C’s Chat – Jared Carkuff


Jared Carkuff appeared with the C’s at the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017.

cs_chat_logoThe latest episode of C’s Chat catches up with 2016 and 2017 Vancouver Canadians pitcher Jared Carkuff. The right-hander was a man on the move in 2017 as he split time with four clubs with the Toronto Blue Jays system. He experienced a move again of a different kind early in 2018 as he wound up with a different organization. The 24 year-old from Bell Buckle, Tennessee was traded by the Blue Jays to the San Diego Padres along with outfielder Edward Oliveras for infielder Yangervis Solarte.

Carkuff recalls where he was when he found out about the trade.

“Me and my fiancee Baylee, we were going to a friend’s wedding. I’m driving and I get a call from Gil (Blue Jays director of player development Gil Kim) and it’s always kind of a scary call. You don’t always get calls from Gil. When I get a phone call from him, I don’t know what’s going on. He just comes out and says, ‘Thanks for everything. You’ve been traded to the Padres,’ and then just filled me in on a bunch of details. I didn’t really know how to react. To me, it felt like nothing changed because obviously I’m still in the off-season. I just turned to my fiancee and was like, ‘Hey, I’m with the Padres now.’ It was really shocking, had no clue it was coming but it happened and I’m excited.”

I think It was like a week before I was telling a friend, I was like, ‘I’m a reliever, I’m 24, I’m not going to get traded.’ And it was seriously a week later (laughs) that I got traded so it was pretty funny. That’s how life works. As soon as you think you know what’s going on, it gives you a curveball.”

On having Lansing Lugnuts teammate Edward Olivares joining him in the trade.

“It’s great for both of us. We got to come in, not obviously being complete strangers with everybody. I mean, it was still tough for both of us. We’re both pretty outgoing people. It took us a little while to kind of come out of our cocoons but we helped each other through it so it was nice having Ollie there too.”

On not being considered a major part of the trade with the Padres.

“I’ve been kind of an under the radar guy and I’m completely fine with that. (Drafted in the) 35th round (as a) senior. I’m kind of used to being not quite the underdog but not being, I guess you would say, the first choice and I’m completely fine with that because that just motivates me to prove that not that they’re wrong, that I’m worthy of being that part of the trade and worthy of being a part of that organization.”

On the fact the Padres wanted him included in the deal.

“Yeah, exactly. That’s what some people didn’t understand (about) the trade. They were like, ‘Wow, why did the Blue Jays give you up?’ It was not quite that. It was that somebody wanted me so it’s a big deal. We were so grateful for the Blue Jays and I would never be where I am without them because they gave me the opportunity but it’s also nice to be wanted by another team.”

On how his batterymate at Austin Peay and Lansing, Ridge Smith reacted to the trade.

“He just felt like everybody else, just kind of had no clue it was coming. For us two, it was amazing to be drafted by the same team and be able to play together because I mean, you have chemistry right off the bat. He caught me for three years and knew how I wanted to pitch and knew when I needed to calm down in situations that were high-pressure and just knew how to work with me so that was nice to break me in pro ball. We’ll definitely miss each other but it’s also part of the game.”

On meeting Padres catcher and fellow Austin Peay product A.J. Ellis.

“I got to talk to him two days ago and I was super excited because I was kind of looking around. Obviously I can’t go into the big league clubhouse or anything but I finally ran into him and got to talk to him. We caught up.

He came to talk to us in my freshman year at college. He remembered the name but he had to meet a ton of people that day. It was nice to kind of really meet him one-on-one and talk to him about old times at Austin Peay and just catch up and hopefully be teammates someday.”


Jared Carkuff pitched a shutout ninth to finish out a C’s victory against Everett June 21.

On the difference between spring training in Florida and Arizona.

“It doesn’t rain every day (in Arizona), that’s for sure. I think the weather is a little bit better, the facility’s a little bit newer but it’s still baseball and it’s still hot and I’m still trying to get better and get ready for the season.”

On his spring training experience with the Padres.

“I guess the cliche wherever we would be is, ‘It’s a grind,’ because we get up and we get to the facility at about 6:00 a.m. and kind of do our, what we call, activation. We get ready for the day in the weight room, kind of what you need to get ready for that day. For me, it’s like film roll and doing some back to basic stuff. “

We’ll go eat breakfast, go out to the field and depending on the day, you’ll have a bullpen and that’s kind of your light day. Other than that, we’ll have BP and now that I’m in the National League, we actually bunt so that was fun. It was kind of rough, it’s been about six years but it was real fun for me.

A lot of defensive work, conditioning, then BP at the end where we shag then go in and usually meetings at the end of the day because to kind of get everybody into the system.”

On the last time he had an at-bat during a game before coming to the Padres.

“I would say my senior year of high school so it would be six, coming on seven years. I actually had an at-bat in college because I was a reliever and something happened. I was trying to close a game and I came up to bat and the coach said, ‘Stand back in the box and don’t swing.’ So I don’t count that one.”

On being drafted by the Blue Jays.

“My junior year, I tried to control something that I cannot control and I mean, everybody wants to be drafted but I put too much into it and so after I didn’t get drafted my junior year—which was understandable, I didn’t have a great year—I was so disappointed and down about it.

In my senior year, I was like ‘I can’t control this. I’m just going to let it happen. If God wants me to play baseball, if the Blue Jays want me to play baseball, I’ll play.’

I went and golfed with a friend. Actually I got a call about halfway through my round saying, ‘Hey, we might pick you up the next couple of rounds. About 20 rounds later, I got a text from one of my Dad’s friends that said, ‘Congratulations!’ And so I figured that’s what it was but I haven’t heard anything yet. About a minute later, I get a phone call from the Blue Jays that said I was taken in the 35th round. There’s no way to describe that feeling. I’m sure people have tried but it’s impossible to describe whenever something you worked for your entire life is finally starting to take shape.”

On the Blue Jays scout who signed him.

“Nate (Nate Murrie), he was the area scout for me in Tennessee and we’ve had a really good relationship. We talked my junior year too and he tried to put my name in there and it just didn’t work out, I mean obviously because of the year I had. We still talk. He texts me every now and then making sure I’m doing alright.”


Jared Carkuff finishes off a win against the Everett AquaSox with a scoreless ninth on June 21, 2017.

On earning Gulf Coast League Post-Season All-Star honours in 2016.

“That was amazing for me. Obviously again, 35th round, you want to come in and prove to them not that you’re less of a player but because you’re picked later but just prove to them that you are worthy and that they should keep an eye on you.

I had a great set of coaches. (Pitching coach) Juan Rincon helped me out with a lot of stuff, mainly game planning. That’s the main thing I learned in pro ball and it helped me fix my numbers. It was an unreal feeling being able to be an All-Star.”


On his late season call-up to Vancouver in 2016.

“It was amazing because obviously, that’s the first thing you hear about whenever you come to the Blue Jays in the minor leagues is, ‘Man, you got to get to Vancouver.’ The city’s amazing, the fans are crazy and it’s just an amazing atmosphere. I’m pumped because I’m like, ‘I want to pitch there.’ I want to come in late in the game and pitch at the Nat. Unfortunately, it rained and it really didn’t work out and I go down to Tri-City. I didn’t throw great but I got to get my inning in. I didn’t get much time there but it was a fun experience.”


Jared Carkuff found himself moving on up to Dunedin, Lansing and Buffalo in 2017.

On getting a taste of full-season baseball with Dunedin in 2017.

“I went to extended actually first because I was supposed to be going to Vancouver and then something kind of happened to where I was able to fill in and they needed a guy. I struggled a little bit early I think because of the high level and the label of that. I think I tried to do too much, tried to be somebody I wasn’t. I learned real quick that I had to just trust myself, trust my stuff. Although I think the numbers weren’t great but I ended up having a pretty good month there and learned a lot from the coaches and learned a lot from pitching against some pretty good hitters.”

On whether he sensed the 2017 Canadians were a special team during his brief time there.

“Yeah, definitely. We didn’t even have the draft guys there whenever I showed up but just the pitching staff and coaching staff, just everybody there just seemed like they had it together and everybody was on the same page. You knew there was something special from that standpoint and obviously the draft guys they brought in had a really good year. Hey, I’m happy I played and pitched two, three innings there and I got a ring for it.”

On the prospect of receiving two championship rings from 2017.

“I’ve ordered it and I don’t know if I still get it now that I’m not with them because technically, I get one for Dunedin too because I had time for Dunedin and Vancouver even though I wasn’t there at the end. I got sized for rings for both of them so we’ll see if I get them. They might not send them to me.”

Vancouver Canadians Jared Carkuff

Jared Carkuff compiled a 7-4 record with a 3.21 in his two seasons with the Blue Jays organization.

On getting to pitch at the Nat.

“it’s just unreal. It’s hard to explain. Just the atmosphere is amazing. You can feel the energy there. They’re loud, they’re fun and it just makes you want to perform for them because they love it. The first couple of pitches, I kind of threw them a little too hard because I was so amped up, because it was so fun and then I settled in and I think I had a pretty good inning.”


On getting to ride in the bullpen cart at the Nat.

“I never thought I would ever ride in the golf cart to go to the mound. I was able to see it happen that first day we were up there. We weren’t able to play that day for 2016. I was up there and I saw it happen and I kind of looked at everybody else like, ‘Why is nobody reacting to this golf cart going on the field?’ They were just normal because that’s what they did. Nobody warned me about it and I was actually so excited. I was like, ‘Man, I cannot wait to go in this golf cart.’ It’s such a long run. I hate doing that. It makes me a little tired. I was like, ‘Man, I wish I could have a golf cart every time.’ So it kind of spoiled me a little bit.”

On pitching in Lansing.

“I really enjoyed it. Again, I keep saying it and I’m not just saying it to say it but the coaching staffs were amazing everywhere I go. The Blue Jays really do a good job of hiring people that can really help you. I enjoyed that. I learned a lot from Willie (Willie Collazo), the pitching coach. He taught me to really kind of throw that changeup that I’ve been working on and to throw in times where I wasn’t comfortable doing it because, I mean, you’re never going to be successful if you don’t do something that makes you a little bit uncomfortable and that’s what he really pushed me to do. I think he really helped me become a complete pitcher. I learned so much in Lansing and I enjoyed the stadiums we get to play at and the travel. It was a really fun season even though you want to win a little bit more than we did but the minor leagues is about getting better and working towards that end goal and I feel like I made a huge stride at Lansing.”

On earning the victory in his Triple-A debut for Buffalo.

“That was pretty cool. Actually, I was kind of frustrated because I was in Lansing at the time. I was kind of moved into the closer role and there was my family, just drove up and was in Lansing and it was a one-run game. I was like, ‘Okay, cool! My family finally gets to see me get a save.’ They’ve seen me pitch a little bit but they’ve never seen me get a save. I was so excited and then I didn’t pitch.

