C’s Chat – Reilly Johnson

Vancouver Canadians Reilly Johnson

Reilly Johnson drew a walk in nearly 10 percent of his plate appearances with Vancouver in 2018.


This episode of C’s Chat is with 2018 Vancouver Canadians catcher, infielder and outfielder Reilly Johnson.

The native of Lake Wales, Florida was able to cross the Canadian border in 2018 thanks in part to Toronto Blue Jays catching legend Pat Borders. The 1992 World Series MVP coached Johnson at Winter Haven High School where he  batted .389 with 20 runs batted in during the 2015 season. Johnson only made two errors behind the plate to help the Winter Haven Blue Devils reach the Class 6A state final.

Borders praised his young protege by calling attention to his “high-end personality” as well as his quick release to second base and his running ability for a catcher.

Johnson also had plenty of good things to say about his former coach .

“Playing for Pat was good. It was great. He’s a great mentor and a great coach and he really knows the mental side of baseball. Just the smaller things that he helped me pick up with catching and just like calling the game and the sequencing and stuff like that, he really helped me along at such a young age. I think it kind of transformed the way I looked and thought about catching.

He helped me out a lot not only with catching (but) with everything else in baseball, he was really good with. He was a great high school coach and he had some other things going on and now he’s with the Phillies (as manager of the Class-A Williamsport Crosscutters). He’s where he belongs. He deserves to manage again at a high level because he’s got a high-level mindset for the game and he’s doing that now. I was blessed to have him for the three or fours years that I had him in high school. I think that’s he’s doing a great job with the Phillies.

We still keep in contact every now and then. I haven’t seen him in a while but I’m sure I’ll see him when I get back home.”

Having a major-league caliber coach at the helm was something Johnson and his teammates appreciated.

“We always knew that Pat was a great big league player. He played long before I was born and up until I was a small kid. We all knew he had a lot of information to give to us as young high school kids. We appreciated that as a team. We all kind of respected Pat at a different level than you would another coach because he had been there, he had done that. He has World Series rings, he’s a World Series MVP. You have to respect that to a certain level and we definitely did.”

Junior College

Johnson would go on to junior college with the State College of Florida Manatees and wore Borders’ #10 in his first season on campus. He batted .295 in 2016 before boosting that mark to .343 in 2017. He won NJCAA Region 8 Baseball Player of the Week in late March of 2017 when he batted .533 and reached base in nine straight plate appearances before adding a sacrifice fly.

Johnson also excelled off the diamond as he was named to the Florida College System Activities Association’s All-Academic Team for 2016-17.

MLB Draft

Johnson would hear his name called by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2017 Major League Baseball draft where he was selected in the 30th round. He said he was surprised to get the call.

“I was actually by myself at home. I honestly didn’t think much about the draft at first. I found out (when) I was watching the tracker on my computer. I got a call from my scout who said they’d try to take me in the 30th round and I started watching the tracker. Sure enough, they did take me in the 30th round and I was kind of in shock.

I was by myself at home. My parents (Ernie and Tara) were at work and my sisters (Madison and Emily) were out doing stuff. It was just a surreal feeling. It’s something I never thought would happen for me but I think if you believe in yourself enough, I think that anything could come true.

It was a surreal feeling for me. My family and I went to dinner that night and celebrated. It was a good moment from my entire family and we celebrated accordingly.”

Bluefield

The first stop in Johnson’s pro career was Bluefield, West Virginia.

“Bluefield was a great learning experience for me. I played under the legendary Dennis Holmberg. He’s a great guy to have your first season with. His son (Kenny Holmberg) is actually the manager of the Spokane team. Great guy, great coaching staff in Bluefield. He really helped me a lot with getting things eased into pro ball at a good pace.

I learned a lot in Bluefield and it really put pro ball into perspective for me.It was a great season for me just to have as an experience. I didn’t have the best year but I definitely learned a lot of things in Bluefield.”

Vancouver Canadians Reilly Johnson

Reilly Johnson has seen time at four different positions in his two-year professional career.


Playing The Field

Though Johnson batted .232 with Bluefield, he showed a good eye at the plate with an on-base percentage of .333 in his 97 plate appearances. He made one start at third base but he saw the majority of his time wearing the catching gear and that’s where he likes to be.

“As I find myself playing other positions sometimes, I realize that I take great pride in always being a part of the game like as far as like every pitch is concerned. Just being a part of each pitch.

I call my own game now. Ever since I’ve been in the organization, we call our own games, all the catchers do. Just keeping my mind per se is what I like the most about catching.

When I find myself playing in left field or second base or any of the other positions I do play, I feel stagnant almost. I had to keep myself focused in other ways but when I’m catching, it just comes naturally. I stay focused a lot better behind the plate because I’m always thinking ahead and doing something, whether that would be calling pitches or thinking about the runners on base, stuff like that. Catching always had my attention in the right spot.”

The 2018 season saw Johnson play second base and left field and he sees the benefit of expanding his defensive portfolio.

“With the role that I’ve been given here on this team and on other teams, I think that being able to play other positions has gotten me some more at-bats and that’s always a good thing. I think that versatility can take you a long way in this game. There’s not much more of it anymore. Everyone’s really specialized when it comes to positions and what they’re good at but I think it’s a good tool to have.

I’ve always tried to keep that up the best I can whether it would be taking ground balls in BP (batting practice), taking fly balls in BP, stuff like that. I think it’s really key to have versatility and I think that this game has become so specialized that it’s hard to do so but then again, the guys that you do find that play the positions such as Ben Zobrist and guys like that in the big leagues, they made a career out of being versatile players and I think that’s something that I would love to do.”

Life In The Bullpen

The 2018 Canadians had four catchers vying for playing time in Chris Bec, Yorman Rodriguez and Brett Wright. Johnson says one way to stay sharp behind the plate is by catching in the bullpen.

