Letters of Intent
By Alexis Brudnicki
Visiting the big city to have dinner with his mom and dad before heading back for his sophomore year at Stanford University, Cal Quantrill was offered plenty of opportunities to talk about himself and his accomplishments.
The 19-year-old right-hander was stopped by scouts, coaches, Toronto Blue Jays alumni and other friends of the family as he walked down the steps at Rogers Centre with his mother Alison, en route to seeing his father and veteran big-league pitcher Paul, during the first day of the second-annual Tournament 12.
Though he brushed off his latest achievements as best he could – including being named the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American, a Perfect Game Freshman All-American, All-Pac-12, and being named to the Bloomington Regional All-Tournament Team before he was ranked the top prospect in the Coastal Plains League – Cal did take the time to talk about the Cardinal’s season before the trio of Quantrills could head off to dinner on Tuesday night.
“Awards in college ball are weird because you play so few games compared to pro ball that a couple bad games in a row and you’re out of the running,” the young Quantrill said. “I was happy because it meant I was consistent throughout the season.
“They were an honour but it would have been even cooler if it was along with a championship. Accolades are cool to think about during the off-season, but during the season it would have been better if we would have won it all. We were close, so I can’t complain.”
Stanford made it to the super regional round of the College World Series as a complete underdog, far surpassing expectations, and were eliminated by Vanderbilt, the tournament’s eventual champion. Though at the time the loss was difficult to accept, Quantrill has a better perspective now on just how much his team accomplished.
“It’s funny, it’s hard to say that it was a good season when you didn’t win it all,” the young righty said. “But anyone who followed us would understand the position we were in and to get where we got, that’s when you realize how strong we really were.
“We were four or five games under .500 at one point, almost halfway through the season. Then to end up going to a super regional against the eventual champions – there’s literally nothing I can complain about looking back, but nothing makes you happy but winning it all.
“With all of our guys who have done well in the off-season…our shortstop and one of my best friends Tommy Edman was ranked fifth in the [New England Collegiate Baseball League] and another friend Marcus Brakeman ranked sixth in the Cape Cod [League], we’ve got some guys coming back and we’ll have a lot of experience. Hopefully next year will go even better.”
Oh yeah, and some rookie Canuck hurler was named the top prospect in his college summer league, too.
“I wasn’t there long,” Quantrill said after being prompted to answer to his top ranking in the Coastal Plains League. “But it was fun while I was there.”
All in all, outside of the end-of-the-season loss, the whole year was a fun experience for Quantrill, and he and the rest of a young Stanford squad made a statement in a big way.
“We showed that you can be a freshman and make a big difference on a team,” he said. “Look at the last two months of our season, the biggest difference-makers – and we had our guys like Alex Blandino and [Austin] Slater – but a huge difference-maker, especially in our pitching staff, was how many freshmen we had pitching. We proved that experience can help but you can make it with young talent, and that will be nothing but positives for us as we move forward.
“I also think we proved the game changes so fast at the college level. When you go on a five or six-game win streak in college it’s like a 15 or 20-game win streak at the pro level because five or six games in a 65-game season is huge. We proved you can be fourth or fifth place in the Pac-12 [conference] going into the last couple weeks and really make a serious run. We showed how really close all the teams are, the Pac-12, the SEC, it’s really close in the level of competition.”
Setting the bar incredibly high for himself, Quantrill indicated that he would only ever be satisfied “if we had the perfect season,” but the Cardinal starter is looking forward to building on what he was able to do in his first college season, posting a 2.68 ERA over 17 starts and 110 2/3 innings.
“Everyone’s seen me once now, so in order to repeat or do better than what I did last year I truly have to be a better pitcher,” the native of Port Hope, Ont. said. “So if I’m able to repeat what I did this past year and improve on a couple of things, my slider in particular, I don’t see how we couldn’t have a better year…I think I could easily repeat what I did last year as long as we work on the things I’ve continued to work on through the summer.”
As the school year approaches for Quantrill, his sophomore season awaiting him in California, he is looking forward to the newfound attitude that he believes will be found around the Cardinal clubhouse.
