Sunday, June 17, 2018
Nighthawks Third Baseman Hails From Quebec, With a Touch of Texas
By Josh Weinreb
Valley News Staff Writer
White River Junction — Anthony Quirion’s hometown of Dixville, Que. lies about five miles north of the border between Vermont and Canada. Neither Dixville, nor his home country of Canada, are not exactly known as factories for baseball prospects. As with many Canadians, hockey was Quirion’s first athletic love. French is still his native language; his English features a slight hint of an Quebecois accent, mixed in the with the occasional Texas drawl.
But Quirion — the Upper Valley Nighthawks third baseman — has never let his origins get in the way, deciding as a teenager to make baseball his collegiate pursuit. If anything, coming from north of the border has driven him to succeed.
“It motivates me to work harder,” Quirion said before Thursday’s game against the Sanford Mainers at the Maxfield Sports Complex. “When you cross the border, there are some very good players. On this team, you can see it already. It’s fun to be alongside these guys. It pushed me to get better every day.
“I’m happy to be here, honestly,” he added. “I couldn’t have asked for a better place. I love it here.”
Quirion has been a consistent presence for Upper Valley’s New England Collegiate Baseball League team since the season opened nearly two weeks ago. He’s batted .320 with eight hits, three doubles, one home run and four RBIs while playing in all of the Nighthawks’ first seven games. A natural catcher, Quirion is tied with a team high four errors this summer playing out-of-position at third base. Learning the position, he said, has been a transition on the fly.
Quirion joined Upper Valley at a unique time in his career — finishing his final of two seasons at Clarendon College, a junior college in Clarendon, Tex. He is slated to join NCAA Division I Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, in the fall. A stint with the Nighthawks, he said, is a chance to get ready for tough competition.
“Honestly, it’s huge for me,” Quirion said. “I couldn’t see myself going to Lamar without having with this kind of experience under my belt. I knew the NECBL was a great league. My coach at Lamar talked to me about it. He asked me if I was interested. I didn’t hesitate for a second.”
Quirion tore it up in his final season at Clarendon this past spring. In 52 games, he batted .394 with 78 hits, 17 doubles, four triples, 77 runs scored and 55 RBIs. He also hit 12 home runs and stole 12 bases, helping the Bulldogs to a 34-20 overall record (22-14 conference). Quirion led the team in runs scored and struck out a team-low 19 times.
It was during that time Quirion seemed to find his way onto Lamar’s radar.
“My first interactions with Lamar were at an All-Star showcase we had (at Clarendon) during the fall of my sophomore year,” Quirion said. “It was kind of a chance to get in front of college scouts and get our names out there.”
Campbell (N.C.) University and Abilene Christian (Tex.) University also vied for his talents. In the end, an opportunity with the Cardinals was too good to pass up.
“I honestly love the place,” he said. “Not just the ball team and the facilities, but everything about the campus, the dorm life, the rec center. Everything about it I fell in love with.”
Quirion is slated to catch and play short for Lamar next season. Playing third base with the Nighthawks, he said, has taken some getting used to, as has the speed of the game and the ability of opposing pitchers. He hopes a full summer in the Upper Valley can help him prepare for what’s next.
“It’s definitely a big jump (from junior college to D-I),” Quirion said. “All the best arms at the JuCo level end up going to the D-I level. We don’t see as many quality arms — we definitely see good arms — but it’s not as deep as the D-I level. This summer is a good indication. There are some guys who can really throw the ball in this league. I’m happy to be here and I’m happy I get to get some at-bats against guys like this.”
That approach comes, Quirion said, from his past. A Canadian playing baseball — in Texas, of all places — has always left him feeling like the underdog, like the pressure’s off his shoulders and that he has less of a mantle to live up to.
But being an underdog has, admittedly, helped him develop — forcing the Quebec native to become a more cerebral player, to study the game and win any mental battle he faces. Quirion — a Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox fan — compares his game with San Francisco Giants third baseman Evan Longoria, as much because of his baseball IQ as his physical talents.
“I definitely know that I have the capacity to play at the (D-I) level,” he said. “But people don’t look at Canadians, in general, as a baseball powerhouse with reason. It’s not the biggest sport in our country. But it’s something that drives me.
“People won’t necessarily have the same expectations for me as they do for some other guy. When I come in and do well, it turns heads.”
Josh Weinreb can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3306.