“Everyone has a role on this team and we do have four catchers on this team so playing time for all the catchers is a little bit more limited than normal. I think that the pen is really important for catchers such as me. It’s just to see some pitches and to receive and also to get comfortable with the guys out of the pen so you’re not uncomfortable in the game with the guys that come into the game from the pen. It’s just good to stay sharp. Warming up with as many pitches as you can.

Believe it or not, the bullpen is somewhere you like to be when you’re not playing other than being in the dugout and just watching. The bullpen is important for me to stay sharp with everything, my hand-eye coordination and everything like that. The bullpen is good, contrary to popular belief.”

Vancouver Canadians Reilly Johnson

Reilly Johnson rounds third base after hitting his first professional home run at Nat Bailey Stadium during the C’s 2018 home opener.


2018 Highlights

The 2018 home opener saw the right-handed hitting Johnson collect his first professional home run at Nat Bailey Stadium when he cleared the left field fence against the Everett AquaSox June 20.

“To be completely honest with you, I don’t hit home runs so I didn’t know I got it. I knew I hit it well. I just didn’t know I had got it completely so what I did was I hit it and I just honestly kind of ran as hard as I could. When I rounded first base is when I kind of peaked up and saw it go over the fence. It was just a surreal feeling. I’ve never hit a professional home run other than that one.

It was a great place to hit it, a great environment that night. The first home game. A lot of fans in the seats and it was a great moment for me and my family. They were all excited for me as well. Those have come few and far between so I’ll enjoy that one for as long as I can until I hit my next one. It was a great place to hit it here at this stadium for sure.”

Another 2018 highlight for Johnson was earning a promotion to the Lansing Lugnuts near the end of June. He got the good news from C’s manager Dallas McPherson in an interesting way.

“I was actually in the bullpen one night here against Tri-City earlier in the year. I got called into the dugout and just talked to our manager who had been ejected earlier in the game so he was in the office back there.

I came in with all my stuff and I had no idea what was going on. I came back and he just kind of sat me down and said, ‘Reilly, you’re going to head up to Lansing.’ He told me he was proud of me. He told me to keep working hard. I was told that it was probably temporary, which was true. I wasn’t expecting to stay. I worked hard to stay. You work hard and you just do everything you’re supposed to do. It’s not up to you whether you go up and down. You can only do what you can do.”

Vancouver Canadians Reilly Johnson

Reilly Johnson had hits in seven of his first 10 games with Vancouver before being promote to Lansing in 2018.


Lansing

Even though Johnson played just 10 games with the Lugnuts, he enjoyed his time in the Midwest League.

“When I went up, I learned a lot from the coaching staff up there, the players up there. It’s a great environment up there as well. Lansing has a lot of good things going from them up there. That team is a really good team. It’s a great group of guys up there. They welcomed me in. That was something that I really appreciate.

Even coming back here. This team here even welcomed me back in. I met some new guys I hadn’t met before. There were some guys that came up while I was gone. This team has done a really good job of welcoming me back into this team and this environment so I really appreciate that as well.”

Returning To YVR

Though Johnson was sent back to Vancouver in early August, he took the move in stride thanks in large part to the atmosphere of playing at the Nat.

“The fans here are much more passionate about baseball. They welcomed us as a team. It’s just a great environment. I love playing here. I heard stories before we got here about how great it was and I never really took them (seriously) but this place is an awesome place to play baseball. It’s unreal that this is a short-season A-team. This is a big league environment. I feel like it’s a big blessing to play here and I appreciate this organization and this opportunity to play at this level. I really do think this is a great place to play.”

Vancouver Canadians Reilly Johnson

Reilly Johnson modelled a new look and uniform number (#36) in his second tour of duty with Vancouver in 2018.


Going Without The Flow

Upon returning to Vancouver, Johnson looked like a different player. Gone was his long-flowing blonde hair he had at the beginning of the season.

“It was just kind of to keep it tidy. It was getting kind of tough to catch with I will say personally. The organization had let me know it’s time to get rid of the hair. Not to cut it all off but to make it shorter. When I got to Lansing, I figured I haven’t really ever had short hair so I figured I would try it so I went ahead and did it myself and got it all cut off.

I’m still having mixed reviews on the short hair. To be honest with you, I don’t know if I like it as much as much as I like the long hair but I can always grow it back.”

Looking back on his career, the 22 year-old Johnson believes he has gained maturity as he has gotten older.

“I think when I was really young, I was much more of a high-energy guy as far as everything was concerned off the field. On the field, I’ve always been high-energy. I think as I’ve grown and gotten older, I think I’ve kind of calmed down a little bit. I think I had to. One of my biggest problems was when I was a kid in high school and in my earlier parts of college, I never slowed anything down. I was always a hundred miles an hour with everything and being behind the plate, it’s always giving me something to do.

My mind runs way too quickly sometimes and I think that as I’ve gotten older, I’ve been able to slow myself down. I think that’s been a benefit to my game. As of right now, I probably wouldn’t say I was the high-energy guy I was in high school and maybe my earlier years in college. I’ve definitely gained some other things as well along the way.”

My thanks to Reilly Johnson for this edition of C’s Chat and to C’s Media Relations Assistant Sharlene Canning for arranging the interview.

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C’s Chat – Will McAffer

Vancouver Canadians Will McAffer

Will McAffer led the Vancouver Canadians pitching staff with seven victories in 2018.


2018 Vancouver Canadians pitcher Will McAffer is the latest guest to climb the mound in this edition of C’s Chat.

The pride of North Vancouver has been places already in his young baseball career. If 2018 is any indication, McAffer will be in more places in the future.

The Sentinel Secondary School letterman did some globetrotting in 2015 that included a trip to the spring training home of his future big league employer, the Toronto Blue Jays. McAffer was in Dunedin, Florida with the Canadian Junior National Team for a spring exhibition game.

