Most young Canadians dream of playing in the National Hockey League. It’s the Canadian dream, but it’s not for everyone.
Some young Canadians dream about making it to the “Bigs”.
The game of baseball is alive and well in our region and this weekend’s T12 Atlantic Tournament at Moncton’s Kiwanis Park is another step towards potentially fulfilling a baseball dream.
From coast to coast the Toronto Blue Jays and their Baseball Academy continue to impact the lives of young Canadians trying to live out their dreams in the game of baseball.
From growing the game at the grassroots to providing a platform for college eligible players the Blue Jays Baseball Academy is the heart and soul of game in this country.
The goal of T12 is to provide a showcase opportunity for the best 150 amateur baseball players born in Canada, with college eligibility.
The T12 initiative centralizes the best Canadian baseball players, with the intention of exposing them to as many pro and college scouts as possible.
“We support the development of youth baseball players in the country and providing them an opportunity to have a platform,” said Jeff Holloway of the Blue Jays Academy.
The Blue Jays Academy is uniquely structured within the Marketing Department of the organization.
“At the end of the day, it’s awesome for organizations and clubs like ourselves that have the opportunity to draft players that come out of T12, but it is as community marketing for us as anything,” confessed Holloway.
Since 2013, 69 former T12 players have been drafted by Major League Baseball organizations with over 300 receiving college scholarships to continue their academic and athletic careers.
To say the Academy has been a tremendous success would be an understatement.
The Academy and the T12 initiative have had an impact on and off the field, a trend that Holloway hopes continues.
The 2019 version of the event will mark a new format for Tournament 12 where the rosters will no longer be based on regional teams, but the best 150 players in Canada, divided appropriately among all 6 teams.
The “Best on Best” tournament as always will be played at Rogers Centre in mid September.
The new format may limit the number of players from Atlantic Canada, but the competition and journey to earn one of those 150 roster spots will only strengthen the game in this area.
“Something that makes our T12 more unique over other types of events is that, T12 isn’t by invitation only, and that everyone has the opportunity to tryout across the country when we host open tryouts,” explained Holloway.
“For players here at this weekend, to come and have the opportunity to try out to hopefully make one of those 150 spots in the tournament is cool.”
“We are really excited to come out and have this tournament,” Holloway said of coming down east.
So how rewarding is it for Holloway and the Blue Jays Academy to see the growth in the game and the success young Canadian players are having in the game.
“We can’t be in all places at once, but we can run programs that establish the connection a young person has with baseball,” stressed Holloway.
“When we wear our marketing hats, we are thinking when a young person plays baseball they are more likely to be a fan.”
From a fan to a potential college and pro prospect, the Jays organization plays a vital role in that journey.
“The main goal of our clinics and camps across the country is really to establish that connection with a young person in baseball and help support them falling in love with the game,” Holloway added.
“For me personally, baseball is the sport that I’ve always had a connection with, it’s tremendously fulfilling to do what we do.”
Holloway is quick to credit the cooperation and collaboration with all of the provincial branches.
“There are some really awesome people that are tremendously committed to the game of baseball in Canada.”
“It’s a big treat to get to know them and try to understand their perspective and where they come from. Spending time with those people, like Matt Clark here in New Brunswick make us better and make us sensitive to the things that effect baseball across the country, not only in Toronto or Ontario, that’s what we cherish most when we come out to events like this here in Moncton.”
The Toronto Blue Jays organization and its Baseball Academy is creating a movement and building a legacy within the game.
The next generation of young Canadian ball players will undoubtedly look back on their time in T12 as being a stepping-stone to fulfil their childhood dreams.
After hours of travel, the sounds and smells of the ballpark are a welcomed sight.
From the smallest of communities to the largest cities each park is unique, but they all feel like a home away from home for Adam Arnold.
The Kamloops, British Columbia product continues to travel across the country in search of the next great young Canadian ball player.
The next great young Canadian Blue Jay.
From park to park, the job of a scout never ends.
Chances are you might not see the quiet former pitcher in his element, but don’t worry he’s there.
Game after game, the process never ends, but Adam Arnold wouldn’t change it for the world.
“We are evaluating the same thing, we would anytime you go to the park,” Arnold said of the T12 Atlantic Tournament.