At the time, we had a few games left. I didn’t understand and so I was just kind of, I was excited we won but kind of bummed. I was like, ‘Man, I thought I was going to get that (save) with my family there. I go in, the coach calls me in and I’m guessing, it’s like end of the year meetings or something, I didn’t know. And he was like, ‘Hey, you’re going to Buffalo.’ I was like, I kind of laughed at him. I thought he was kidding because from Low-A to Triple-A doesn’t really happen, especially with two games left. He was like, ‘No, you’re going. They need a guy out of the bullpen.’

So I was really excited to go there. Again, another great pitching staff. Even some guys that have been in the big leagues on that Buffalo team so it was cool to kind of sit and listen. They were really nice to me. I just listened to them talk about the game and how much they understand the game. They taught me so much, I just shut-up and listen. That was what I did in Triple-A so that was a fun experience.”


Jared Carkuff throws a fastball, slider and changeup to combat enemy batters.

On continuing to develop his pitches.

“In college, I kind of relied on the slider as an off-speed and my changeup was terrible. Everybody that I tell now that I have a changeup still doesn’t believe me. They have to see it. I’ve worked on a changeup so much, I got to kind of cut back on it so I can figure out the slider.

It’s all been going really good. It takes my game to a new level to having that changeup to kind of keep people off of the slider and definitely keep people off the fastball. It’s changed how I pitch and I think it’s definitely made me a better pitcher.”

On how he sees himself as a pitcher.

“I would just say a competitor because I really don’t have the stuff a lot of people have. I really do believe in my stuff and it’s not like it’s below average. I’m a 90-92 (MPH) guy with a slider and a changeup. Nothing’s going to trick you. I’m just executing pitches and just being a competitor and really believing that I can beat every hitter that I face.”

On who he would compare himself to in the majors.

“I wish I could say Craig Kimbrel, especially since that’s my favourite pitcher but I know for a fact I’m nowhere close to that. Honestly, I never really compare myself as in stuff-wise but there has been a few videos I’ve seen just online and honestly couldn’t even tell you who they were. Just kind of mechanical. Seeing and comparing myself to people that do it good and doing it at the highest level. There’s been a few people I usually compare my mechanics because I got the toe-point of Yu Darvish but I definitely don’t have the stuff Yu Darvish has.”

On his future plans after baseball.

“I was lucky enough from Austin Peay to get my degree in sports broadcasting. I still got a lot to work on but hopefully, my broadcasting career will be after a long major league career but either way, yes I would definitely love to pursue sports broadcasting wherever life takes me but after baseball, I would love to do that.”

My thanks again to Jared Carkuff for taking part in this episode of C’s Chat and I wish him the best of luck with the Padres and in his future endeavours. You can follow him on Twitter @thekuff16.

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C’s Alumni Update – McFarland & Browning Announce Their Retirements


Blake McFarland won six games with Vancouver in 2011. (Image from YourVanCs.com)

cs_alumni_updateA couple of former Vancouver Canadians pitchers who played a role in their first two Northwest League championships decided to call it a career over the off-season. 2011 righthander Blake McFarland and 2012 righty Wil Browning made the difficult decision to pursue other ventures.

McFarland was a free-agent signing by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2011 after spending his junior and senior college years with San Jose State University, where his grandfather John Oldham pitched. The San Jose native had wanted to play football and baseball at San Jose State but the coaches would not allow him to so he wound up going to West Valley College and Santa Barbara City College where he decided to concentrate on baseball full-time before joining the Spartans where he obtained his psychology degree.

McFarland made his pro debut in Vancouver in 2011 and got the victory in his first appearance June 19 with four perfect innings of relief at Nat Bailey Stadium. Justin Nicolino began the game with four perfect frames before the no-hit bid was broken up on a double by Marc Bourgeois but he was cut down at third on a 9-6-5 relay from Nick Baligod and Shane Opitz to Matt Johnson. In what could have been a combined no-hitter, Nicolino and McFarland had a one-hitter instead.

After beginning his career with 7-2/3 shutout innings over his first two pro appearances, McFarland got his first starting assignment at home against the Everett AquaSox June 30 and allowed just one run over six innings to pick up the win. He had a 0.68 earned run average after that outing but he was roughed up over his next two starts on the road. A return to home cooking helped McFarland get back on track as he spun six shutout frames against the Boise Hawks July 17. He followed up with a one-run effort over six innings to pick up another victory in Eugene against the Emeralds July 22.

He encountered another rough stretch by losing three starts in a row but was one out shy of being credited with two quality starts to end the regular season in which he posted a 6-7 record with a 5.32 ERA. He pitched twice in the post-season and was saddled with the Game 1 loss vs. Eugene in the semi-final and the Game 2 loss against Tri-City in the final but he got to celebrate the C’s first championship in its short-season history.

McFarland endured a rough season in 2012 with the Lansing Lugnuts in which he finished with a 5-6 record and a 5.68 ERA after moving to the bullpen full-time. He began to find his stride with the Dunedin Blue Jays in 2013 when he saved 18 games and struck out 49 batters in 46 innings, the first time he averaged over a K an inning after whiffing just 34 hitters in 64-1/3 innings with Vancouver and 73 batters in 90-1/3 innings with Lansing. He would earn an All-Star berth in the Florida State League All-Star Game that year.

The 2014 season saw McFarlane split time with the D-Jays and the New Hampshire Fisher Cats where he recorded a composite mark of 2-2 with a 2.89 ERA and 73 K’s in 62-1/3 innings. The arrow continued pointing up as he pitched in New Hampshire and Buffalo where he rung up 72 batters over 57-2/3 combined innings. That season convinced the Jays brass to add him to the 40-man roster.

However, shoulder problems forced McFarland to miss all of 2016 and limited him to just 6-1/3 innings in New Hampshire in 2017. He began last year with four straight scoreless appearances and allowed just one run over two innings May 4 over what turned out to be his final appearance on the mound.

Blake McFarland

On the bright side, McFarland will be able to focus more of his efforts towards his recycled material arts career. You can check out his impressive work at BlakeMcFarland.com and on YouTube.

Vancouver Canadians Wil Browning

Wil Browning had two wins and a hold in the 2012 post-season for Vancouver.

Wil Browning began his pro career in 2012 after signing as a free-agent with the Jays out of the University of Louisiana-Monroe. The sidearming reliever got his feet wet with the Gulf Coast League Blue Jays where he posted a 1.35 ERA over seven appearances and had an ERA of 0.82 with four saves over 10 games with Bluefield before being summoned to Vancouver in the latter part of August.

Browning made his Northwest League debut in Salem-Keizer August 19 and earned a hold against the Volcanoes with 1-2/3 innings of shutout ball. Four of his five appearances with the C’s in the regular season were scoreless and he would pitch in all five of their playoff games.

Browning earned the Game 1 victory in the semi-final against Everett by retiring the only hitter he faced to end the top of the eighth inning before Kellen Sweeney drove in the game’s only run with an RBI single in the bottom half. The Sallis, Mississippi native would pick up a hold with a scoreless eighth inning in the C’s come-from-behind 10-7 win over Boise in Game 1 of the Northwest League final. He bounced back from a blown save in Game 2 by picking up the win in the deciding Game 3 with 2-1/3 innings of relief as the C’s scored a converted touchdown in the eighth for a 12-9 win at Boise Memorial Stadium.

Browning continued to climb the minor league ladder in 2013 where he earned Mid-Season All-Star League honours with Lansing and Dunedin after a combined 2.03 ERA in which he struck out 81 batters over 62.0 innings. The 2014 and 2015 seasons saw Browning spend time in Dunedin and New Hampshire with the majority of it coming in Dunedin. He captured Florida State League post-season honours in 2015 after a microscopic 0.78 ERA with the D-Jays after marks of 1.02 and 1.65 in the two previous previous. Those numbers helped Browning land a spot on Dunedin’s All-Time Team at the end of 2017.

The 2016 season saw Browning spend the majority of it in New Hampshire and kept his ERA below 2.00 again with a 1.94 mark. That earned him a cup of coffee with Buffalo to end the year.

Buffalo was where Browning would spend all of 2017 and despite getting the win in three of his first four appearances of the year, he would scuffle against International League batters as they hit .300 against him. Although he struck out 57 batters in 57-2/3 innings, his ERA was 6.55 over 39 appearances and 36 walks ballooned his WHIP to 1.855. His final game was in Syracuse September 2 in which he allowed a run in two-thirds of an inning. Browning’s bio page indicates his retirement date was February 5.

All the best to Blake McFarland and Wil Browning in their future endeavours and a thank you for their contributions to the C’s winning back-to-back Northwest League titles to begin their affiliation with the Blue Jays.

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C’s Chat – Kyle Weatherly

Vancouver Canadians Kyle Weatherly

Kyle Weatherly was 1-1 with a 2.05 earned run average over four starts with Vancouver in 2017.

cs_chat_logoIt may be spring training but pitch counts mean nothing to Kyle Weatherly as he puts in a complete-game effort on this edition of C’s Chat.

A native of Sasche, Texas, Weatherly was considered one of the top junior college prospects heading into the 2016 draft out of Grayson Community College. The 6-foot-4 right-hander had a verbal commitment to attend Louisiana State University but he elected to turn pro after the Toronto Blue Jays gave him a $250,000 signing bonus after selecting him in the eighth round.

Weatherly got his pro introduction with the Bluefield Blue Jays in 2016 where he made five starts and five relief appearances. Things did not start well for him as his earned run average was at 45.00 after his first pro appearance. He would shave off more than 40 runs of that figure as he finished the year with a 4.06 ERA. Weatherly won all four of his decisions. He struck out 33 batters and walked nine over 37 innings.

The 2017 season started late for Weatherly as he spent time on the disabled list. He began the year with Vancouver and four starts later, he earned him a call-up to Lansing where he had some highs and lows. A tough debut against the Beloit Snappers resulted in an ERA of 67.50 but that was chopped down to 6.75 before he would up on the disabled list again.

Weatherly had another obstacle to deal with recently as he suffered a bout of food poisoning during a February mini-camp at the Blue Jays Dominican Republic minor league complex in Boca Chica.

Despite that setback, Weatherly said his first visit to the Dominican was a good one.

“We were there for 14 days. It was just a little camp for us American guys that kind of go down there and get a little leg up on some of the other guys, just kind of getting us ready for spring training. They also kind of had it as a cultural experience for us so that we can experience what the Latin players go through. I think we have five pitchers there and probably nine position players. It was an experience for sure. We were out there, 9:00 to 12:00 every day just throwing, doing some sides and PFP, a little bit of lifting and conditioning to get us ready for spring training. I think it was a good idea. You kind of experience what those guys (in Latin America) go through so it was pretty neat experience.

“I just kind of realized that they (Latin American players) have a little bit of a tougher time because there’s no hot water. You can’t really go out of the facility there to go do anything. You just kind of have to make do with what you have. The WiFI isn’t great and so there’s a lot of guys playing dominoes and stuff and going out on the field and playing soccer. They just find a little different way to keep themselves occupied. The baseball is still the same though. They love it just as much as we do. They have to work maybe just a little bit harder than some of us ever do. We kind of take the stuff we have for granted sometimes, I think.”