“It was great. I’ve always been a Blue Jays fan. I played in Dunedin Stadium down there when I was playing with Team Canada in high school. I was playing a game against their split-squad team there so I actually went out and threw three innings against them but we lost about 17-2 (laughs) (Editor’s Note – 17-3) but it was fun regardless.”

BC Premier Baseball League

McAffer returned home and enjoyed a banner year with the North Shore Twins of the BC Premier Baseball League. He was the co-winner of the league’s Pitcher of the Year award with his North Shore teammate Matteo Vincelli. McAffer also posted the BCPBL’s lowest earned run average at 1.36 and was named a First Team All-Star after striking out 65 batters in 51-2/3 innings and recording seven wins.

A former San Francisco Giants minor league pitcher—-who was also a draft pick of the  Toronto Blue Jays in 1999—helped McAffer develop on the mound.

“Definitely the head coachhe was my pitching coach back thenBrooks McNiven. He’s been my coach for God knows how many years, probably eight years or so. I still go back to him every off-season, go work with him. He’s the man. He shaped me as a pitcher really.

Every one in the Twins organization. My trainer Rob Williams, he helps me a ton. There’s so many people to name. You got John Haar, Parker Kynoch and Rick Elstone. So many people.”

The Cincinnati Reds would select McAffer in the 32nd round of the 2015 draft.

“It was an unreal experience. Out of high school, I wasn’t really expecting it. I was pretty set on going to school so I was picked up in the late rounds so I decided to take a pass on it.

One of the cross-checkers came to watch me after a couple of weeks after the draft. He wanted me to go play another year of high school ball because I was eligible for a 13th year. He wanted me to do that. I wasn’t really (excited) about it. I wanted to go to (college). I really didn’t want to go back to high school again so I opted out. It was just a huge honour to get picked. It’s always pretty crazy to see your name come up on the board so it’s really cool.”

McAffer got to represent Canada again at the Under-18 World Baseball Championships in Osaka, Japan. Even though he fell ill during the tournament, he was glad to participate.

“It was really fun. It was an honour. I got one start and then I caught some sort of flu. I missed my second start which was no fun and I had to watch them all from the hotel room but I wouldn’t trade that opportunity for the world. That was really great to go represent my country like that.”

Vancouver Canadians Will McAffer

Will McAffer limited Northwest League hitters to a .200 batting average in 2018.


Division 1, Summer Ball & Junior College

McAffer headed to Brookings, South Dakota to join the South Dakota State Jackrabbits in 2016. Baseball America pegged the 6-foot-2 righthander as its preseason pick for Freshman of the Year in the Summit League due to his “live arm with a fastball in the low 90s.”

Splitting time between the starting rotation and bullpen, McAffer finished an up-and-down year on an up-note. He helped South Dakota State capture a Summit League Tournament berth by picking up a save in the clinching game. McAffer also pitched six shutout innings out of the bullpen to help the Jackrabbits down Omaha in an elimination-game victory over Omaha. That helped him earn a berth on the Summit League All-Tournament team. However, McAffer decided to leave South Dakota State after his freshman season.

“It wasn’t a great fit for me. I loved the guys there but it just wasn’t that great a fit of a program so I decided to opt (out) and go to junior college and do the 4-2-4 (four-year college, two-year college, four-year college) route. You have to do that to get to another D-1 (school). I knew the coach down at Central Arizona so I (asked) him, ‘Hey, you got a spot for me?’ He said, ‘Absolutely. Come on down.'”

Before going to Coolidge, Arizona, McAffer would spend the summer of 2016 with the Victoria HarbourCats of West Coast League. He had an outstanding season in the HarbourCats rotation, winning WCL and National Pitcher of the Week honours and finishing the year with a 6-2 record with a 1.99 ERA. The first-team WCL All-Star says he had a great time pitching at Royal Athletic Park.

“I loved the HarbourCats. It was fun playing there for the summer. It kind of got you used to what pro ball is like because it’s about the exact same. Eight-hour bus drives, coming back and playing the same day. I really enjoyed my time there. I still got lots of friends that I met there that I still hang out with today so it’s really cool.

I’d say Nat Bailey has got a bit more fans, a bit better atmosphere but it’s still a really good atmosphere over there. They pull a good crowd. They get a lot of fans out to watch and really get support. They put on a good show. It was really fun to play there for sure.”

With the Central Arizona College Vaqueros in 2017, McAffer made 13 of his 16 appearances as a starter. He saw an improvement in his strikeout and walk rates while winning six of his nine decisions. The coaching staff at Central Arizona helped pave the way for McAffer to head out to New Orleans.

“The coaches there knew the coaches at Tulane so they set me up with them in the fall. I signed with them and just continued on the next year and enjoyed the year down in New Orleans. That place is great.”

Save for one start, McAffer’s 23 appearances for the Green Wave came out of the bullpen. He increased his strikeout rate to just over eight batters per nine innings but his walk rate was the same over 28-2/3 innings. There were some highlights along the way including picking up the save in Tulane’s season opener against Wright State February 16 and pitching an Immaculate Innings (nine pitches, three strikeouts) against the University of New Orleans April 3. McAffer also succeeded in the classroom as well by earning a spot on the 2017-18 American Athletic Conference All-Academic Team. He has a lot of fond memories during his time in the Big Easy.

“I loved it. It was a really good year. It didn’t end up as well as we hoped but it was a lot of fun. A lot of good guys. Great stadium and stuff there. Great atmosphere. It was really fun.”

Vancouver Canadians Will McAffer

Will McAffer picked up two holds and finished off seven games for Vancouver in 2018.

2018 MLB Draft

McAffer decided to turn pro after the Toronto Blue Jays selected him in the 25th round of the 2018 Major League Baseball draft. The last time the Jays took a pitcher out of Tulane was in 2009 when they selected lefthander Aaron Loup in the ninth round. McAffer says he was trying to keep himself busy during the draft.

