Letters of Intent
By Melissa Couto
J.J. Oram is hoping for a better performance from himself at the second annual Tournament 12.
For the Summerside, P.E.I., native, that means playing in more than one game this time around.
Last September at the inaugural T12 showcase in Toronto, Oram broke the ring finger on his right hand while playing catch before the Maritimes team’s second game.
Oram, who had been slated as the squad’s starting second baseman, had to watch from the dugout as his underdog teammates advanced to the semifinal and final before beating a strong Quebec team for the tournament championship.
“Not being able to play was definitely hard on me,” Oram said from his home in P.E.I. “The team did really well, so it was definitely a pleasure to be there either way, but I would have loved to have been more of a part of it.
“I was trying to battle through (the injury). I was swinging in my hotel room just to see if I could, but it was my bottom hand on the bat so it was just too tough.”
Oram went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in his limited experience at last September’s event.
After spending his Grade 11 year at the Vauxhall Academy of Baseball in Vauxhall, Alta., the 17-year-old is grateful to have another shot at impressing the big league and college scouts who will be taking in T12 games at Rogers Centre.
“It means a lot,” said Oram, who’s back in P.E.I. for his senior year of high school. “This is really big for me. This will basically be my scouting debut because I didn’t really get a chance last year to get noticed by college or university teams.”
Oram has seen firsthand what a good performance at Tournament 12 can do for a young player.
Saint John, N.B., native Andrew Case, one of Oram’s teammates on the Maritimes squad last year, signed with the Toronto Blue Jays after throwing a no-hitter in the tournament’s semifinal game.
In his first professional season, the 21-year-old right-hander pitched primarily in relief for the low-A Vancouver Canadians, going 0-1 with a 2.45 earned-run average through 44 innings.
While Tournament 12 certainly helped Case, Oram is hoping it can do the same for him and others from the Maritimes who don’t necessarily have many chances to wow professional scouts.
“There’s barely any exposure when you’re out here …” Oram said. “If you want to go anywhere or do anything, you have to get off the Island and expose yourself. You’ve got to get yourself on the junior team, go to bigger tournaments and it’s definitely harder to do that here.
“Even the drive to want to play baseball is a lot harder because the competition isn’t that great out here. You really have to push yourself.”
Oram’s former coach at Vauxhall, Les McTavish, echoed that sentiment.
“T12 has quickly become one of the most important baseball events in Canada,” said McTavish, who is on the coaching staff for the Alberta team at this year’s showcase. “It adds additional exposure to the top players in the country, but for the smaller provinces such as the Maritimes, it’s a huge opportunity.”
Oram says he’s looking forward to getting back on the field against Canada’s best young stars. But he’s also excited to see what the defending champions can do.
“We had a lot of older guys last year but regardless, it’s always a surprise to people when teams from the Maritimes do so well in big tournaments,” Oram said.
“We’re up-and-coming (talent-wise), absolutely. Hopefully we can put on a great show again.”
– Follow Melissa Couto on Twitter @throwinsmoke