On his off-season preparation. 

“It was a good off-season. I spent most of it trying to get healthy. I had a back injury and a shoulder injury during the season so (the Blue Jays) sent me to physical therapy to try to get that all healed up. I feel like I got a lot healthier, a lot stronger.

On the baseball side, I’m kind of fine-tuning some of the pitches and working on top of the baseball a little better and I feel like I nailed those down pretty well and I’m ready to go to spring training.”

On refining his four-pitch mix.

“I actually threw a splitter. I guess technically it’s kind of being a changeup. I turned it more into like a split-change to kind of give it a little more of a changeup feel and it has a little more control.

I also added a curveball in the off-season. It’s not quite a 12-6 but a downward breaking curveball. I’m going to go fastball, changeup, slider and the curveball.

It’s been going well. I’ve feel like I’ve come a long way with the changeup for sure. Right now, I would probably say the curveball is my third-best pitch ahead of the slider and then the slider is a pretty good fourth that I can throw for a strike. I’m still looking to add a little more depth on it right now but the control is there and it’s a good fourth pitch to throw for a strike and so I feel pretty confident in those four pitches going forward.”

On his injury woes in 2017.

“I think (the Jays) said I was slotted to go to Lansing and then about the second or third week of spring training, I ended up hurting my back when I was playing catch during one of the practices. I didn’t think it was a big thing at the time but I went into the training room and took a look and then got an MRI. I found out I actually had a minor bulging disk in my back.

I took a month off, no baseball, to rehab that and then they decided to keep me there in extended spring training to get back on a throwing program and worked up to five innings. I started off in Vancouver to get me some work and then I was ready to go up to Lansing.”

On making his Northwest League debut in Eugene June 17

“I just remember it was a really cool experience getting to play in the University of Oregon. Playing in a junior college, you don’t get to play at places like that a lot.

We were really hammered down about kind of knowing the other hitters and stuff and getting to pitch third (in the starting rotation), I got to see the lineup and how it turns over, what guys did. For that first start, I felt like I kind of already pitched against them. I wasn’t really as nervous as I maybe would have been in the past. That’s a kind of credit to our pitching coach and our other staff right there.

I don’t remember a ton but I just remember it felt great to get out there and be healthy and compete again with my teammates. It was an amazing feeling.”

On returning home to Vancouver for the home opener.

“It was surreal. You can’t really describe to someone what it’s like pitching there and playing there. We had heard from the guys in extended that have been there before. You know, that sounds pretty cool but then you get on to the mound and there’s 5,000, 6,000 people screaming as loud as they can. You can barely hear the guy sitting next to you and it’s just wild. It pumps you up as a pitcher, it makes you feel like you’re throwing harder and it’s just awesome knowing that you got a whole crowd behind you no matter what. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Vancouver Canadians Kyle Weatherly

Kyle Weatherly earned his first Northwest League victory in Spokane in what turned out to be his final appearance with the C’s in 2017.

On his career-best seven-inning effort in Spokane July 5.

“The one thing that stuck out to me was actually what happened before the game. Roger Clemens actually came out and talked to us that day. He was talking about getting fired up. That dude, he knows a lot about baseball and he’s passionate. I think I kind of fed off that energy of him talking to us that day. I took it out to the mound and just had an extra little focus that day and a little more motivation, knowing he was in the stands watching.

I didn’t know it was going to be my last start there or anything but I just remembered trying to work both sides of the plate with the fastball, really tried to work on the splitter and the slider and throw them for strikes. It was just kind of one of those days where all three pitches were there and I was able to have success.”

On his memories of Roger Clemens.

“I definitely watched him. I’m from Dallas and so I grew up a Texas Rangers fan. For me, it was more watching Nolan Ryan pitch but I definitely had a love for Roger Clemens too playing with Houston and then kind of an unbelievable career with the Yankees too. It was fun to watch that guy pitch and his splitter was unbelievable. Kind of getting to talk to him about that, that was pretty neat. As a kid, you don’t really appreciate it as much as you do now and have the same knowledge for the game. It was kind of cool to go back and see him pitch when I know what I do now to really, really appreciate what he did. Nolan Ryan was still my man but Roger was pretty good too.”

On how he learned about his promotion to Lansing.

“We were all just kind of hanging out in the locker room and we always have a little team meeting after. (Manager) Rich Miller stood up and kind of talked about the game a little bit and he said, ‘By the way, Weatherly. You’re going up to Lansing tomorrow. Pack your bags.’

I was like, ‘Oh man, that’s awesome!’ All my teammates came up and gave me a big hug and tapped me on the back and saying, ‘Go get ’em!’ It was pretty cool. It was a weird feeling because obviously, I kind of wanted to because I knew that team had something special but any time you get a chance to go up a level, you have to take that and be appreciative and go do what you have to do.”

On whether he sensed something special about the 2017 Canadians.

“You could tell early on in extended spring training. We had a pretty good chemistry and then when we got there on the first day, Rich Miller told us our one goal was to win a championship. I think everybody kind of knew that we had the team to do it so we took it to heart.

When we get all the new draft guys, I saw how awesome as people they were and how talented they were too. Everything just kind of fell into place. Guys did what they were supposed to and you could tell it was a really fun clubhouse to be a part of. Everybody’s relaxed, always in a good mood. Winning helps for sure. I’m glad they were able to continue that after I left and brought the trophy home.”

On whether he continued to follow the progress of his C’s teammates after being promoted to Lansing.

“It’s kind of a little bit of a balance. You don’t want to get stuck on a team that you were with or a team that’s ahead of you. You need to focus on what you have to do with your current team. Of course, I was doing some scoreboard checking at the end of the year for sure and rooting the boys on in the playoffs and stuff.

You kind of learn as a pro to be able to do both. Take care of what you need to do but do a little bit of scoreboard watching for your home team, for the boys. It was good to see them get it. I know all of them were really excited and stuff. It was cool to be a part of it. I wish I could have gotten to pitch with them in the playoffs but at the same time, I was very thankful to get to pitch in Lansing too which was another great place to play.

Sometimes I was able to kind of check out a recap and see how they were doing but most of the time, I just kind of had to check the final score at the end of the game and see how they did. I think every game was 2-1 or something crazy like that. Most of the time, I decided to check after. We were either playing or on the field doing something so it was a little tough.”

Vancouver Canadians Kyle Weatherly

All of Kyle Weatherly‘s appearances in 2017 with Vancouver and Lansing were as a starter.

On experiencing some ups and downs with the Lugnuts.

“Believe it or not, I think personally that first game was the one I pitched the best in as far as the way my pitches were moving and the spots I was hitting. I just think you have to tip your hat to the team I was facing that day. They were crushing everything I threw up there. I think it kind of summed up my season there. I just didn’t quite have the command that I wanted to.

I don’t know exactly what it was. I think I started to work on too many things instead of kind of getting back to what I was doing in Vancouver that was giving me success. By the end of the season, I was starting to figure it out a little bit the last few starts and then unfortunately, I kind of had the shoulder issue that shut me down for the year. It was a little tough pill to swallow because I thought I was starting to figure it out, making the adjustments I needed to.

Working with (Lugnuts pitching coach) Willie Collazo, watching all the other guys throw like Patrick Murphy, getting to see those guys every day was pretty neat too. I learned a lot from just watching there and just being around a high level of competition and I can use that going forward.”

On the difference between the Pioneer League, the Northwest League and the Midwest League.

“The way I put it to some of the guys that asked me that too, I don’t think there’s much difference between Bluefield and Vancouver but I do think there’s a bigger gap between Vancouver and Lansing. I think it’s just the game is a little faster and guys have a better approach.

The talent isn’t as big of a difference but it’s just the maturity of the players and I think a lot of guys that are in Lansing, they’ve been through a full spring training. They’ve had a year of rookie ball, they know what to expect. They’ve seen these guys before. I just think from that kind of sense, it is a little bit bigger of an adjustment but definitely one that you can make quick. I thought one or two more games, I’d have been right there.

There is definitely a learning curve, I think, going from Vancouver to Lansing but it’s not impossible to make that adjustment fast.”

On his rookie season with Bluefield.

“You want to talk about a learning curve and a backward start, I remember (my first) game like it was yesterday. I think I gave up five runs in my very first inning of pro ball. I remember calling my Mom and was like, ‘Man, I think I made a mistake. I should have gone to college one more year, (laughs).’ It was kind of funny but then you get your second start, third start and you just kind of get more comfortable with it. I remember feeling out of place a little bit at the beginning but the more you work with Tony Caceras, who’s a fantastic pitch coach and you’re in the environment a little bit longer, you feel more comfortable, you feel more in place.

That first year was just a lot of learning about myself and being away from home for so long and so far. It’s a pretty big adjustment. I just remember having a lot of fun. That was another winning team and we almost made the playoffs. I remember we kind of crumbled at the end but just kind of seeing the transition from the beginning of the year to the end and just struggling a little bit at first and having a lot of success in the second half of the year with a lot of confidence in myself and kind of using that going forward too. It was a very fun year for baseball. It was completely different from any college season I ever had. It was really neat.”

On the Bluefield Blue Jays-Princeton Rays rivalry and the Mercer Cup.

“It’s pretty big. I think sometimes it’s the players, we might not feel it as much until you kind of get there. Especially in Princeton, those fans are a little wild. They’re kind of crazy. There’s a lot of yelling back and forth between the two sides but the fans definitely get into it. The players, you know, they kind of want to go out there and win it for them and stuff. It was pretty cool, It was the first kind of rivalry you face in pro ball.

I think the Jays have the same thing, either the Phillies in spring training—the Pinellas Cup—and that was the first time we got to do something like that and it was pretty neat. I can’t remember if we lost that series or not (editor’s note-Princeton did win the Mercer Cup in 2016) but I do remember I beat them one time so that was my first pro win against Princeton. I was feeling the pressure from Dennis (manager Dennis Holmberg) but I stepped up to the challenge so that was a fun day.”

Vancouver Canadians Grayson Huffman

Grayson Huffman joined forces with Kyle Weatherly again after both of them attended Grayson Community College.

Going to Grayson College with fellow C’s teammate Grayson Huffman.

“Believe it or not, Grayson was my roommate at Grayson so I knew him really well. He was one of the most talented pitchers I’ve ever seen in college. It was really cool to see him get drafted. I think he’s a big reason that I was drafted later on because I saw how hard he worked and what he did to be that successful. A lot of what I did and what I still do is pretty much a blueprint of what he did. It was really fun to experience that one year at Grayson and then to get drafted and play on the same team, it was really cool to do it again.”

On starting versus relieving.