“I didn’t want to look too closely and drive myself crazy but all my folks and family and friends were following it. They blew me up (on his cell phone) as soon as it happened. It was really cool, a really fun experience for sure.

I got a call from my area scout Brian Johnston about five minutes before and he just said, ‘Hey, like we got this and that. Are you in?’ I said, ‘Absolutely I’m in! Sign me up!’ Later that round, he just gave me a call and said, ‘Yeah, we picked you. I’ll get you a plane ticket for Friday.’ I was down there (in Dunedin) two days later.”

After getting a $50,000 signing bonus, things moved quickly for McAffer after being drafted.

“It was interesting, yeah. Two days after the draft, I’m already down there and doing a physical on the first day. A lot of long days getting there early in the morning and not leaving until pretty late but it was fun. I got to meet so many new faces. It’s tough to try to remember all the names. I’m starting to get them down now but I probably met 50 people that first week I was down there and then another 10, 15 up here (in Vancouver). It was definitely a learning experience but I loved every minute of it.”

Some players find the heat and humidity of Dunedin takes some getting used to but McAffer did not find that to be a huge obstacle for him.

“I’m kind of used to the weather since I was down in New Orleans just before that. That’s where I went to the school my last year. I was used to the heat. It doesn’t get much easier but at least you get used to it, 95 degrees and 100 percent humidity, it’s a little tough but it’s not too bad. You get used to it.”

Pitching Repertoire

McAffer relies mostly on two pitches, the heater and the bender. Here is how he describes his fastball which has topped out in the mid-90 miles per hour range.

“I just throw four-seam. That’s what works for me. It gets a little bit of run on it so I haven’t messed around too much with a two-seam but it could be something I could look into for sure.”

This is how McAffer broke down his mid-70’s curve.

“Just a normal curveball. More or less 12-6. It has a little bit of sweep to it but not much.”

McAffer says he has two other pitches in his arsenal.

“I got a cutter and a changeup as well. The changeup is still kind of a work in progress but mostly fastball-curveball is what I’m throwing now. I like to challenge hitters. Throw it, let them hit it and see how far they can hit it and believe my stuff is better than theirs.”

When asked to describe himself as a pitcher, McAffer says he attacks hitters with what he’s got.

“You’re going to get your fair deal of fastballs for the most part. Average velocity, throws a curveball for strikes. That’s pretty average stuff.”

McAffer says consistency is what he needs to improve on.

“I’m feeling good. I’ve just been working on some stuff. Getting more consistent out there is the biggest thing I’m working on and it seems like to be working well. I’m really happy with my progress this year.”

Vancouver Canadians Will McAffer

Will McAffer made 21 appearances out of the Vancouver Canadians bullpen in 2018.


Pitching in Vancouver

McAffer’s first pro assignment was a return home to Vancouver and he was happy to begin his career there.

“It was really an honour. When they told me I was coming up here, I told all my friends, all my family ‘I’m going to be home. Come watch games.’ Every time I pitch, my parents are here and I got a bunch of friends. My grandparents, aunts and uncles, they’re all watching so it’s super cool. I like to be able to take a train ride, 30 minutes (and I’m) home, it’s always nice.”

McAffer says he did not feel any extra pressure to perform in front of the fans at Nat Bailey Stadium.

“It’s not too bad. Most of the people who ask for tickets are longtime friends so I don’t mind. I don’t really get asked by many random people. It’s been nothing for good things being here. I loved every minute of it.”

McAffer picked up the victory in his professional debut came June 17 when he threw a shutout inning in Eugene. He pointed to the game as a personal highlight of the year.

“It’s all been a blast. It’s hard to pick one. It’s probably the first time going out there, my first pro appearance. It was a special moment for sure.”

Five scoreless outings out of six helped McAffer establish himself in the Canadians bullpen. He earned victories in back-to-back appearances against Tri-City on June 26 and Salem-Keizer June 29, pitching a career-high 3-1/3 against the Volcanoes with three strikeouts to run his record to 3-0.

The year took a downturn in mid-July when McAffer was roughed up for multi-run outings in three of his next four outings, taking a pair of losses against the Boise Hawks in Idaho. He would get back on the beam with five shutout appearances to end the year.

The 2019 season should see McAffer get his first exposure to full-season baseball with the Lansing Lugnuts.

A big thank you again to Will McAffer for taking part in C’s Chat and to C’s Media Relations Assistant Sharlene Canning for arranging the interview.

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C’s Chat – Brett Wright

Vancouver Canadians Brett Wright

Brett Wright had an isolated power mark of .213 with Vancouver in 2018.


cs_chat_new_logo2018 Vancouver Canadians catcher Brett Wright takes his turn behind the plate in this installment of C’s Chat.

The 6-foot-tall backstop hails from New Caney, Texas which is about 30 miles north of Houston where he grew up rooting for the hometown Astros. Wright played baseball and football at New Caney High School where he was a three-year letter winner on the gridiron but it was on the diamond where he shone brightest. He won All-District honours three times as well as District Newcomer of the Year in 2011 and back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year honours in 2013 and 2014. The right-handed hitting Wright also batted .429 with 20 runs batted in over 23 games during his sophomore year.

Wright says he became a catcher just before becoming a teenager and says he likes being in the middle of the action.

“I think I was about 12. I used to play shortstop and then one of the catchers got hurt. My Dad made me catch and I kind of stuck with that.

Being in every play and always having the ball in your hand, catching the ball. I can’t just sit still for so long, I got to be doing something so it keeps me in the game. I’m in every pitch and catching every ball. I can tell everybody like how (to position themselves). I just like being in every play.”

Vancouver Canadians Brett Wright

Brett Wright recorded a hit in five of his last eight starts with Vancouver in 2018.


