By Adam Morissette
OTTAWA – Baseball Canada has decided on the 30 players that will take part in the Junior National Team’s spring training/alumni week camp in St. Petersburg, Fla. from March 12-22.
The team will play an 11-game exhibition schedule against spring training clubs from the Philadelphia Phillies, Baltimore Orioles, Atlanta Braves, Detroit Tigers, Pittsburgh Pirates, New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays.
Two games are scheduled against a touring Puerto Rican squad featuring some of the top draft-eligible players the island has to offer, while one contest is scheduled against Clearwater Christian College.
The highlight of the week will come on March 15 when the team will travel to Florida Auto Exchange Stadium in Dunedin to take on a split-squad version of the Toronto Blue Jays including players from the big-league roster. This is the fourth time in five years that the two sides have come together for an exhibition game.
“The relationship with the Toronto Blue Jays is tremendously important to Baseball Canada,” said Junior National Team coach and director of National Teams Greg Hamilton. “The Blue Jays have been great supporters of our National Teams program for a long time, so the chance for both organizations to play this game is truly something special.”
With the exception of the game in Dunedin on March 15 and the game against the Tampa Bay Rays on March 22, that will take place at Tropicana Field, all other games and practices will be held at the Walter Fuller Complex in St. Petersburg.
Hamilton leads the coaching staff, while 2014 coaches Chris Reitsma and Shawn Bowman return to the staff. Three Junior National Team graduates join the staff as guest coaches in TJ Burton,John Picco and Chris Robinson. Finally, Baseball Hall of Famer and two-time World Series champion Roberto Alomar will be a guest coach for the second consecutive year.
“I am looking forward to working with some of Canada’s top 18 and under players in St. Petersburg,” said Alomar. “Through events like the Honda Super Camps and Tournament 12 I have been able to see the great talent that exists in Canada today which is exciting for the future of baseball in this country.”
_ Five players named to the roster (JF Garon, Josh Naylor, Demi Orimoloye, Darren Shred and Mike Soroka) were part of the 2014 Junior National Team that won a bronze medal at the 2014 COPABE 18U Pan American Championship in La Paz, Mex.
_ 28 of the 30 players named to the roster participated in the Fall Instructional League Camp held last October in Orlando.
_ Two players named to the roster will be participating with the Junior National Team program for the first time – LHP Matthew Jones (Whitby, Ont.) and LHP Niall Windeler (Toronto, Ont), both from the Toronto Mets.
The spring training Camp in St. Petersburg is the first of four camps that will help select the final 20-player roster that will compete in the WBSC U18 World Cup at historic Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya, Japan from Aug. 28-Sept. 6.