“You know, I think I like starting because I like the mental approach to it as you have your four days to prep, recover, you have your routine, you can really scout a team, make a game plan whereas closing, you just kind of come in and you just throw as hard as you can and try to nail it down but that part’s really fun too. I really enjoyed it in college, you kind of feel like the game is on the line, it’s on your hands and that’s what I like too but I think going forward, starting would be a better road for me and I like it a little bit more.”

On dealing with draft expectations after being recognized as a top junior college prospect by Baseball America and Perfect Game.

“It was honestly something I didn’t really care much about. To me, the most important thing that season was winning a championship. I absolutely loved my teammates and that meant more to me than getting drafted at whatever round. It wasn’t really as big of a distraction as I thought it might have been. I just enjoyed going out there and competing with my teammates. It was kind of nice to have a little bit of extra pressure. I thought it kind of made me better. When you see all the radar guns in the background, it’s kind of hard to ignore. It kind of makes you focus a little bit more but it was a fun process going through the draft. I would never want to do the actual draft day again. That was way too stressful but I was kind of feeling like you appreciate it a little bit. It’s a good feeling but I didn’t think too much of the ranking. I just wanted to go out there and have fun.”

On being drafted by the Blue Jays.

“It’s a pretty funny story. I was talking to my agent before the draft. We kind of had a thing where I wanted to go top five rounds or get money kind of close to top five or I was going to go to LSU to play. It was going to be a tough choice either way. I was sitting in my house with my Mom, some friends and my grandfather. We were watching the draft, I talked to my agent and the fourth round comes, the fifth round comes, the sixth round comes and he said, ‘Hey bud. It doesn’t sound like it’s going to happen this year for you. You know, I’m still going to work for you. We’ll see what happens.’ I was like, ‘Alright.’

I watched the seventh round go by and I was like, ‘Oh man, I can’t watch this anymore.’ So I turned the TV off and everybody kind of leaves and it’s just me and my Mom. We’re just sitting there like, ‘Well, you know, LSU is going to be a great place.’ And I was like, ‘You know what, the draft will happen next year. I’m just going to go enjoy LSU.’

And then, about 30-45 minutes later, my agent calls me and says, ‘Turn the TV on. You’re getting drafted by the Blue Jays in a few picks.’ And I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ And so I had to like scramble and try to turn my TV on. I called my Mom, she’s out there crying and so we all finally get to the TV and we see my name get selected and it was a pretty crazy feeling. It was (laughs) something I would never want to do again but it was really cool at the same time.”

Vancouver Canadians Kyle Weatherly

Kyle Weatherly is looking to easily surpass his pro innings total of 82-2/3 innings in 2018.

On who helped him develop as a pitcher.

“I would probably say my college coach Dusty Hart. We had a very interesting relationship. He pushed me probably harder than anybody who has ever pushed me. You know, I didn’t always like him during my first year and it was new to me being just kind of, ‘Hey man, it’s on you. You’re either going to perform or not.’ He was really hard-nosed but he was really fair and really honest.

It took me a little while. I was a freshman coming in, not quite mature to have a coach like that but he really did make me better the next two years having that mentality. He taught me a lot about the game, just about winning and I think the environment that he has at our college has been very successful. To see guys like Grayson (Huffman) and a lot of other players come out of there.

I credit a lot to what I do because of him. He’s the one that decided to have me throw sidearm and turn me into a closer my sophomore year there and that’s eventually kind of what got me on the radar as a draft prospect and then he made the decision to kind of bring me up taller, or bring me up higher and make me a starter again. That’s kind of when my career really took off. I have to thank him for a lot of what happened.”

On his style of pitching.

“I don’t know if I have any comparisons of a major league pitcher honestly but my mentality when I go out there is just throw it by the guy. Sometimes I start thinking a little too much. I try to be too perfect but if I just see a glove and hit a glove, I think I pitch a lot better like that. Sometimes I get a little bit too emotional, a little bit too hyped up and too amped and start overthrowing so I tell myself to relax a little bit. I just enjoy every time I go out there. I just pitch like it’s my last game because you never know. Especially being hurt last year, it kind of gives me a new feeling, a new love for the game and respect it a little bit more. I can use that going forward as motivation too and just kind of lay it out there on the line every time I pitch.”

On what he hopes to accomplish in 2018.

“I think my goal is just try to make 26 starts, try to get 125 innings and be able to eat up innings every game for my team. I don’t care about ERA or strikeouts or anything like that. I just want to give my team a chance to win every single game I pitch in. That’s really my goal for 2018 and hopefully it’s for 125 innings-plus.”

My thanks again to Kyle Weatherly for being more than generous with his time in this instalment of C’s Chat. You can follow him on Twitter @KyleWeatherly12.


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C’s Recap – Pearson, Warmoth, Adams & Vicuna Among 2018 Top 30 Toronto Blue Jays Prospects By Baseball America

Vancouver Canadians Nate Pearson

Nate Pearson was rated the fourth-best prospect in the Toronto Blue Jays system by Baseball America.

C's RecapFour members of the 2017 Northwest League champion Vancouver Canadians earned spots among the top 30 Toronto Blue Jays prospects according to Baseball America. Righthander Nate Pearson, shortstop Logan Warmoth, catcher Riley Adams and shortstop Kevin Vicuna all made the 2018 edition of the Baseball America Prospect Handbook. On the cover of this year’s edition is none other than Blue Jays super-prospect (and sadly, non-Vancouver Canadian) Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

Vancouver Canadians Logan Warmoth

Logan Warmoth was ranked eighth in the Blue Jays farm system by Baseball America.

2017 first-round picks Pearson and Warmoth were rated fourth and eighth on the list while 2017 third-round pick Adams placed 20th. Vicuna—a 2014 free-agent signing out of Venezuela—was rated 25th. Those four are among a dozen former C’s who are among the top 30 prospects.

Baseball America grades Toronto with the eighth-best farm system in the majors, a jump of 12 spots from 2017.

Player grades for the chart below are based on the traditional 20-80 scouting scale:

  • 75-80 – Franchise player/number one starter
  • 65-70 – Perennial All-Star/number two starter
  • 60 – Occasional All-Star/number two-three starter/game’s best closer
  • 55 – First division regular/number three-four starter/elite closer
  • 50 – Number four starter/elite set-up reliever
  • 45 – Second division regular/platoon/set-up reliever
  • 40 – Reserve player/swingman/long reliever

Risk factors are described below:

  • Safe – player is ready to contribute in the majors this season and has shown a realistic ceiling
  • Low – player is likely to reach his ceiling and become a big leaguer barring injury
  • Medium – player still has some tools to sharpen for major league caliber skills but is fairly polished
  • High – player is a first-year draft pick, has plenty of projection involved or has a worrisome injury history
  • Extreme – teenager in rookie ball, a player with a significant history of injuries or struggles with a key skill (pitcher’s control or hitter’s strikeout rate) that is a significant barrier to reaching his potential
No.# Player Position Grade Risk 2017 Rank
Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
3B 75 High 1
Bo Bichette
SS 65 High 9
Anthony Alford
OF 55 Medium 2
Nate Pearson
RHP 55 Very High NR
Lourdes Gourriel Jr.
SS/2B 55 Very High 3
Eric Pardinho
RHP 55 Extreme NR
Danny Jansen C 50 High 22
Logan Warmoth SS 50 High NR
Richard Urena SS 45 Medium 6
Ryan Borucki LHP 45 Medium 16
Sean Reid-Foley RHP 50 High 4
T.J. Zeuch RHP 50 High 8
Ryan Noda 1B/OF 50 Very High NR
Edward Olivares* OF 50 Very High NR
Reese McGuire C 45 High 13
Conner Greene** RHP 45 High 5
Miguel Hiraldo SS 50 Extreme NR
Leonardo Jimenez SS 50 Extreme NR
Carlos Ramirez RHP 40 Medium NR
Riley Adams C 45 High NR
Rowdy Tellez 1B 40 Medium 7
Harold Ramirez OF 40 Medium 14
Max Pentecost C/1B 45 Very High 12
McGregory Contreras C/1B 45 Very High NR
Kevin Vicuna SS 45 Very High NR
Kevin Smith SS 45 Very High NR
Jordan Romano RHP 40 High 24
Hagen Danner C 45 Extreme NR
Jon Harris RHP 40 High 10
Yennsy Diaz RHP 40 Very High 28

Red – Played with Vancouver. * – Traded to San Diego ** – Traded to St. Louis

2014-2015 C’s lefty Ryan Borucki made the biggest jump out of the former C’s as he jumped from 16th to 10th. Borucki—tabbed by BA to be the team’s top rookie in 2018— replaces the 10th ranked Blue Jays prospect from last year in 2015 righty Jon Harris, who fell all the way down to 29. 2016 righty T.J. Zeuch fell out of the top 10 as he is now 12th, falling from eighth last year.

A trio of 2014 Canadians saw their stock tumble with designated hitter Rowdy Tellez falling from seven to 21, catcher Max Pentecost slipped from 12 to 23 and right-hander Sean Reid-Foley sinking from four to 11. 2014 shortstop Richard Urena solidified his position in the top 10 by placing sixth, an increase of three spots.

Vancouver Canadians Riley Adams

Riley Adams was rated 20th by Baseball America in the Blue Jays farm system.

Pearson, Warmoth, Adams and Vicuna are joined by 2012 C’s outfielder Carlos Ramirez—now a right-hander who made it Toronto in 2017—as former Vancouver players making their top 30 debuts.

Vancouver Canadians Kevin Vicuna

Baseball America rated Kevin Vicuna 25th among the Blue Jays top 30 prospects for 2018.

As for players on the list who have not made it to Vancouver from the lower-levels of the system, first baseman Ryan Noda (ranked #13) ended 2017 in Bluefield with a .507 on-base percentage but he may be heading to Lansing in 2018. There is also speculation that Noda’s Bluefield teammate shortstop Kevin Smith (#26) will also skip YVR and head to Lansing with Warmoth bypassing the Lugnuts and starting in Dunedin instead.

2017 second-round pick Hagen Danner (#28) may ply his trade as a catcher at some point with Vancouver after beginning his career in the Gulf Coast League but the high-schooler might spend more time in the GCL or be assigned to the Bluefield Blue Jays instead.

Righthander Eric Pardinho (#6) and shortstops Miguel Hiraldo (#17) and Leonardo Jimenez (#18)2017 international free-agent signings from Brazil, the Dominican Republic and Panama respectivelyare a long way away from Vancouver as they will likely begin their pro tenures with the Dominican Summer League Blue Jays or the GCL.

Outfielder McGregory Contreras (#24) held his own at Bluefield last year by slashing .279/.335/.421 with 15 extra-base hits as a 19 year-old and if a gun were pointed to my head, I would push all my chips to the middle of the table and bet on Contreras suiting up in Canadians red and white in 2018.

If you can’t get enough of prospect lists, check out this piece by my Batter’s Box colleague John Northey right here.


cs-tweetHere are some of the Tweets that have been made by Vancouver Canadians players and team officials and by members of the media regarding C’s past and present. This covers the time period between pitchers and catchers reporting and spring training action. Tweets range from photos and observations to prospect ranking and prospect stories.