JUCO in San Jacinto

Wright went to San Jacinto College in Pasadena, Texas in 2015 and enjoyed a solid freshman campaign in which he hit .284 with three home runs and 17 RBI. However, he wound up breaking a finger in his catching hand and that put him on the sidelines for 2016. In his 2017 return, Wright slashed .272/.420/.448 with four homers and 25 runs batted in and threw out eight of 16 basestealers who tried to run on him. That performance earned Wright his second berth on the NJCAA Region XIV All-Conference team. He helped the Gators reach the Junior College World Series in his two seasons there. One of the members of the 2017 San Jacinto coaching staff was former Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Woody Williams, a volunteer assistant coach.

Wright says his juco experience helped him grow personally and professionally.

“It was definitely a big learning experience, especially going away from home for the first time even though it wasn’t very far. To kind of live on your own and you’re in a town where there’s really not much to do so you just hang out with your teammates. You learn to really how to bond with your team and that’s really what I think helped me the most through my college and pro career. You learn how to deal and even if there’s not stuff to do, you find stuff to do with each other and kind of find some new best friends so that’s what I got from that.”

Vancouver Canadians Brett Wright

Brett Wright threw out 38 percent of the baserunners who tried to steal on him in 2018.


Eye of the Auburn Tiger

Wright would go on to Division I baseball with the Auburn Tigers in 2018. He made 59 starts behind the plate, slugging .483 with 25 extra-base hits that included 11 home runs. Wright says he was grateful to get the opportunity to play in the Southeast Conference.

“I was excited. I just saw an opportunity and just took it. They were the only team that gave me an offer so I just took it and ran with it and it got me here (to Vancouver) so I am thankful for that.”

It was fun. I got to play on TV every day and that was always my dream when I first started playing baseball. I got to catch the number one overall pick (Casey Mize) and that was another cool experience for me. I learned a lot at Auburn and what it takes to how to be a professional and it kind of got me ready for pro ball.”

Auburn advanced to a super regional round for the first time in 19 years by winning the Raleigh regional. Wright and the Tigers missed out on a College World Series berth when the Florida Gators outlasted them in the Gainesville Super Regiona with an extra-inning walk-off win. By the end of the year, Wright found himself batting in third spot in the Tigers orders.

It was during the NCAA Tournament when Wright was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 26th round of the 2018 draft. That was just two rounds after the Jays selected his 2017 San Jacinto teammate in righthander Mike Pascoe.

“I was at practice. We were getting ready for a regional. The coach took our phones and said, ‘Hey, we’ll let you know if you get drafted.’ I remember I was sitting there. I couldn’t wait. I just wanted to know so as soon as practice was over, I ran and got my phone. I went into the tunnel and saw I got drafted. I just called my parents and told them how happy I was and stuff like that.

I’m from a small town and not many people get the opportunity to play college ball or get drafted. I think really the only person was Adam Dunn (who also attended New Caney High School), he played in the major leagues, but just like having a lot of support at home, I felt like I made a lot of people proud and happy so it meant a lot to me.”

Wright says getting to catch Auburn teammate and first overall pick Casey Mize played no small part to also being drafted.

“From the first time I caught him, he was definitely the best pitcher I ever caught. It was just so easy for him. He made us all better athletes and better players definitely. All the guys that got drafted, it probably wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for him so I’m thankful for that opportunity. I just wish him the best of luck.”

Wright also credits his coaches in helping him advance in his career.

“I haven’t really had one that just stuck out. I kind of used all of my coaches. Everywhere I go, I kind of find a coach and they just kind of help me get through and we’ll talk.  I’ll reach out to old coaches I had and talk to them. I kind of just combine them all. I don’t like losing contact with some of the people I really enjoyed having and really helped me so I try to keep in contact with all those guys.”

Vancouver Canadians Brett Wright

Brett Wright committed just two errors in 17 starts behind the plate for the C’s in 2018.


Heading to the Pros

After receiving a $100,000 signing bonus, Wright made his professional debut with the Gulf Coast League Blue Jays June 23.

“It was definitely a big difference and a culture shock. Waking up at 6:00, that was all normal but playing games at noon with five fans, it was a lot different than what I was used to at Auburn. I was really excited and it didn’t really matter, I still felt like I was playing in front of 10,000 people because I was just excited to be a professional athlete and play the game some more. Yeah, it was definitely a big difference now that I sit back and think about it.”

After a two-game stint in the GCL, Wright was called up to Vancouver. He collected his first professional home run and added another hit and a walk to help the C’s knock off Salem-Keizer June 29. His second home run opened the scoring in a shutout win over the Volcanoes July 2. His third home run jump-started a Vancouver comeback against Hillsboro July 21 to keep their first-half playoff hopes alive.

Another season highlight came July 27 for Wright when he drew a pair of walks and threw out a pair of runners on the basepaths in a 5-1 win over the Eugene Emeralds. Wright admitted he had extra motivation in throwing out his second runner of the night.

“I wanted a shutout and the guy (Fernando Kelli) hit a double and so I was kind of upset about that. I kind of saw him get a little too excited over there. Being a catcher, you’re always looking for outs to help out your pitcher. I think we were behind in the count, 3-0, and I just saw an opportunity and I made an out and it was big for us.”

Wright’s throwing out of Kelli turned out to be huge for C’s teammate Tanner Kirwer as both Kelli and Kirwer finished the season as co-winners of the stolen base title in the Northwest League with 28 apiece.

Vancouver Canadians Brett Wright

Brett Wright hit the third-most home runs on the Vancouver Canadians with five in 2018.


Scouting Report

Baseball America called Wright “a dependable defender. He calls his own games, receives well and has an average arm.” When asked to provide a scouting report on himself, Wright considers himself to be a good clubhouse presence.

