Playing in the B.C. Premier Baseball League, Langley Blaze position players Mitchell Robinson and Luke Horanski, as well as Abbotsford Cardinals pitcher Liam Kano-McGregor know a thing or two about playing under pressure.
They do, after all, compete in the BCPBL, which offers the highest level of U18 baseball in the province; a league that has produced notable pros Brett Lawrie, Justin Morneau, Ryan Dempster, Adam Loewen, and Jeff Francis.
But from Sept. 20-24, all three will be under a microscope of epic proportions in Canada’s largest city.
Kano-McGregor, Robinson, and Horanski have been chosen to play on the lone B.C. team taking part in Tournament 12, a four-day competition that highlights the best Canadian baseball players with college eligibility.
Ten teams will represent the Canadian provinces: three from Ontario, two from Quebec, and one each from B.C., Alberta, and Atlantic Canada, as well as a combined team from Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and a futures team made up of players from all provinces.
Each team will play at least four games at Toronto’s Rogers Centre, with the tourney champion being crowned Tuesday, Sept. 24.
This tournament is designed to showcase Canadian baseball talent to professional scouts and to schools across North America.
Scouts from 19 NCAA schools will take in the action.
The Langley contingent is bracing for one pressure-cooker of a tournament.
“I think it will make or break my career,” Kano-McGregor said. “[There’ll be] a lot of exposure out there.”
Robinson hopes to show the scouts what he’s got to offer.
“Just having the opportunity to play in front of those many scouts and having all the best players in one spot, I think that’s going to draw a lot of scouts in,” he said. “The opportunity to play in front of [them] is just the opportunity I’ve been looking for. I guess what the appeal was to everybody was having all of the scouts there, kind of thing.”
Horanski realizes his fate is in his own hands.
“There’s going to be a lot of scouts there, for sure. There is going to be a lot of people watching at all times,” he said. “You just have to keep your game up.”
All players were selected by the Blue Jays Baseball Academy with assistance from the Blue Jays Scouting Department, Baseball Canada, and the Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau.
The Langley players, all in their Grade 12 year, will join the other prospects for a workout day tomorrow (Sept. 20) at Rogers Centre.
All three played in the BCPBL this past spring and summer.
In 44 regular season games, Robinson, a 6’3” 200 lb. third baseman/catcher, hit .369 with 33 RBIs and 34 runs scored.
He also made three playoff appearances with Langley and earlier in the season took to the pitcher’s mound, allowing three hits in 5.2 innings of work during a 9-0 win over the Whalley Chiefs on April 25.
A 6’1” 190 lb. catcher, Horanski averaged .370 at the plate in 40 games, with one home run, 30 RBIs, and 37 runs scored. He, too, played in three playoff games with the Blaze.
Horanski uses Lawrie, a third baseman and Blaze alumnus who has gone on to become one of the faces of the Toronto Blue Jays franchise, as a template.
“He’s a real inspiration, especially coming from Langley and playing for the Blaze,” he said, during the Blaze’s fall ball team practice Tuesday at McLeod Athletic Park. “He’s been right here, he’s been right in our shoes. It’s a big inspiration.”
Kano-McGregor, whose pitching arsenal includes a fastball, curveball, change-up, and slider, had a somewhat frustrating season that saw him spend three-quarters of it sidelined with a rotator cuff injury.
He made just one start, a 4-1 win over the Coquitlam Reds on July 21. He pitched six solid innings, allowing five hits and one earned run.
Overall, he was limited to 16.8 innings on the mound, recording a 1.50 ERA. Kano-McGregor was charged with a loss, when the Cards fell 10-9 to the North Shore Twins on June 25.
Further down the road, Kano-McGregor’s No. 1 priority is securing a scholarship.
“Education is the goal,” he said. “[Getting drafted to an MLB team] is a bonus.”
Robinson mirrored Kano-McGregor’s thoughts.
“First thing's first, getting a scholarship,” he said. “Having that opportunity to get it paid for from baseball is just perfect, right? Getting drafted is the ultimate goal either before school or, like, three years down the road. I think everybody’s dream is playing big league baseball and this [tournament] is the first step in getting there.”
Looking ahead to Tournament 12, Robinson said Ontario could be the team to beat.
“They’ve got a big roster. I think lots of the guys we didn’t get to see at the Canada Cup will be down there,” he said. “There’ll be lots of national team guys. All the best talent will be down there. It’s going to be tight.”
Kano-McGregor figures he’ll make one appearance for Team BC and knows what’s at stake.
“It’s all our nothing,” he said. “Just give it all you’ve got.”
@ Copyright 2013