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C’s Chat – Donnie Sellers

Vancouver Canadians Donnie Sellers

Donnie Sellers posted a 3-1 record with a 3.90 earned run average with Vancouver in 2017.

Climbing the hill in this edition of C’s Chat is Vancouver Canadians pitcher Donnie Sellers. Born Rodney Donnell Sellers in High Point, North Carolina, the 6-foot-1 right-hander was an 11th round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2017 MLB draft out of Wake Forest. Sellers is hoping to follow in the footsteps of former Deacon Demon and Blue Jay Dave Bush, who pitched for nine years in the bigs with Toronto, Milwaukee and Texas after the Jays selected him in the second round of the 2002 draft. Another Wake Forest connection for Sellers is none other than the Blue Jays current general manager Ross Atkins.

Sellers had to wait a couple of days before he got drafted but he did not have to wait long to hear his name called on the third and final day of the draft.

“I was actually on the phone when it happened. I was on the phone with my (advisor). We were talking about where I should go and where I might go. I got a call from (Blue Jays scout) Chris Kline telling me to be looking out, I should go soon and right before the 11th round started, he immediately called me right back and said, ‘Hey Donnie, we just picked you up. Welcome to the Blue Jays.’ It all happened really fast. I finished my super regional in Gainesville, Florida on Monday. I got drafted on Wednesday and I was in Florida on Friday so it was really, really, really fast.”

“We never had time for a party, really. I guess this Christmas was the party. I got to spend time with the family, didn’t really get to in the summer. My dad was actually here when I was on the call so it was good to share the moment with him. He’s one of the big reasons why I’m able to be even still be playing baseball so it was really, really cool to be able to share that moment with him. Of course, I called my mom, my brother, my sister, all the grandparents, my aunts, uncles and cousins in the following day and they were all really excited.”

On how pitching at Wake Forest prepared him for professional baseball.

“I’d say the talent in the ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference), that’s top notch. You get SEC (South East Conference), ACC competition, that’s the top-notch competition you can get in college baseball. It was really, really good to get to face guys like Brendan McKay, Gavin Sheets, Will Craig. These are really, really good hitters that know what they want to do and have an approach.

And then moving that and knowing what I want to do with guys like that and moving that over to pro ball really was just a seamless transition. We got scouting reports on the other team, we knew what they liked to do, we knew what they couldn’t do so I pitched to my strengths and pitched to their weaknesses. It was a lot of fun just being able to compete for my first season. I threw the ball pretty well so I was happy with my first short season in pro baseball.”

On playing summer collegiate ball with the Thunder Bay Border Cats of the Northwoods League.

“Yeah, it was a shock. Mainly just the currency. It was a shock because I didn’t’ have any Canadian money and I don’t think I had a bank that was serviceable in Canada yet so I was just kind of stranded, getting a money transfer so that’s how I was having to live up in Thunder Bay.

It was fun. We were around a good group of guys. Our team wasn’t that great but we still had fun playing. It was a grind. Travel was about like it was in Vancouver. You always have to go through the border, eight-hour trips every other day so it was a shock at first. I think it really prepared me to play in Vancouver, to play out of the country again. It was really cool. It was sweet. I had a fun time.”

On seeing how the Blue Jays are Canada’s team during his time in Thunder Bay.

“My host family are big Blue Jays fans. When I called them and let them know that I got drafted by the Blue Jays, they were ecstatic, they really, really enjoyed the news. It was cool being able to get to be around those people in Thunder Bay and they were all Blue Jays fans and they know that I play for the Blue Jays so that’s really, really cool.”

Vancouver Canadians Donnie Sellers

Donnie Sellers made his professional debut with two scoreless innings against Spokane June 24.

On being assigned to Vancouver.

“It was kind of just up in the air I guess I would say. A lot of the guys were new, we went to mini-camp. A lot of guys got there, were assigned to where they were going, whether it to be in Bluefield or if they were staying in Dunedin (with the Gulf Coast League Blue Jays) or if they were going to Vancouver. I went in and talked to (minor league pitching coordinator) Jeff Ware and he told me I was going to heading to Vancouver.

I was very excited to go play in Vancouver because I heard the fans were really good. They always pack the house and they definitely did not disappoint. The first night when I got there, it was a packed house and an unbelievable environment, just awesome being able to have that experience as my first pro ball experience was really, really cool.”

On his most memorable moments as a pro.

Obviously winning the championship was my highlight. I was super, super fortunate to get to be put on that team in the first place and then to win a championship with a great group of guys. I was really, really fortunate to get to have that experience.

It’s kind of hard for me to remember a lot of my outings but there was one, I think it was against Tri-City, I was struggling with my two-seam fastball so Riley (catcher Riley Adams) came out to me and told me to throw four-seams so it was the last out of my outing, it was like 0-0 still. I wasn’t happy with how it was going but I found my four-seam fastball and threw three fastballs inside to a lefty hitter and he swung and missed all of them. That’s my most standout moment that I can remember pitching in Vancouver. That was awesome.”

On not getting to pitch in the playoffs.

“It was just a situation where I was going to have to come in and pitch just never came up. When we were in Oregon playing Eugene, I was scheduled to pitch in the last game (Game 2 of the Northwest League final) but it ended up being so close that we had to go with a more realiable bullpen because I hadn’t come out of the bullpen for a long time so we went with a bullpen arm instead of me and when we went back to our place, it was Orlando Pascual and Will Ouellette all the way. I’m not angry I didn’t pitch. I’m happy they got the opportunity to close it out and get the title. I was just glad to be part of the team, honestly. I had fun either way.”

On the celebration of the Northwest League title.

“I remember it was the last inning, the last batter. The at-bat hadn’t started yet and I went and grabbed a couple of cups of water. When we won, I was going to spray it all over Will (William Ouellette). I decided I did not have enough water so I went and grabbed two water bottles and filled those all the way up and then whenever he threw the last pitch (for the called strikeout), I just ran out on the field and splashed water all over everybody and I can’t really remember much after that. That’s really the only thing I remember from the championship.”

Vancouver Canadians Donnie Sellers

Donnie Sellers earned his first professional win with four shutout innings in relief in Tri-City July 25.

On his transition from the outfield to the mound. 

“It was tough in my first couple of years at Wake Forest because just the pure inning limit I had to get to. In high school, I probably threw in my four years of high school, maybe 20 innings. I just came in like the seventh inning to close games out that were close.

Going to Wake, I injured myself. I fractured my left wrist so it wasn’t my throwing wrist so I couldn’t hit but I could still throw. I guess that’s when they really saw my potential, that I had good arm strength and then from there, it was just getting that command and developing those off-speed pitches to really try to mold myself into a professional pitcher. It’s been a lot of fun.

One thing that the Blue Jays like is athletic pitchers so obviously with (Marcus) Stroman, he’s very, very athletic so it’s really awesome to be able to kind of channel my athleticism from playing a position onto the mound. Being able to repeat mechanics is really, really huge with pitching. I attribute most of that, being able to repeat my mechanics, to my athleticism. That’s a really, really key factor I guess in me as as a ball player is my athleticism.”

On whether he’s looking to add to his fastball-slider-changeup combination.

“No, that’s about it. Just perfecting those three pitches. I have a four-seam fastball and a two-seam fastball. The four-seam stays more true and straight and the two-seam has more sinking action. Depending on the batter, the count, what I’m trying to do in my outing, that’ll dictate which fastball I’ll throw.

What I’m working on now is my slider—keep it nice and tight instead of loopy and almost like a slurve.

And with the changeup, it’s just throwing it more and getting used to it. I haven’t really needed to throw it in the past so just throwing it and getting familiar with the grip and arm speed and all that stuff. That’s what I’m working on there.”

On working with his first pitching coach in the pros, Jim Czajkowski

“It was awesome. One of my favourite coaches I’ve had. He’s about his business but also at the same time, he knows how to be light-hearted and the dugout scene was great. The clubhouse scene was great with him. He’s a really, really nice guy first of all and a really, really good coach.

I think all of our pitchers on that staff were very, very fortunate to have him as our first pro pitching coach. He let us do what we wanted, he wasn’t trying to mold us into something that we weren’t. He took our strengths and he wanted us to kind of feed off of those strengths which was really, really cool and something that I valued in my time with him this past summer.”

Vancouver Canadians Donnie Sellers

Donnie Sellers recorded a career-high five strikeouts in 2-2/3 innings against Spokane July 13.

On sharing the same alma matter with Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins.

“We haven’t had a chance to talk about that quite yet. I guess I’d say I was a little bit intimidated to really talk to any of the higher-up people in the organization just because that’s how it is, I guess really, in a new job you’re really kind of intimidated by your boss and your boss’ boss. We haven’t got a chance to talk about that yet but I’m sure down the road somewhere we will.”

On his favourite team and player growing up.

“When Jason Heyward was playing for the Braves, he was my favourite player and my favourite team was the Braves. My grandparents are huge Braves fans so I was kind of bred into the Braves nation I guess.”

On his pitching preference.

“I see myself as a starter because I can command all of my pitches and can go deep into games. I’ve proven that in Wake Forest. I see myself as a starter but in all honesty, I see myself as a pitcher. Wherever they need me to throw, I’m going to throw the same in whatever role they see fit for me. Whatever I can do to help the Blue Jays, that’s what I must do.”

Vancouver Canadians Marcus Stroman

2012 Vancouver Canadians pitcher Marcus Stroman is who Donnie Sellers hopes to emulate in the pros.

On who he compares himself to in the majors.

“I’ve been saying this for years. I like to compare myself to Stroman. First, because he’s in the same organization. He’s not the biggest guy, I’m not the biggest guy. He’s got that heart, that dog in him. I think I do too. He’s super athletic, able to manipulate his arm action and his windup, all types of things to throw guys off-balance. As I start to get more confidence in my mechanics and start pitching better, I feel like I’m going to be able to do the same thing.

Also being able to field my position is really important to me. I do have fun with PFPs (Pitcher’s Fielding Practice) because you really don’t get to show off how athletic on the mound all that often so when you get a chance to go field a PFP, that’s when my eyes light up and it’s time to go to work.”

Vancouver Canadians Donnie Sellers

Donnie Sellers earned the win in his final appearance of 2017 in Tri-City with a shutout inning September 3.

On taking part in the fall instructional league.

“Instructs was an experience. It was really hot, really humid. I was shut down for like half of it because of innings but what I learned a lot was in my bullpens, just working on the slider with Cy (Jim Czajkowski) and Jeff Ware, really getting that tight spin on it was really, really important for me. You could tell that they really wanted to work on that and get that to me, a serviceable pitch that I could use in basically any count.”

On his off-season preparation.

“I don’t do Driveline (Baseball Training). I don’t do their full program. I do just two exercises that they recommend. It’s for shoulder strength. It’s just reverse throws and pivot throws so those are the only two arm-strengthening exercises I do.