“Definitely a big locker room guy. Just a guy that’s going to get along with everybody and keeps it loose. Kind of a grinder, I’d say. Just a guy you’d always want to have around and you can always enjoy to be around.”

Wright says one of the early challenges upon arriving in the Blue Jays system is working with a new set of pitchers.

“It’s difficult at first because they don’t really trust you yet. You don’t really know what they do. Once you catch a guy for a while, you know like in certain counts, what he likes to do. ‘Hey, he’s probably going to throw this ball in the dirt. Be ready to block it.’ When you first catch him, you don’t know and you always got to be ready for everything.”

Wright says there are a number of areas where he has to keep improving.

“I definitely got to keep getting better everyday. I can be a little better offensively, work on my opposite field hitting game instead of just being dead-pull. Definitely learn more about the game and how to work with pitchers. That’s something that I’ve learned since I’ve been here is how to read pitchers, how to read hitters and just to think one step ahead and make the game a little slower for me.”

Wright says he has learned a lot from Blue Jays catching coordinator Ken Huckaby and C’s position coach Jose Mayorga.

“I worked with Huck when I first got here for a couple of days and now we have Jose Mayorga. He’s really helped me with my game and he’s helping all three of our catchers and making us better every day. He’s definitely teaching us a lot so I’m happy to have him.”

The 23 year-old Wright says he just wanted to soak up as much knowledge as he could in his first season in pro ball.

“I definitely just wanted to get my feet wet and just more reps of seeing like how things work. Everyday I learn more about pitch selection when I’m calling it and then reading hitters.

I mean, stats don’t really matter for me right now. I just need to get my feet wet as this is my first year of pro ball. I’m still learning a bunch of new things.”

Wright will look to get his first taste of full-season baseball in 2019 with the Lansing Lugnuts.

My thanks to Brett Wright for taking part in the latest C’s Chat and my thanks again to Media Relations Assistant Sharlene Canning in setting up the interview.

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C’s Recap – Vancouver Canadians Announce 2019 Schedule & New Broadcast Deal

Vancouver Canadians 2019 Schedule

The Vancouver Canadians will begin 2019 with a ‘Nooner at the Nat’ versus Spokane June 14.


C's RecapThe Vancouver Canadians will be seeing a lot more of the Everett AquaSox and their other North Division rivals in 2019. Next year’s schedule shows the C’s playing the Frogs a total of 18 times, an increase of six games from last year. Monty’s Mounties will also see more of the Spokane Indians and the Tri-City Dust Devils as they will square off with their divisional counterparts 15 times apiece instead of 12.

On the flip side, the C’s will see a bit less of their South Division foes. They will take on the Boise Hawks, Eugene Emeralds, Hillsboro Hops and Salem-Keizer Volcanoes just seven times apiece. As a result, the Canadians will be playing 48 games of their 76-game schedule inside their division.

The 2019 season begins June 14 as the C’s will take last year’s Northwest League finalist Spokane in a 1:05 pm start at Nat Bailey Stadium as the first of a three-game set. The 2018 NWL champion Eugene Emeralds will round out the first homestand of the season with a four-game series starting June 17.

Hillsboro will be the opponent on Canada Day to kick off July. Should the C’s find themselves in the race for the North Division first-half pennant, nine of their last 15 games will be at the friendly confines of the Nat.

The second-half of the year begins July 23 at home against Everett for another three-game showdown before the C’s embark on a 10-game road trip that will go through Spokane, Boise and Tri-City July 24-August 4. That road trip will be a bit longer for a select few of the C’s as the 2019 Northwest League/Pioneer League All-Star festivities will be held at Boise Memorial Stadium August 5-7.

Vancouver will be back home for three more games against the AquaSox beginning August 8 before hitting the road again for a six-game voyage through Eugene and Spokane August 11-16. Just like the first half, the end of the second half will feature the Canadians being home for nine of their final 15 games. The home finale is set for Friday, August 30 against Tri-City at 1:05 pm before the C’s conclude the regular season with a three-game visit to Everett August 31 to September 2.

The Northwest League best-of-three divisional finals are set for September 4-6 and the championship final is scheduled for September 7-11. Should the C’s make it to the final dance, they would host the final three games of the best-of-five final as it is the North Division’s turn to have home field advantage.

Scheduling Shift

“This seems to be the scheduling equivalent of playing the shift,” says Canadians broadcaster Rob Fai.

“I think the Northwest League sees that fans and organizations would much prefer to see divisional rivals battling for a pennant rather than have it the way it’s been for years. We would technically play more games (40) against the South Division than the North (36) which to many of us defeated the purpose of creating a division with tension and rivalry.

This helps. For those of us who like visiting some of the cities that we enjoy for a shorter period of time is tough, but the pros in my opinion will definitely outweigh the cons. if we’re going to win or lose against a North Division foe, I want to at least see that settled on the diamond and not on the out of town scoreboard.”

This should be a huge benefit to the three Oregon teams (Eugene, Salem and Hillsboro) as their travel gets even more reduced which, over our intense schedule, becomes a very noticeable advantage.

Look at the past winners over the last five years, and in four of those an Oregon team has won. They should win every year with that much of a geographical advantage. That said, we have an advantage as well with our ballpark, its fans and the environmental that opposing teams walk into.”

rob_fai_ken_huckaby.jpg

C’s play-by-play announcer Rob Fai—interviewing Toronto Blue Jays catching coordinator Ken Huckaby—will take his talents down the AM dial to Sportsnet 650 in 2019.


C’s New Radio & TV Home

The C’s also announced this week that they have signed a new broadcasting deal with Sportsnet 650 in Vancouver. That ends a longtime partnership with TSN 1040/1410 that began in 2004. In addition to all home games and some of the road games being on amplitude modulation radio with Rob Fai behind the mic, six games will be televised on Sportsnet Pacific. The C’s will enjoy TV coverage again for the first time since 2016 when Shaw TV televised Saturday home games.