“We’re looking for the five-tool player.”
The five-tool athlete that Arnold refers to can do it all.
Run, hit, hit for power, possess great arm strength and can play defence, a rare combination, but one all the scouts are looking for.
“Getting an opportunity to see these guys in a showcase and game setting compliments each other very well,” said Arnold of the weekend.
In the quiet moments, between innings you can see the Jays Scout looking over his notes in small hand sized ringed notebook.
Every aspect of the player’s skill set meticulously outlined, Arnold is very good at the craft.
You don’t have to spend too much time with him to realize how passionate he is, how much he loves the game and the role in which the game plays in his life.
Adam Arnold is the quintessential baseball scout.
The former pitcher is quick to credit the impact that T12 has had on the game especially here in the Maritimes.
“Absolutely, it’s had an impact,” admitted Arnold.
“It plays a role doing what we can getting players from coast to coast the exposure and attention. It’s also a chance to build the game and understand that you are an Atlantic kid, you get a chance to get your looks, a chance to play at the Rogers Centre if everything works out,” confessed the Blue Jays Canadian Scout.
An opportunity that’s all some young players from this region may need to fulfill their baseball dreams.
“The most interesting aspect of this is that a lot of Atlantic kids are going out to different teams across the country and they come back and play with their provinces, I think that’s something that the T12 has assisted with,” explained Arnold.
So how realistic is it for players from this region to make it to the collegiate level and beyond?
“A lot of guys are interested in going to different programs and developing and trying to pursue a chance to play at the next level.”
“I think if you are playing the game at this level and you have aspirations of continuing to play, then college is that next step,” explained Arnold who played in the Brewers organization.
The exposure and development that T12 delivers could be the turning point in a players career path.
“That can come in different levels within college baseball. If it’s junior college, Division I or II, III or the NAI loop, guys progress, they develop and get a chance,” said Arnold.
For Arnold it’s all about growth, development and projecting young players.
“I think the actions and athleticism definitely help play a role in saying that this guy athletic, he’s got good action, everything works, but maybe he’s lacking some strength.”
“I think in some cases you are going to have to double project, especially with some of these Atlantic kids, because the reps are pretty slim at this point.”
“You hope an extra hundred reps turns the corner or strengthens the tiniest little bit to keep progressing,” admitted Arnold.
So is the Atlantic Canada behind the rest of the country when it comes to producing quality baseball players?
“I wouldn’t say that Atlantic Canada is behind, it just becomes the opportunity to get outside, progress indoors over the winter,” confessed Arnold.
Arnold is quick to point out NB’s own Matt Clark and his efforts to grow and develop players throughout the winter months.
“Matt has done a great job of creating opportunity to try to develop players and I think that’s an important piece for some of the provinces and guys that are maybe unable to get out earlier to get those reps indoors.”
The question remains in this region is the problem with multisport athletes or are guys not specializing early enough when it comes to the game of baseball?
“Personally, I like two way types of athletes,” stressed Arnold.
“I like guys that are involved in different sports, it wires you differently, whether that’s on the athletic side or the ability to compete through different circumstances.”
“I think at a certain age, if you have a chance to become a college athlete, there’s going to have to be some give or take where you prioritize maybe that extra day and that’s got to happen more heading into your senior year,” explained Arnold.
So what direction does the former pitcher see the game of baseball going in the country and what role does the Blue Jays scouting staff and organization play in that?
“I think a lot of the success and the excitement that the club is going through right now with bringing up some of these younger prospects, is in the same sort of scenario that we were when we were making that playoff run.”
“You have to take that excitement of the hometown club and you have to run with,” Arnold said.
“I hope these kids are watching Vladimir Guerrero Jr. go to plate, waiting for him take a pass at a ball, I think that’s the excitement that these guys want to get in the box in their local games and have that same sort of aggressive hack to try to impact the baseball.”
“Each year we continue to see more players at T12 tryouts, we get to see some guys that kind of crawl out of no where sometimes, but overall across the country I feel the game continues to go in the right direction.”
From T12 to the “bigs” Adam Arnold and the entire Blue Jays scouting staff and organization can take pride in the fact that they are impacting baseball dreams across the country one park at a time.