Versatile Grabmann inspired by fellow Nova Scotian Sanford

Northeast Baseball 15U Pirates RHP/SS Matthew Grabmann (Cole Harbour, N.S.) warms up before the Tournament 12 Prospects Game on Saturday. Photo: Tyler King

Northeast Baseball 15U Pirates RHP/SS Matthew Grabmann (Cole Harbour, N.S.) warms up before the Tournament 12 Prospects Game on Saturday. Photo: Tyler King

September 23, 2019

By J.P. Antonacci

Canadian Baseball Network

For proof that his baseball dreams can one day come true, Matthew Grabmann need only look to a neighbour from home.

Grabmann was in Toronto last week playing in front of major league scouts at Tournament 12, a few months after fellow Cole Harbour native Jake Sanford became the highest-drafted Nova Scotian in MLB history.

Sanford, a power-hitting outfielder and T12 alumnus, went to the New York Yankees in the third round of June’s MLB draft. Grabmann said it was inspiring to see another Nova Scotian get a foothold on the professional ladder.

“It definitely gives me a lot of momentum, because I know you can make it just by working hard. It shows that the opportunity’s there,” said Grabmann.

The 16-year-old pitcher/infielder was one of three Nova Scotian players at Tournament 12 this year, after the former regional quotas were dropped in favour of assembling the top talent nationwide.

Grabmann said he loved his T12 experience at Rogers Centre, which included pitching off a major league mound for the first time.

“It’s a great opportunity. The field is beautiful. This mound is gorgeous – probably one of the best mounds I’ve ever pitched on,” he said.

“When you’re playing a position, you think of how many people played there. Playing second (base), you think of Robbie Alomar being on second. I can’t believe it.”

A strong showing at Tournament 12 has high schooler Matthew Grabmann (Cole Harbour, N.S.) on scouts’ radar. Photo: J.P. Antonacci

A strong showing at Tournament 12 has high schooler Matthew Grabmann (Cole Harbour, N.S.) on scouts’ radar. Photo: J.P. Antonacci

Suiting up for Team Navy, Grabmann patrolled Alomar’s old turf during Friday’s 5-1 win over Team Green and put in a full shift, handling eight defensive chances cleanly, including slapping the tag to nab a runner attempting to steal and being the pivot man in a 6-4-3 double play.

At the plate he went 0-for-2 with a pair of walks and a run scored.

“Today at second, I felt really good defensively,” he said after the game. “At the plate I did pretty well.”

But it’s on the mound that Grabmann feels most confident. Despite only trying his hand pitching this year, the right-hander is already turning heads. He tossed two innings to pick up the win against Team Black on Thursday, allowing a run on two hits with two strikeouts.

Chosen to pitch in the Prospects Game that closed out the tournament on Saturday, Grabmann picked up a hold with a scoreless inning of work, registering one strikeout and one walk. Grabmann's team, managed by Roberto Alomar, beat the squad managed by Sandy Alomar Sr. 6-1.

Grabmann leans on a fastball that sits at 86-88 mph, mixing in the occasional changeup and a curveball that serves as his “go-to strikeout pitch.”

“This was my first year really pitching. A lot of people back home, they’ve always thrown curveballs. I just threw fastballs until this year I got into throwing more curveballs. I found a lot of success through it,” he said.

So far the shift of focus from the infield to the mound has paid off.

“I had a lot of fun pitching (this season),” he said.

“Everyone’s looking at you when you’re on the mound. You’re the one controlling the pace. You’re the one who determines the game, basically. Definitely looking forward to continuing my career in pitching.”

When not on the field with the Northeast Baseball 15U Pirates, Grabmann is holding down a 3.9 GPA at Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford, Connecticut, where he’s due to graduate in 2022.

“Looking into colleges, I’m looking at academic schools, so it’s definitely a driving factor in making my decision,” said Grabmann, who heard from a few interested scouts during T12.

“I’ve been approached by a couple. The program that I played with this year, the coordinator was getting a lot of messages,” he said. “So it’s definitely been a lot of interest. Great exposure.”

Much like watching Sanford get drafted, the attention from scouts is a confidence booster for Grabmann – and another sign that ballplayers from Cole Harbour can dream of bigger stages.

“It’s just surreal,” Grabmann said. “Being from Nova Scotia, baseball’s not really a big thing yet compared to hockey and those other sports. So just getting exposure and knowing that you’re good and you’re elite is definitely a good feeling.”