Letters of Intent
By Melissa Couto
No one would have blamed Darren Shred for sitting out Tournament 12 last year.
A week before Canada’s top college- and draft-eligible players arrived at Toronto’s Rogers Centre for the inaugural showcase tournament, Shred’s 25-year-old sister Kara unexpectedly died in her sleep of what his family was told was likely an undetected congenital heart problem.
Shred, 16 at the time, said he contemplated giving up his roster spot on the Ontario Green team for the four-day event — for a brief moment anyway.
“My first instinct was to not go but then I started to think about it and there is nothing Kara would have wanted more than for me to play at Rogers Centre,” said the catcher/right-handed pitcher. “So once I thought about it that way there was no doubt in my mind I was going to go there and play my heart out for her.”
Sporting a dog tag with Kara’s initials on them, Shred batted .286 with two hits, two RBIs, two runs scored and three stolen bases through two games of the tournament.
His performance led to some valuable exposure as multiple scouts called the then Grade 11 student after the showcase, and it also earned him a spot on Canada’s junior national team.
The fact that Shred — heavy heart and all — was able to play so well at the tournament wasn’t lost on those around him.
“I’m not sure what the word is for a teenager who goes through that and still competes the way he did,” said former national team catcher Chris Robinson, who is helping coach Shred and his Ontario Green teammates at this year’s T12. “Respect is an understatement.”
Over the past 11 months, Shred has made a name for himself on Greg Hamilton‘s junior team, travelling to Tampa Bay, Houston, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and most recently, Mexico, to compete in a qualifying tournament for the 2015 IBAF 18U World Cup in Japan.
The Brampton, Ont., native, who also plays for the Ontario Blue Jays, credits Tournament 12 for changing the trajectory of what otherwise could have been a bleak and difficult year.
“It was a great experience,” Shred said. “Firstly just finding out that you made the team and knowing you’re going to be playing at Rogers Centre is exciting enough, but then you get there and you see all the scouts in the stands … I made the Canadian junior team because Greg (Hamilton) was there watching, so it benefited me a lot.”
This year’s T12 will be a difficult one for Shred and his family as the event overlaps with the anniversary of Kara’s death.
Though the St. Roch Catholic high school senior admits he’ll be thinking of his sister constantly, he says he’ll be using her memory as inspiration.
“The way I see it, it’s like remembering her and putting it all on the field for her,” Shred said. “It’s going to be a big motivation for me, just knowing that she’s watching over me all the time.
“For all my big tournaments, she would always come watch me play — she was one of my biggest fans. So I’m just going to play it out and try to make her proud.”
– Follow Melissa Couto on Twitter @throwinsmoke