Talented Ianni coming into his own


* RHP Matt Ianni, who has spent time on Canada’s Junior National Team, has also become a leader on the field. The 17-year-old competed at Tournament 12 last week for the Ontario Black squad. (Photo: Nick Ashbourne). ….

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Full Tournament 12 coverage

By Craig Hagerman 

TORONTO- It’s hard not to notice pitcher Matt Ianni.

The 17-year-old, who stands six-foot-eight on the mound, towered over most of his opponents and teammates at Tournament 12 last week at Rogers Centre.

“With Matt, obviously his size, just to have that is something you can’t teach,” said Tanner Watson, Ianni’s junior coach with the Ottawa Nepean Canadians. “It gives him a great opportunity, and the leverage that he’s able to generate (gives him an advantage).”

Ianni was a multi-sport athlete growing up, earning his black belt in karate as well as playing hockey, basketball, and football where he was even named the Offensive Lineman of the Year twice in 2009 and 2010 while playing for the Nepean Redskins.

“I had a good arm playing football,” said Ianni. “I was a lineman, but I like to throw the ball a lot so baseball was the thing for me.”

Tournament 12 is a great opportunity not just for the players, but also for the many scouts in attendance, and Ianni admits that having a lot of scouts from various colleges and organizations in attendance can be a little nerve-racking.

“Oh yeah, definitely (I get nervous), but you get used to it after a while,” the pitcher said. “It’s a showcase tournament in front of a lot of scouts and it’s nice to be (among) some of the best Canadian talent in the country.”

Watson understands the pressures the players face when they hit the field in front of such influential spectators, but he suggests that the nerves are something the players should feel in an event like Tournament 12.

“The hardest thing is sometimes they are always going to be a little bit nervous or anxious to do it, but they just need to understand that that’s part of the process,” Watson said. “They’re not supposed to feel completely relaxed, and its natural to feel like that.”

Ianni is no stranger to having the pressure on him, as the right-handed pitcher represented Canada on the Junior National Team last year. It was an honour he was thrilled to experience.

“It was all great, playing against the Cuban Nationals was definitely one of my favourite moments,” said Ianni.

Watson also believes the time with the National team also helped Ianni to improve on his breaking ball and his fastball.

“His fastball right now is his best pitch, having that and the amount of time he’s had to grow and mature into it and get used to it,” Watson said. “His breaking ball has gotten better in the last year being with the National team and getting to work there.”

Ianni consistently hits 86-87 mph on the radar gun, but he’s also clocked in at 92 mph.

But besides bringing the heat, Ianni has become a leader to his teammates. Watson feels that not all players can take on that kind of role so easily.

“I think it’s something that’s hard at that age, they aren’t used to it, they just want to be another player, but they realize they have to be a leader in that way too and work hard,” Watson said. “They realize they have to be a leader in that way too and work hard and Matt as a teammate is great.”

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