The main thing I’m really working is getting more flexible and agile in my lower body. I’m really, really tight and wound up so getting loose and flexible has really been my number one priority especially in my hamstrings.

As far as the pitching side of it, again, just getting comfortable with my changeup and tightening up that slider to where it looks like a fastball coming out and at the last second, it has that slider action. Those have been my off-season goals and it’s going well. I’m super, super excited to go to spring training and meet a bunch of new guys and also compete for a role on one of the teams.”

On looking to climb the minor league ladder in 2018.

“it’s definitely my goal to be on a full-season team and be able to really challenge myself in a 142-game season. It’s really nothing like I’ve never experienced. I’m sure it will be a shock. I think I’ve prepared myself well enough and I’m sure that spring training will prepare me emough for what’s coming up in hopefully one of those full-seasons.”

My thanks again to Donnie Sellers for being my guest on C’s Chat. You can follow him on Twitter @dsell_11.

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C’s Chat – Cullen Large

Vancouver Canadians Cullen Large

Cullen Large walked nearly 12 percent of the time with Vancouver to help him post a .356 on-base percentage in 2017.

cs_chat_logoThe Toronto Blue Jays’ fifth-round pick of the 2017 draft is the latest player to stop by in this edition of C’s Chat. Second baseman Cullen Large was taken by Toronto after playing at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia where he hit .323 over his three-year career in his home state. The Chesterfield, Virginia product showed some pop in his bat by slugging over .500 over his last two years and showed a good eye at the plate with on-base marks over .400 during his sophomore and junior campaigns. He was named to the All-CAA First Team and ECAC Second Team in 2017.

Before heading to William & Mary, the 6-foot-0 switch-hitter played at James River High School in Midlothian where he earned first-team All-District and second-team All-Region in his senior year after winning first-team and honourable mention plaudits in his junior year respectively. He showed his all-around game by leading his school in sacrifice bunts.

The 6-foot-0 switch-hitter made his professional debut against the Spokane Indians at Nat Bailey Stadium June 23 and recorded his first single in his second at-bat, scored a run and drew a walk to help the C’s pick up an 8-5 victory.

Large began his C’s tenure with a five-game hitting that included a pair of two-hit games. Among his biggest hits were a game-tying single in the ninth to help Vancouver pull out a 15-13 win in Everett June 27. He recorded another two-hit game with a pair of doubles against Eugene July 1 and scored the winning run the next day after getting aboard on a hustle double.

Large did have a seven-game hitting streak near the end of July but his batting average had dipped from a high of .291 in early July to .236 in early August. It appeared things were turning for Large in Hillsboro August 6 when he contributed a pair of hits, including a game-winning RBI single to help the C’s even up their five-game series against the Hops. Vancouver would eventually get the series victory at Ron Tonkin Field and gain a measure of revenge after the Hops swept the C’s in five straight back at Nat Bailey Stadium in July.

The euphoria of Large’s game-winning hit did not last long as he suffered a season-ending injury trying to break up a double play at second.

“I actually dove into second base and I kind of jammed my pinkie. It kind of got caught right on the bag and I fractured my hand. It was just bad luck I guess.

Originally, when I slid into second base, I kind of popped up. I jammed my pinkie. It was my first game in left field too so I went back out to left field. I went to warm up and I couldn’t grip the ball real well and actually threw one of my warm up throws over the outfield fence.

At first, we didn’t think it was broken but we got an x-ray (in Hillsboro) anyway so it kind of surprised us that it was broken so it was that night that I went and got an x-ray and found out I wasn’t going to be able to finish out the season…but they let me stay up there and hang around the team, which was awesome.””

On having to sit out the rest of the year due to injury.

“It wasn’t easy. I wasn’t allowed to run or anything. Fortunately, I didn’t have to have surgery so I couldn’t do anything that was going to jeopardize my getting hurt or running into something or making it worse or having a setback so I kind of just had to sit there.

It helped in a way and hurt in a way. It was tough because I’m not the kind of guy who likes to just sit still for any extended amount of time but I knew I had to. During that, I knew I could be a good teammate and be around and kind of lighten the mood if I needed to and that kind of thing.”

Eventually, my teammates started calling me ‘Coach Cullen’. Eventually, Mattingly Romanin came back and wanted a single-digit jersey number so Johnny (Johnny Stewart) came up to me, our clubbie, and said ‘Hey, do you mind if Mattingly takes your jersey?’ I said, ‘No. Absolutely. Go for it.’ I actually got one of the coach’s pullovers so I would wear it during games so I would walk around BP with a fungo just to kind of play the character a little bit. That was kind of fun. It was a fun way for me to be involved, I guess. I was kind of lightening the mood and being around my teammates and having a good time.”

On his final at-bat of 2017, a game-winning hit.

“I remember I hadn’t been feeling very good at the plate for the past week and-a-half to two weeks maybe and that day, I was figuring some stuff out. I got a base hit in my first at-bat and I hit the ball hard in my second at-bat. In my last at-bat, I knew I had been seeing the ball well and I was kind of sitting off-speed. I knew that they weren’t going to give me any fastballs to hit in that at-bat, in a big situation like that. It was a slider down that I just got the (bat) head on it and had a nice line drive. It was nice to kind of get that off my shoulders. That was actually the game I unfortunately got hurt was when I started feeling good.”

On the C’s bouncing back the next day in Hillsboro after blowing a 7-0 lead in the second game and gaining revenge by winning three of five against the Hops at Ron Tonkin Field after being swept in five games in Vancouver.

“I think that sparked us too. Having them come back. We knew we didn’t play well obviously in that first series. We knew it was going to be a little bit different. We just kind of went into it knowing they were a good team and try to play as well as we could. I think after the first game, we kind of realized that we got, it was going to be more of a better match-up and that we knew we could handle them.”

Vancouver Canadians Cullen Large

Cullen Large was successful on all three of his stolen base attempts with Vancouver.

On the Canada Day weekend series vs. the Eugene Emeralds.

“That was one of the first series where kind of our draft class was playing at the same time. Our coaches had told us, ‘Hey, Eugene’s good, like they’re on a roll, they’re one of the best teams in the league.’ We kind of went in with that mindset like, ‘Alright, they’re playing well, we’re playing pretty well so we’re going to try to play as great as we possibly can.”

On scoring the winning run in a come-from-behind victory against Eugene July 2.

At that point, I remember feeling pretty good at the plate, which was awesome. Things were just kind of rolling and that (second-to) last game in particular when I scored the winning run, I remember it was kind like a jam shot over the first baseman’s head and I was running down the first base line, nobody got to (the ball) when I was touching first base and I saw the second baseman got to it and he was kind of falling away from second base.

I knew it was going to be a tough throw and I knew that since I was a pretty important run, being aggressive and going to second wasn’t a bad thing. If I was going to be aggressive on a good ball read if I stayed at first or if I was going to be aggressive and try to turn it into a double so I just decided to go for it, (make it) tough for the second baseman and it was exactly that. The throw was kind of wild. I think I would have beaten it anyway but I kind of slid in safe and it worked out pretty well from there.”

On the play-off type atmosphere that surrounded that July 2 game.

“We were all pretty pumped up. Learning to win close games is something that doesn’t just happen in the playoffs, you kind of work for that during the regular season. Just like you work on taking ground balls and seeing pitches and stuff like that, a team works on winning, whether it’s a close game or whether it’s a game you should win, it takes practice.

That was kind of nice that we got the win in the game and from then on, we kind of knew that we could then do it and we obviously worked on it before going in the playoffs which was awesome.”

Vancouver Canadians Cullen Large

Cullen Large stayed with the club for the remainder of the season despite a finger injury that sidelined him in early August.

On the pennant chase that resulted in a first-half North Division title.

“I don’t know if we were focused on the pennant on that point, we were just kind of trying to play well. I guess you could say we were probably pressing a little bit because we wanted to win the first half and that kind of stuff and we were scoreboard watching for a little while and it wasn’t really helping us very much.

When we started to kind of turn things around, it was just like, ‘Alright, we’re just going to take this one inning at a time. We’re not going to focus on what Tri-City was doing, we’re just trying to kind of go at it.’ And that’s when things were kind of started going well for us again which I think really helped.

It was really fun obviously when we clinched. It was a lot of pressure off our shoulders so we could kind of just focus on playing well again, which was awesome. It helped us out a lot.”

On having to be extra careful during the championship celebration.

“Yeah. I looked at Dan (trainer Dan Leja) who, any time my hand was outside of the dugout so if I was up on a step, he would say ‘Come on, put your hand back in!’ if I was sitting on the little bench outside the dugout, he’d be like, ‘Cullen, get back in the dugout!’ When we were about to win, I looked at him and said, ‘Hey, I’m going to hang around the dugout and I’ll be one of the last ones out, I’ll be on the outskirts of it in case anything, like, happens so that’s exactly what happened. I kind of hung around the dugout and hugged a couple of guys before I ran out there and I ran out there and I was on the outskirts of the dogpile out there.”

On the realization he was part of a championship club.

“It was awesome. It was so much fun to watch. We played a really clean series, the last series. Obviously, it was really low-scoring games. Maybe the offence wasn’t as good as it could have been but in a championship atmosphere, that happens a lot. We never buckled. We never gave up. We had a lot of guys step up obviously. Logan (Logan Warmoth) had a really good series and Kacy (Kacy Clemens) obviously did what he did for the whole year. It was fun to watch. It was fun to be a part of it and I’m lucky to say that I was a part of it. It was just an all-around blast.”

Vancouver Canadians Cullen Large

Cullen Large was selected with the 159th pick of the 2017 draft by Toronto.

On his draft-day experience.

“I had no idea where I was going to go but I knew it was going to be in the second day of the draft. I went to play golf actually with my dad and my brother, which was nice so it got me out of the house so I was kind of moving around. I actually went to lunch with my high school coach and I wasn’t going to follow the draft. I was kind of just going to go about it as a normal day but of course, my high school coach wanted to follow it pick by pick so they had it open at the dinner table but I was just kind of sitting there hanging out.

I was with my parents and my high school coach at the time just sitting at a restaurant in Richmond and I got a call just saying, ‘Hey, the Blue Jays asked if you wanted to go.’ I said, ‘Yes’. But obviously, yon never know if that’s the case. Luckily, I got one call once the draft started and it was the Blue Jays and they took me so it was actually pretty smooth sailing, which was awesome.

Once that happened, there was more celebration and a load off your shoulders. You’re a little nervous the last week before but after it happens, it’s one of the coolest feelings after. That night, a bunch of my friends from high school that I played with were around and we celebrated that night and it was good to see everybody.”

On gaining recognition from Baseball America by being rated among the top 200 prospects for the 2017 draft.

“Yeah, that was a big surprise honestly. I had no idea that people thought so highly of me. I like to think that I just kind of kept my head down and just kind of played as well as I could. I never really put any pressure on myself to be ranked or rated or anything like that so that was a big surprise but I was blessed to be able to be in the top 200. It was honestly a great surprise.”

