* Cooper Lamb, at 16, is already a commanding presence at third base, and the Ontario Blue Jay enjoyed an impressive season — both at the plate and in the field — this summer, earning an invitation to Tournament 12 in the process. (Photo: Jacob Hall).
By Jacob Hall
TORONTO – From across the diamond, Cooper Lamb already looks like a professional baseball player.
The 6-foot-3, 215-pound third baseman, who was listed an inch shorter and 35 pounds lighter this spring according to ontariobluejays.com, can hit for average, power, and make tough plays from the hot corner.
But more than just his work ethic on the field, Lamb’s ability to adapt to the grind of the Ontario Blue Jays’ schedule, the quality of the competition, and having to find the balance between school and baseball, are showing that he has mental game too.
“It kind of feels like a minor league experience,” said Lamb of playing with the Ontario Blue Jays White 18U team coached by Dan Bleiwas. “We are in a different hotel every night, bsses after every game to a new city, it’s pretty crazy. It gets tough, but it’s all worth it.”
Not bad for a 16-year-old.
Making the team is a significant accomplishment for the Burlington, Ont. native, who won the AABC Mickey Mantle World Series with the OBJ 16U team last year.
The young prospect, playing this week with Ontario Black at Tournament 12, continued to rake at the 16U level, batting .400 with eight runs and seven RBI over seven games this past spring, and will be looking to continue his development over the coming months with the more senior club.
“We just got into fall ball,” said Lamb, who attends Robert Bateman High School when he’s not traveling with the team. “We had our first trip and played a bunch of universities, Michigan State, Central Michigan, Northern Illinois.”
Lamb was also selected earlier this summer to participate in the second annual Tournament 12 showcase at the Rogers Centre.
The event brings together the top young players with college eligibility from across Canada to undergo a workout day with training and drills, followed by four days of competitive baseball under the watchful eyes of professional and collegiate scouts.
Asked about his play on the diamond, Lamb’s response was polite and humble, and he was quick to point to the success and leadership of other teammates. Eventually, he conceded a small smile. “I know I had a good year this year. My swing, the power, everything kind of came together for me.”
The overall development is a sentiment echoed by Lamb’s Ontario Blue Jay teammate and catcher Tony Hrynkiw. The two have been playing together in fall ball for the past two seasons.
“From the first year I played with him he had a lot of rough spots just like anyone else, but over the course of the year he turned out to become a fantastic ballplayer,” said Hrynkiw. “He plays hard and isn’t afraid to take one off the chest. Cooper Lamb is a great third baseman.”
The success, and the prospect of playing in Junior College or going somewhere in the MLB draft next year, motivates Lamb to continue finding areas in his game that he can develop and improve.
“I’d like to work on my hands a bit more,” said the youngster. “I feel like I could get better with ground balls and stuff like that, but overall I feel comfortable with my game right now.”
Not surprisingly, the young third baseman models his game after another confident, exciting infielder currently playing for the Baltimore Orioles, but he’s quick to note that a role model’s character and integrity is equally important.
As for representing Ontario Black at Tournament 12, Lamb is excited to be taking the field at the same ballpark he grew up watching his childhood heroes play on.
“It’s amazing, playing at Rogers Centre. It’s like a dream come true,” he said with a smile. “Honestly, I can’t say how amazing it is.”