Rob Fai then spoke with Mira Laurence and Aynsley Scott for Sportsnet Tonight to discuss all things Vancouver Canadians.

State Of The Nat

C’s president Andy Dunn joined Sportsnet 650’s Andrew Walker and Scott Walker on The Program to talk about the new partnership. He also spoke about how special it is to attend a game at Nat Bailey Stadium.

“I can walk around downtown and no one ever stops me and yells at me because we didn’t bunt yesterday in the seventh. They stop and want to tell me a story of they took their grandson or their grandfather, took them to the ballpark way back in the day…Nat Bailey Stadium is to Vancouver what Wrigley Field is to Chicago and what Fenway Park is to Boston. There’s that much affinity locally for this ballpark.”

Dunn also hinted there could be some changes at the stadium in the near future.

“We’re actually going through the process right now with our ‘Friends of the Park’ board and things like that. I think if we do anything, we’ll have an announcement a little bit later. We’re still working on some timing and some mechanisms but we’re working on some things right now that I think could be a tremendous addition to the ballpark. We need more seats but I never want to add too many seats. The fact that we lose the intimacy and really, what the whole feel is here at Nat Bailey Stadium.”

“When we did the left field (seat addition) a couple of years ago and we wrapped around the Hey Y’all porch. For me, when I first got here, I thought the ballpark looked incomplete, I thought it looked unfinished. Adding that I thought really gave us a finished look but I think with the next program we’re looking at, it would actually give us a look that’s a little bigger than the level we are.”

C-Tweets

cs-tweetIt’s been awhile since the last round of C-Tweets but a lot has happened over the past month including the MLB debuts of former C’s Jon Berti (2011) and Jonathan Davis (2014). There are plenty of observations about former C’s pitchers Nate Pearson (2017) and Jackson McClelland (2015-2016) and second baseman Cavan Biggio (2016) who are playing in the Arizona Fall League.

 

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C’s Chat – Nick Allgeyer

Vancouver Canadians Nick Allgeyer

Nick Allgeyer was not scored upon in 10 of his 15 outings with the C’s in 2018.


2018 Vancouver Canadians pitcher Nick Allgeyer takes his turn on the mound in this episode of C’s Chat.

The Toronto Blue Jays took the 6-foot-3, 210 pound lefthander out of the University of Iowa in round 12 of the 2018 Major League Baseball draft. Allgeyer says he was with his Dad at the time of his selection.

“I was in St. Louis. It was just me and my Dad. I was out of town. I think my sister (Liz) was at work and my brother (Jason) might have been working as well. We were sitting on the couch watching How I Met Your Mother. That’s my favourite show. We were kind of watching that. I had (the draft) on my computer. I had the picks loaded up on my computer. My Dad just screamed, ‘Hey, your name is on the board now!’ That’s how we found out.

We didn’t really get a call before anything. I got a call, probably like 15 seconds after I got picked. Then we went and played golf in the afternoon.(Laughs) After I got picked, I went and threw a little bit and just did all my daily throwing stuff and then we played golf in the afternoon.”

Allgeyer says being taken in the 12th round was in his range of expected outcomes.

“What I heard for the most part was between eight and 15 so it fit right in to where I was looking to go and where I thought I was going to go. It was a little bit of anxiety when it didn’t happen in eight to 10 on the second day but it all worked out and the rest is history.”

The 22 year-old St. Louis native says the hometown Cardinals were his favourite team but he was just glad to be drafted.

“Growing up, I was a Cardinals fan. My Dad works for FOX Sports so he does a little bit of advertising and sales with them so I’ve been to a few games.  I just wanted to play professional baseball and Toronto was the organization that picked me and I couldn’t have been happier.”

Allgeyer says it was a whirlwind from the time he was drafted to the time he reported to Florida to join the Blue Jays organization.

“I felt the first part went pretty quick, like getting shipped off to Dunedin, but it was a dream come true and it was something that was a fun quick (turnaround). I got to go down to Dunedin for a week and do that mini-camp and that was awesome and then I came up to Vancouver. This is a fantastic city and I love everything about it.”

Going to Vancouver was Allgeyer’s first time in Canada but he said he heard a lot about what life was like in the Great White North.

“I had not been to Canada but my roommate of three years in college was from Toronto. I knew about Toronto and I knew a little bit about Canada just from him but I’ve never visited. (Going to Vancouver) was my first time here.”

Vancouver Canadians Nick Allgeyer

Nick Allgeyer struck out four batters over two scoreless innings for the C’s during its 2018 home opener against Everett June 20.


Multi-Sport Athlete

Allgeyer was an All-State and Metro Conference Player of the Year during his senior year on the diamond but he was a three-sport athlete at St. John Vianney High in St. Louis. Football was definitely in his genes as his father Ken was an offensive lineman for the Iowa Hawkeyes from 1986-1990 while his uncles Dan Allgeyer (1987-1989) and Kevin Allgeyer (2002) suited up for the Central Missouri Mules.

The younger Allgeyer played on both sides of the ball on the gridiron but he said it was an easy choice to decide which sport to pursue.

“I was better at baseball than I was at football (laughs). I played a little bit of quarterback and receiver in my earlier years but my junior and senior years, I was more of a quarterback and then some safety and kick return/punt return later on in my high school years.”

Even though his hometown of St. Louis no longer has an NFL team, Allgeyer is more concerned about college football and the local NHL team.

“In football, I go with the Hawkeyes. I’m more of a hockey guy, a big (St. Louis) Blues fan.”

Vancouver Canadians Nick Allgeyer

Nick Allgeyer won seven of his 11 decisions with a 2.75 earned run average during his college career.