“If I had to pick one thing that I’m most excited for, it’s the level of confidence,” Quantrill said. “We know what we’re into. We played the eventual national champions six times in the season and we’ve done everything now.
“I know how classes work, I know how workouts work, and the schedule, and how to manage my time. I know how to do that and I’m sure all the rest of the players who were freshmen last year know how to do that. I don’t think you could be any more prepared than we are going into this upcoming season.”
Classes are one thing for all those pursuing post-secondary educations. But Management Science and Engineering classes at Stanford are another. Not to mention a school year that starts and finishes later than most, landing exams right in the middle of the road to Omaha.
“Exams are always impossible, whether you take them during regionals or not,” Quantrill said. “The hardest part is keeping on top of things throughout the season. If you can do that, taking an exam at super regionals isn’t the end of the world. If you let things slip and slide, then you’re fighting it.
“I learned my lesson – and I was ready for physics, don’t get me wrong – but I could have been more prepared for physics. You live and learn. College is a whole new beast. High school was hard at times, but college is off the charts.”
Not only is obtaining a degree from Stanford a tough task – surprise – but Quantrill is fast-tracking his education so that if he should get an opportunity to be drafted for a second time out of his junior year at Stanford, it won’t take long for him to complete it.
“We’re on a quarter system, not a semester system, which allows me to take a few more classes per year,” he said. “And I went really hard this first year. I took pretty much the maximum number of units you could take every quarter, which put me ahead of the game.
“And I went to a unique school in Port Hope that offered AP classes, the American equivalent of university classes, so I was already ahead going into the game. Being able to graduate in three years might be a stretch, but I’ll be really close.”
So why, might one ask, would anyone want to add extra work to a plate already heaping with responsibility?
“No matter how dedicated you are to school or how motivated you think you’ll be, it’s different once you’re playing baseball or continuing your life in any way,” the teenager said. “Going back to school at 25 to finish a year may be more difficult than going to school at 18 to go for four. There’s value in being ahead, and our coach puts a lot of pressure on us to be ahead so it makes sense in a lot of ways.”
Oh, it makes sense. Well, in that case.
Another thing that could make sense in the not-so-distant future is for Quantrill to perhaps get a chance on Team Canada again, after finishing his Junior National Team tour last summer. Some of the country’s younger players might get an early chance at joining the senior squad for the first time at next year’s Pan Am Games, with a number of restrictions limiting professional and veteran players.
“I wouldn’t have guessed that I could even have been in that conversation,” Quantrill said. “But when you start thinking about it, Canadians have so much success and some of our best Canadians are on so many 40-man rosters, I can see how it could happen. It’s almost a tribute to how well our other players have done that I would even be in the conversation.”
If and when the chance ever does come up, Quantrill is unlikely to hesitate.
“Anytime you get an opportunity to represent Canada it’s maybe the best thing you can do in your life,” Quantrill said. “Honestly, playing for Stanford in the super regionals was huge, but playing for Greg Hamilton and Team Canada is easily as big as that.
“So any opportunity that I might be capable one day of having to play on some team like that would be a blessing and I would love to do it…If an opportunity like that ever came around, there’s no question in my mind I would be interested in doing it.”
Taking in a little bit of Tournament 12 on Tuesday, Quantrill was just as excited to see the opportunities that the second-annual event is giving other young players from north of the border as well, and is looking forward to the direction baseball in the country is heading.
“This is really cool,” he said. “I don’t know a ton about it and I don’t know all the guys here, but it’s a unique experience. I got to play in the Canada Cup in my year and it was a ton of fun, but this is almost cooler, especially for kids not from Ontario.
“Obviously I’ve had a unique opportunity and I’ve played here before but if you’re a kid from Quebec or British Columbia, when would your opportunity be to play in Rogers Centre? It’s amazing. This many great Canadian players in one place, and Rogers Centre being that place, I don’t see how it could get much better. This is pretty cool.”
– Follow Alexis Brudnicki on Twitter @baseballexis