By Karan Gill
Canadian Baseball Network
TORONTO -- Turner Spoljaric continued a family tradition when he pitched on the Rogers Centre mound at the annual Tournament 12.
Turner is the fourth Spoljaric to pitch at the Rogers Centre -- the first being his father, Paul, who on April 6, 1994 pitched against the Chicago White Sox for the Toronto Blue Jays.
Now 24 years later, 15-year old Turner went to the mound for the first time at T12, but he’s attended the tournament the last four years.
While his father, Paul, coached, and Turner’s elder brothers, Hunter and Garner, pitched in the T12, Turner first served as the 11-year old bat boy.
“It’s fun. It’s cool to be around the alumni, and hang around and just learn,” Spoljaric recalled about his time as a bat boy, at the Rogers Centre. “Obviously it’s more fun to be here and get to play. I’m excited to go out and pitch.”
Even as a volunteer, Spoljaric hoped to participate one day. He waited for his turn to get on the mound.
“I kind of had an idea that I might play here at least a year but I wasn’t obviously expecting to. I was hoping I would, but I wasn’t banking on it,” Spoljaric said. “I’m glad I am, it’s just good to be here.”
Coming from a baseball family, Spoljaric is constantly surrounded by the sport. What he shows on the mound in every outing was learned from a home that lives and breathes baseball.
“Anytime we’re not playing, we’re watching baseball, anytime we’re not watching it, we’re talking to my Dad about it,” Spoljaric said. “Whether it’s pitching or the mental side and all that. There are no days off.”
Spoljaric is well aware of the advantage he has of his father having played for six seasons in the Majors. He has a clear understanding of what it takes to make it.
“They’ve likely been getting advice from their dad, so they understand the process,” Richard Birfere, a scout for Prep Baseball Report said. “It kind of puts them one step ahead of the game when their dad can pass down knowledge that other players might not have.”
Spoljaric also had his older brothers to learn from, who didn’t take it easy on him.
“They always put pressure on me. They didn’t really let off, they’d play as hard with me as if I was anyone else,” Spoljaric said. “Playing whiffleball they would crush me. It was fun but they did not let off at all.”
Looking back, the former bat-boy can see how that tough play helped him develop into the player he is today.
“I think it helped me mature quicker. Just to be ready for it. They’re playing at a different level, they’re throwing harder. Not being scared of the ball type thing,” Spoljaric said. “It helped with that I think. I was exposed to it at a young age.”
Spoljaric pitched four scoreless innings for the Futures squad on September 16 at Tournament 12, allowing only two hits, two walks and striking out two batters. He threw 37 pitches, 25 of which were strikes.
With T12 now over, Spoljaric will travel with his team, the Toronto Mets, to the Perfect Game tournament in October. Before pitching on September 16, he was excited to prove himself.
“I’m just hoping to just compete with some of the best in this tournament.”