Pitching in Iowa

Allgeyer was a member of the All-Big Ten Conference team and won two-Big Ten Pitcher of the Week awards in April during his redshirt junior year in 2018. He pitched at least five innings in all of his 15 starts and 13 of them were quality outings. Before this season, Allgeyer made all but one of his appearances for the Hawkeyes out of the bullpen.

Allgeyer says following in his father’s footsteps was not the only reason he decided to go to the University of Iowa.

“Yes and no. My Dad went there and he played football so I kind of had been going there and going to the games for a while. That was the first school that offered me (a scholarship) for baseball and that’s what I wanted to do because I was comfortable with it. It was an awesome experience going to the University of Iowa.”

Allgeyer hopes he can follow in the footsteps of former Vancouver Canadian and Iowa Hawkeyes southpaw Matt Dermody.

“I met him in Dunedin but I wouldn’t say that I ‘know him, know him,” but I know he went to Iowa and he was there before me. It’s kind of cool to see how he progressed and that’s something to strive for. He’s a lefty so he’s someone I look up to and would love to do the same thing he’s done in his career.”

Allgeyer wound up redshirting as a junior with the Iowa Hawkeyes after missing all of 2017 due to Tommy John surgery on his left elbow. Instead of viewing the injury as adversity, he viewed it as an opportunity.

“I guess you could use the word adversity. I didn’t really think of it as adversity. I kind of thought of it as something to where I was going to be able to work on getting my mobility better, getting strong in the weight room and getting everything to where I wanted it to be to be a professional baseball player because when I came in (to my) freshman year, professional baseball wasn’t really on my mind. I was a mid-80’s (miles per hour) pitcher and kind of gained a little bit (more velocity) my sophomore year and then gained a little bit more going into my junior year and then tore my UCL (Ulnar Collateral Ligament).

I kind of saw a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel with the Tommy John surgery but to work on my mobility, that was probably the biggest thing that I got out of surgery was working on my hip mobility, getting strong in the weight room and have my shoulder be where it needs to be and my elbow be where it needs to be at a strength standpoint.

That’s kind of how I took it. I did rehab five, six, seven times a week and lifted four times a week so that was kind of my practice as I was not up to being able to play in games but I got to train for a year pretty much. I thought that was a huge part of my recovery.”

Allgeyer recalls the exact moment when his elbow was not feeling right.

“It was during a live set in the fall of 2016, September 2016, I was throwing to hitters. I threw a slider and it didn’t necessarily pop, it just kind of tingled and kind of went numb down my arm. I tried to throw like eight more pitches and my velo went way down and I didn’t throw a single strike. I went to the training room and got an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging scan) and (the UCL) was completely torn.”

Allgeyer did get to pitch in 2017 with the Hawkeyes at the World University Games in Taiwan in late August. He allowed just one run in 4-2/3 innings over two relief appearances, striking out six and walking one, as he helped Iowa win the silver medal.

Vancouver Canadians Nick Allgeyer

Nick Allgeyer posted a 1.54 earned run average over his six abbreviated starts with Vancouver in 2018.


Pitching Repertoire

Allgeyer says he throws the standard four pitches.

“I throw a fastball, changeup, slider and curveball. I like to work fastball, changeup because those are the two best tunneling pitches. The biggest thing I’ve been working on is the breaking ball with the harder slider and softer curveball. I’m trying to get those more consistent, more in control and being in better command of them. I throw both the four-seam fastball and a four-seam changeup. I don’t really throw any two-seams or any cutters.”

Allgeyer is fine with starting and relieving but he does have a preference.

“If I had to pick one, I would choose starting just because I got a pretty in-depth routine that I like to do with the stretching and mobility and long toss and all that kind of different (exercises) that I like to do. It’s easier to do when I start but when I’m out there on the mound, it doesn’t matter if I coming out of the pen or starting. If I had to choose, I would choose starting.”

It was a little bit of an adjustment when I went to the bullpen at the start because I hadn’t been in the bullpen since my sophomore year so it was 2-1/2 years ago in college to where I had a different routine for that. I think I have a pretty good routine for a starter.”

Vancouver Canadians Nick Allgeyer

Nick Allgeyer began his pro career with nine straight outings in relief before moving to the C’s rotation in 2018.


2018 Season

Allgeyer got to work with C’s pitching coach Jim Czajkowski in 2018 and felt he was a great resource to lean on.

“One of the first things he told us was he’s not going to change anything for us right now because we just got out of college and he’s going to let us do what we did to get here. I’ve kind of taken him to the side a little bit and asked him what his opinion is on some things and what he sees with my delivery and mechanics and stuff. He’s been very helpful for that and I’m really appreciative of that.

He’s not completely in-depth with a lot of the new guys just because we’re new and he wants to let us do what we have been doing but he’s always there when you want to ask a question and when you want his opinion.”

Speaking to Allgeyer in the midst of the 2018 season, his goal was to make it to the mound everytime he was called upon. From that standpoint, his year was a success.

“I think the main goal is to stay healthy and get through the season. It’s my first year back so I want to stay healthy. We’re out here seven days a week almost, that’s a lot more than college so keeping the body healthy along with the arm. The recovery you got to do every day for arm care and all that.

From a pitching standpoint, try to develop more command with my slider and curveball. That’s something I like to work on every day. Just pitch development, being able to throw strikes. Fastball command is a big thing in this organization and that’s one thing I pride myself on is throwing a lot of strikes.”

Allgeyer finished the season with a 2.73 earned run average over 26-1/3 innings in which he struck out 31 batters and walked eight. He collected his first professional save against Hillsboro July 22. He limited Northwest League hitters to a .196 batting average and had a WHIP of 1.03.

Thanks again to Nick Allgeyer for taking part in the latest chapter of C’s Chat. You can follow him on Twitter @Nick__Allgeyer. Another thank you goes out to C’s Media Relations Coordinator Sharlene Canning for setting up the chat.

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