On whether he received interest from other teams besides the Blue Jays.

“It was honestly a complete toss-up. I remember meeting with the Blue Jays and I remember the scout, Doug Witt. We were still in contact a little bit. He was actually one of the first scouts I met with when he came down to William & Mary. I remember meeting with him and we had a good talk but honestly, I had no idea it was going to the Blue Jays.”

On playing for William & Mary for three seasons.

“It was awesome. I was actually a little nervous coming out of high school but once I got there and settled in a little bit, it was awesome and a perfect fit for me. I got along with the coaches really well. I got to play for my freshman year on, which was awesome. It was one of the important things and one of the important goals I wanted to achieve. From the get-go, it was just kind of the perfect fit.

Once I got there, I actually hit lead-off in my freshman year so I wasn’t quite polished because I started switch-hitting going into my junior year in high school so I was still trying to figure out my left-handed swing because I hit right-handed for my whole life up until going into my junior year in high school.

Obviously facing better pitching in college, it was a little bit of a challenge but I started to figure it out. My sophomore year was when I started to get a little bit more production from my left-handed swing. The ball started carrying a little bit better for me and things started rolling from there. I guess that’s when I kind of started to realize that professional baseball was going to be a potential realization was that sophomore year when I started to figure things out.”

Vancouver Canadians Cullen Large

Cullen Large made 27 starts at second base and one in left field for the C’s in 2017.

On being assigned to Vancouver to begin his pro career rather than being close to home with Bluefield.

“They had a meeting us and told us in individual meetings and told me I was going to Vancouver. When I found that out, I was really excited. Obviously being in Bluefield would have been a lot of fun too. Some friends and family could have come to see me play but I was excited to go outside of the country that I’ve never been to before.

I’ve heard Vancouver has an awesome set-up. Lots of fans, so I was really excited to start my professional career there, I was thrilled, that would be the best way to describe it and it was exactly that. It completely exceeded my expectations and I had high expectations going in so it was absolutely awesome.”


Cullen Large was teammates with 2015 C’s catcher Ryan Hissey at William & Mary.

On rejoining his former William & Mary teammate and 2015 C’s catcher Ryan Hissey in the Blue Jays organization.

“Yeah, we talked on the phone for a while a day or two after I got drafted. He kind of told me everything that was going to happen and how everything works so I had a pretty good understanding of what was going on when I got down there. Obviously, we talked about Vancouver too when I found out I was going there and he absolutely had a great time up there too. He told me everything I needed to know so I wasn’t completely lost when I got up there.

Ryan’s a close friend of mine too so I’m lucky to have him as a friend. I get to him for a lot of stuff so it’s been awesome to kind of follow in his footsteps and he showed the ropes at William & Mary and he showed me the ropes with the Blue Jays so I’m lucky to have him.”

Vancouver Canadians Cullen Large

Cullen Large hit .313 in 32 at-bats when he was second in the batting order for the C’s.

On when he decided to try switch-hitting.

Chipper Jones was my favourite player growing up so I would go in the backyard and play wiffle ball with my brother and I tried to be like Chipper Jones and hit from both sides of the plate. I kind of toyed around with it when I was younger and did it off and on but it was never like a serious thing.

After my sophomore year in high school, I was on a summer showcase team (Virginia Cardinals) and I was kind of messing around, hitting left-handed before one of our showcase tournaments. My coach, Rich Graham, and was like, ‘Wow! Cullen, that’s pretty good! You should do that this weekend!’ I was like, ‘Alright, I’ll try it out and see what happens.’

I ended up hitting pretty well and Rich kind of came over and was like, ‘Hey! I think this can do. I think this will help your career. If you say you want to do this, I don’t’ care if you’re oh-for-50, I’m not letting you go back and just hit right-handed. If you’re going to do it, you’re going to do it for the rest of your career.’ I said, ‘Alright! I’m in! I’ll see how it goes.’

So I got to work and I guess I had been doing it for about a month and hit a home run left-handed so I was like, ‘Alright. I guess this probably is the best thing for my career.’

I was just questioning whether or not I’d be able to do it at the college level but I kind of figured it out when I got to college so it was kind of one of those things that I almost surprised myself but I obviously worked really hard at it. I was probably hitting twice as much left-handed as I was hitting right-handed out in workouts and at practice so I kind of caught up once I got to college and I’m really glad it worked out that way.”

On fine-tuning his swing from both sides of the plate.

“Honestly, I think the biggest thing is trying not to do exactly what you do on the other side. Since you have two different swings, keep them two different swings. Don’t try to be something you’re not from both sides of the plate.

Obviously, you can be aggressive and go after balls but essentially for me, I try not to match my right-handed swing to my left-handed swing or vice-versa. I just try to do what I do well from either side because when I start trying to match it, that’s when things get a little bit out of control. Obviously, I’m the same hitter.

Honestly, I guess it’s approach. Having a strong mindset when you get in the box each at-bat, whether it’s right-handed or left-handed is the most important thing and the biggest challenge.”

I try to go equal swings each day from both sides. Maybe if I’m not feeling as well, I get a bit of extra work on the one side that day or if we’re facing a lefty or we haven’t seen a lefty, I might work a little bit extra righty but I try to keep it as balanced as I possibly can so that one side doesn’t get overmatched or undermatched for me getting work that way

It’s worked out pretty well. Each day, I don’t have to think about, ‘Oh , I guess I’ll hit left-handed today or I’ll hit right-handed today.’ I go in and say, I can hit left-handed and right-handed today,’ and get my work in that way.”

On who he would compare himself to in the major leagues.

“An easy answer would be Ben Zobrist, being a guy who’s a switch-hitter, being a guy who can kind of move around and play a bunch of different positions, be a good teammate.

I try to do as many things as I can do to help our team win. If our manager came up to me and said, ‘Hey, we need you to play left field today if you think you can do it.’ I say, ‘Yes sir, absolutely. I’ll take it head on.’ Anything to help us win. I like to think that I play hard, no matter the game. Obviously, that game against Eugene, I would expect it, trying to turn that single into a double.

Ben Zobrist, I think, is a good example of that because he’s kind of in the lineup a bunch of different ways. He can hit in the middle, hit at the top or hit at the bottom, a little bit of spark down there. A switch-hitter, some good match-ups from either side and he plays a bunch of positions. With the Rays, he played at shortstop—which I don’t think they ever really expected him to—but second base, third base or corner outfield, whatever, he’ll move around which I really admire from him and maybe I can do that one day, hopefully.”

On other positions he has played in his career.

“I played shortstop in high school and then they switched me to second base my freshman year in college and then we had some injuries so I ended up finishing the year playing shortstop for the last six games or so in my freshman year but after that went back to second base.

I like to think that I can move around if a team needs me to. I primarily played second base in college and professional but I can move around a bit if they need me to.”

On playing summer college ball with the La Crosse Loggers in the Northwoods League.

“Northwoods was awesome. I had a blast. I didn’t play summer ball my first year after my freshman year so I went to La Crosse after my sophomore year so I could get a bunch of at-bats. To play like 70 games or so, it’s pretty much just like a short season schedule.

Traveling around to a part of the country I’d never been to before. La Crosse was awesome, the fan base was awesome. I met a lot of cool people and it was fun to play in front of a few thousand every night. They get good fans out there too just like in the Northwest League. It’s definitely the closest thing to professional baseball you can get. I was really fortunate and I liked it so much and here I am.”

Vancouver Canadians Cullen Large

Cullen Large had a line drive rate of 19.6 percent with the C’s according to FanGraphs.

On whether being an umpire during his younger years has helped him with his strike zone discipline.

“I never really thought it did but I guess you could say it could help. A lot of the umpiring I was doing was with younger kids so it’s a little tough to compare that because obviously, younger kids aren’t throwing as hard and that kind of thing and don’t have as much command as pitches don’t move as much.

Umpiring, I had a lot of fun with it and it was something to do on a weekend when I was playing in high school. I actually went up to Cooperstown and I got to umpire in a tournament down there, which was awesome, right before I went to college. It’s a fun thing for me to do to stay around the game of baseball and work on it at the same time.”

On what it takes to be an umpire.

“A thick skin for sure. I understand if an umpire makes a bad call. I’ll kind of look up and be like, ‘You know, I don’t necessarily agree with that but you know, I get it. It’s alright, like, no worries.’ I kind of feel their pain obviously like when I’m playing now because I feel I was the same way. I’ve had coaches and parents yell at me before for stuff and you kind of just have to stick with your call and stick with your gut. Umpires at our level do the exact same thing. I’ve definitely been there before.”

On getting over his finger injury.

“I feel great. The finger is a non-issue at all. I don’t even remember breaking it honestly, which is great. I’ve overcome that mental hurdle. I feel really good physically. I put on a little bit of weight, which is good, and I feel strong. I’ve been hitting a lot. My arm feels great. I’m just excited to get down to Florida and get going. The weather’s a little fluctuating right now. It’s really cold some days, then it gets really warm. It’ll be really nice to get down to Florida for some nice weather pretty consistently for a while.”

On his goals for 2018.

“I just want to try and be consistent. I felt last summer, I was a little up and down. Obviously, I only played half the year so it was a smaller sample size but I just want to try and be consistent whether it’s my physical play and mental play.

I’d like to think I’m a pretty good teammate and I try to be as good a teammate as I can be but I want to be that every day. That’s something that I can control and I just want to be kind of a happy guy and not get too down or get too high when I’m doing well. Not get too down when I’m not doing well, that kind of thing. I think that will help me be consistent on the field as well. Those are kind of the things I want to work on this year.”

A big-time thank you again to Cullen Large for stepping up to the plate in this edition of C’s Chat. You can find him on Twitter @cullenlarge.

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C’s Chat – Chavez Young


Chavez Young made his Nat Bailey Stadium debut during the 2017 playoffs.

cs_chat_logoVancouver Canadians outfielder Chavez Young is the latest player to take his turn at-bat in the latest instalment of C’s Chat.

Drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 39th round of the 2016 draft out of Faith Baptist Christian Academy in Ludowici, Georgia, the 6-foot-2 Young decided to turn pro after the Jays gave him a $200,000 signing bonus. He overcame a tough start in the Gulf Coast League by hitting .274/.346/.438 in 21 games in which he had eight doubles, two triples and six stolen bases in seven attempts.

The 20 year-old switch-hitter from Freeport, Bahamas continued to make strides in his second professional season which saw him start and end the year in Vancouver. In between, he was the leadoff hitter for the Appalachian League-leading Bluefield Blue Jays in which he batted .282/.332/.440, scored 52 runs and led the league with seven triples. He batted .444 with a home run in the playoffs and threw out a runner at home from center field but it wasn’t enough as Pulaski edged out Bluefield two games to one in the league semi-final.

