  

“It was the first time our guys had pitched where the velocity showed on the scoreboard,” Vandevalk recalled. “He goes out in the sixth and he is 88 mph, 89, 88 and he’s looking after every pitch. You could see him getting frustrated. Paul and I yelled ‘quit looking,’ and he looked in with his funny little grin.”

Out Quantrill went for the seventh and final inning. Again he was 89, 88, 89, 88, 89.

“His final try was a 3-2 pitch, he struck out the guy, turned and looked and he hit 90. I’ve never seen him smile bigger.”

* * *
Cal Quantrill’s best game with the Canadian Junior National Team was likely his best. As a 15-year-old pitching in relief against Team USA, mostly three years his senior, he came on in relief at the World Juniors in Cartagena, Colombia in November of 2011.

He took over for starter Jesen Dygestile-Therrien (Montreal, Que.), now pitching at class-A Clearwater in the Philadelphia Phillies system and Adam Anderson (Georgetown, Ont.) with the Canucks down 9-1 in the third inning. Quantrill worked four innings allowing one run on two hits and zero walks, while fanning two. 

Team USA scored twice off Dayton Dawe (London, Ont.) in a 12-2 win. Former Markham Mariner Carson Kelly, a first round choice of the St. Louis Cardinals, pitched six innings for the win. CF Jacob Robson (Windsor, Ont.) had two hits that day and the Mississippi State Bulldogs outfielder is draft eligible this week.                    
“Cal was a tremendously competitive kid who always had complete belief in his ability to succeed,” Greg Hamilton, coach of the Canuck juniors said. “He was always a leader in the clubhouse, on and off the field.

“He had a loose clean arm, with a very projectable frame when he went off to school. Everything pointed to him filling out at school.”

The next September Quantrill started the gold medal game against Seoul, Korea at the IBAF 18U World championships. Working on one day’s rest he allowed a second-inning single and a double which led to a run. After a walk and single opened the third, a bunt and a two-run single and brought on Travis Seabrooke (Peterborough, Ont.), who allowed a single to make it 4-1. 

Gareth Morgan (Toronto, Ont.) and Chris Shaw (Winnipeg, Man.) each knocked in a run as the Canucks lost 6-2.
The silver medal was the fourth for Hamilton in less than 11 months (World Cup, Bronze; Pan Am Games, Gold; 18U Qualifier Silver). Mitchell Triolo (Scarborough, Ont.) took home the tournament’s home run crown, while 3B Jesse Hodges (Victoria, BC) and Kyle Hann (Oakville, Ont.) were named tournament all-stars.

“Cal had a whole lot of compete in him,” Hamilton said. “He always had a tremendous belief in himself and he could make adjustments and adapt. He always had a heightened sense of maturity and is an independent thinker.”
* * *
How competitive is the youngster who has his mother’s long limbs and his father’s makeup.

The Terriers 18U knocked Quantrill around the first two innings, he was tagged for three doubles and was behind 4-0 in a tourney game in Springfield, Mo.

“He threw in tight, he threw inside again -- he wasn’t throwing at the hitter, he was just trying to move him off the plate -- then he throws again,” VandeValk said. “Their coach yells ‘what’s going on?’ We yell ‘enough!’ He comes in and says ‘he had me covered inside and out (inside corner, outside corner of the plate).”

Quantrill retired the next 16 in a row, the Terriers rallied and won.

Once on a rainy day on the road Toby Handley (Whitby, Ont.), who plays for the Stony Brook University Seawolves, Seabrooke, Quantrill and VandeValk were involved in a 7 1/2 hour game of Risk, the board game of skill and strategy. Handley left the room and VandeValk switched allegiances. End of game soon after.

“Ah, I think Travis, Cal and I all say we won,” VandeValk said, “the only thing we are sure of is that Toby was upset.”
Quantrill played third base for the Terriers 16U yet the next two years when he strictly pitched and lobbied -- for more at-bats.

“He never took a swing where he didn’t believe he could hit the ball 500 feet or more,” said Vandevalk. After Quantrill was selected in the 26th round -- based on signability, not ability -- by New York Yankees scout Denis Boucher, the Terriers were in Rome, N.Y. playing Boucher’s team from Quebec.   

“He always claimed he was the best hitter we had,” VandeValk said, “so we give him an at-bat against Denis’ team, Cal drills it up the left-centre alley for a double and points into the dugout. He was a tough guy to sit. He was always talking.”

Despite being the son of a major league and a member of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, Cal Quantrill conducted himself that he not only wanted to be the best player on the diamond, but the best teammate in the dugout.

“He was the first to do field work, make sure the dugout was clean, fix the mound,” said VandeValk.

* * *
The first time I ever saw Cal Quantrill he was playing third for Whitby in the annual Michael Kim tournament at River Grove in Mississauga. Nice player. Ho-hum.

Two days later in either the semi final or the final game I was standing down the right field line with Michael’s parents Cathy and John. We were yakking, half paying attention when I saw Quantrill throw a change up, kind of bounce off the mound like his pop did off the SkyDome mound taking two or three strides to catch the throw from the catcher ... he was walking the way his father used to.

I excused myself from the Kims and found his mother Alyson Quantrill near home plate. I asked if I could speak to her for a second away from the other parents.

Me: “Oh my goodness. It’s like watching a flashback in time. He pitches and walks exactly like his father.”

Alyson: “You see it? I see it. Not many other people see it.”

Paul was drafted in the sixth round (163th overall) by the Boston Red Sox from Wisconsin in 1989.

Cal was selected eighth over-all three years after being selected by the Yanks in the 26th (794th over-all).

Of course, pops can point out he too was also selected twice. The Los Angeles Dodgers chose Paul Quantrill in the 26th round (660th) from Okemos High in Michigan. 

And once signed he’ll head to Arizona and extended spring training without giving up a hit in over a year. 

Not many pitchers arrive in camp with that billing.