Young’s season wasn’t over yet as he was flown out west just in time to join the C’s for their playoff run. He contributed with a number of diving catches in right field and belted a home run in Game 1 of the Northwest League final against the Eugene Emeralds. He played a key role in starting a two-run rally in Game 3 and survived an encounter with the right field wall in foul territory to record the penultimate out of Game 4. His ultimate reward was getting to join the on-field celebration as a key contributor to the C’s fourth Northwest League championship.

I caught up with Chavez (pronounced ‘shah-VEZ’) on the phone in Tampa, Florida recently to see how his off-season was going.

“This is my second off-season so I’m kind of experienced and I know what I should be working on going into my second full season. My first off-season, it was just like a test drive to see how to prepare next year. Last year was my first off-season. This year, I was prepared like knowing when to throw, when to get back on the field and know when to start hitting, to give my body more rest and when to start hitting the gym again.

I started hitting the gym again in November when I reported for (Baseball) Strength Camp and that’s when I started getting in the gym but it was like off the field, not hitting, not fielding or throwing.

The main thing I really wanted to work on this year was my core, to have a strong core, for my abdomen to be strong. That was the one thing I was really trying to attack this off-season.”

In December, that’s when I started hitting. Everyday when I had a chance when Mother Nature gave the chance on the field, I would hit.

I’ve been hitting with Bo Bichette, his father (Dante Bichette) and Dante Bichette Jr. in St. Pete (St. Petersburg) so it was great working with one of the greatest hitters in baseball. Just getting mentally locked in, coming in with a routine every day. That’s what he would teach you, what is your plan when you’re going to hit not just in the cage but what you want to work on, what you want to get better on, what you visualize yourself doing in the game. That was the main thing he was teaching me. Not just going in the cage just to hit but going in with a purpose and a routine.”

That was the plus-plus thing that ever happened to me in the off-season like that. That was a great experience hitting alongside with Bo and his dad.”


On taking part in the first-ever Don’t Blink – Home Run Derby In Paradise in the Bahamas.

“It was a mind-blowing thing. It was like going back to the World Series, playing as a kid and having fun. It was just like fun baseball again, playing with your younger friends and all those who were drafted because we normally can’t see each other like how we used to because we’re all playing professionally.

To have that experience, to play in front of your home crowd, hitting balls in front of your own crowd. When you hit a home run, the crowd goes crazy. The vibe there was so amazing. I was really happy to participate in that and I really can’t wait for (next) January 5th. Just to start off the year, that was really great.

We had Bo Bichette down from the Blue Jays, we had Nick Gordon down from the Minnesota Twins. Just to bring a little home flavour back to the Bahamas. When we were playing on our own, we always had Nationals (Baseball National Tournament in the Bahamas) in June but since now since we play throughout the summer, we can’t participate in that event so that’s why we bring back the home run derby so all of us can come home and entertain. It’s entertainment for our people back home so that was a great experience.”

On representing Great Britain—the homeland of his parents—at the 2017 World Baseball Classic qualifier.

“Oh my goodness, that experience right there. When I say it was like playing in the World Series, it was the same feeling. We had an MLB-type of season, how they treat us, stay in great hotels, coming to the field and signing autographs. Everything that you think a kid could dream of, that was like me basically.

Some of the guys from the team that I was watching from the Bahamas-who were older than me-but when I was growing up watching them play, they were always like my role models. Albert Cartwright, Champ Stuart and Antoan Richardson, I always used to watch them play. I was never the same age so I could never play with them but when I was in Great Britain, I was practicing in center field with Champ Stuart. Just to be with him on the field, teaching me how to go about his routine in the outfield and stuff like that.

Not just from the tournament standpoint but from an experience standpoint, I learned a lot from those guys. It was a great experience playing for Great Britain at the World Baseball Classic.”

On his baseball beginnings.

“We had like what we called a ’13-15’ big field where the older guys play on. The field was so big because we didn’t have (many) fields in the Bahamas. We had to play t-ball games in the right field corner. My coach, Miss Higgs, she used to coach me in primary school. I would play everything, I used to run track but she brought me out and I just started playing. I used to play shortstop. You couldn’t say it was my position, I was just in the middle of the field. Every time a ball was hit to me, I would tag a base and try to run the next base. (Laughs) I started like that. Just playing ball, having fun and every time I hit the ball, I would try to get a home run. I started in t-ball when I was five or six years old.”

On playing high school ball in Georgia.

“I went in bowl full of fish, a lot of gold fishes just like me. There were other good players like me too so that pushed me to get a starting position on the varsity team. Just the environment around me, it pushed me. Everybody wanted to work hard, everybody wanted to get a college offer. The school pushed me on my work ethic and there were good coaches who had pushed me.to never settle and achieve a career. Faith Baptist Christian Academy was a great time for me going there.”

On who influenced him at Faith Baptist Christian Academy.

“When I first got there, there was a kid named Edgar Rivera. I always used to watch him go about his business and his work ethic.. He also used to drive me to the gym to push me.

I remember one time when he was on the field, he was walking down and he was telling me, ‘Bro, this is my last year here. You have two more years here, bro. For you to get to where you want to be, you got to block out friends, you got to block out family because sometimes they’re a distraction. You got to stay locked in. When I go, you got to keep up your routine, your working out and stuff like that. ‘

Edgar Rivera was always one of the biggest role models of my life. My senior year at Georgia Faith Baptist, he passed away in his freshman year.in junior college in Chicago. Everything I do, I always play for him. It was his dream. We go by calling him ‘Flindo’. He was always my big brother on the team, my big brother on the team. Everything I do on the field, he will always be there with me, even the batter’s box and center field. I’ll always remember him no matter what.”


Chavez Young batted .308 in five regular season contests with Vancouver.

On being drafted by the Blue Jays.

“It was an emotional roller-coaster, a really emotional roller-coaster going from day one to day three. Even though I got picked in the 39th (round), I was so grateful. I felt like I got picked in the first round. From the first time I moved to America, I always had that humbleness in me, like ‘Hey, you got to grateful for everything you do.’ Out of everybody in the world, they drafted you. I was grateful for that.

And when it came, when I was drafted, it was such a shocking thing even though I got drafted late. It was shocking, it was mind-blowing, I was happy that they picked me that the Blue Jays are giving me the opportunity to showcase my talent and it was just a great feeling.”

On other teams showing interest in him.

“To be honest, the Blue Jays were my first questionnaire from Mike Tidick, the area scout. He was on me from the fall of my senior year. The Padres were on me too but you never know, all the scouts say they liked me.

Mike Tidick, he was one me, even though I got picked 39th, he told me like, ‘Hey bro, I’m not going to go to sleep until we sign you so I’m just letting you know that now, bro. We’re going to sign you.’

That showed me right there that he sure was wiling to fight for me from day one. He was the first questionnaire, he was the first guy, the first scout I had even met.”

On how he found out about being drafted.

“I was at my coach’s game. The coach that started me in Ludowici, Georgia, I was watching his son play. I was charging my phone at the park. People had started calling me, ‘Hey man, your phone is blowing up. A lot of people are calling you and you got a lot of message and stuff.’ I was like, ‘Yep, that was for me!’ Even though the draft was going on, I didn’t want to pay attention to it.”

Vancouver Canadians Norberto Obeso

Norberto Obeso is credited for helping Chavez Young break out of his first professional slump in 2016.

On his first season in the Gulf Coast League.

“My first 20 at-bats was rough. I was like oh-for-20. I felt like, ‘Did I make the right decision?’ I had one of my teammates (Norberto Obeso), he talked to me. He was like, ‘You got a good swing, you got a nice swing! I feel like you’re in and out of the hitting zone too fast. I think you just got to stay through the hitting zone longer.’

After he told me that, it just like clicked. My first hit came and it was a double. Then after that, I went on a long hitting streak and I just finished out the season strong.”

Vancouver Canadians Chavez Young

Chavez Young made his Northwest League debut as a pinch-runner in Eugene June 15.

On opening the season with Vancouver.

“Coming from the GCL and coming from extended, you don’t have much fans. When I was going to Eugene, it was like ‘Wow! That’s a lot of fans!’ I hadn’t been to Vancouver yet. It feels so good playing in front of a lot of fans. I was so hyped about playing in front of fans like that. It was a lot of excitement. Kids want you to sign balls before the game, it was just mind-blowing.

And then when I went to Vancouver, it was like ‘Oh my goodness! I don’t want to leave!’ (Laughs) The fan base there and the vibe in Canada is crazy, it’s beautiful. It’s just beautiful there. The vibe there, the people are so generous.

I remember I went to Starbucks in Vancouver and I pull out American money and the people were like, ‘Why do you have American money?’ I was like, ‘I don’t know! You don’t use American money here?’ They say, “Where are you from?’ I say, ‘Bahamas’. They say, ‘Why are you here?’ I say, ‘I play for the Vancouver Canadians.’ And the people at Starbucks started to go crazy, like ‘Hey, can I have your autograph?’ I was so overwhelmed.”

On his early-season contributions to the C’s Opening Series victory in Eugene which included a three-run triple and a two-run double.

“It feels good to help out your teammates, your team. When you’re struggling and then you come through for the team. That feeling of you making your teammates happy, I love that. You’re making a diving play in the outfield, saving a run for my pitcher, that’s the best feeling ever. Bring in the tying or winning run or RBI, whatever. Just being there for my teammates, I thrive for those moments.”

On being sent down to Bluefield.

“To be honest, I was depressed a little bit. I was mad a little bit for a couple of days. Even though they told me that there was a chance I might be going down to Bluefield, they told me that but I was still a little mad because I felt I was doing good but I didn’t show it.

I was mad, I can tell you, I was mad but I had that instinct, that feeling in me like, ‘Hey bro, are you going to let that get to you or are you going to finish the season strong?’

What helped me there in Bluefield was I had great teammates. My teammates are really fun to play with. The manager and the whole (coaching staff) made me really comfortable, I could always talk to them whenever. They always looked out for me and let me play my game. I was so comfortable there, I even forgot that I even got sent down. We ended up in first place for the whole year, ended up playing in the playoffs but ended up losing in the first round.

It was fun playing with those guys. It helped me in finding out who I really am. I got a lot of playing time there and I kind of figured out myself, figured out what is my weakness and what is my strength. Even though we didn’t have much fans, it was a really great time playing there.”

On leading the Appalachian League in triples.

“I feel like if I see an outfielder’s jersey turn around-when they turn around their jersey, they should always be treating me, ‘Oh, I’m going to run for an inside-the-parker every time.’ Every time I see I hit a ball in the gap, I see the defender’s jersey turn around, I’m trying to think three every time. I’m only thinking about two when I get a base hit, to get that extra base. Every time I see the defender’s jersey, I’m trying to think three every time out of the box.”

On the playoff series against the Pulaski Yankees.

“I felt like Pulaski was one of our biggest rivals, they’ve always beaten us. They had a really good team. I feel like they always were A-1 against us. Every time they played us, they were their best against us. I feel like going in the playoffs, we had to attack them first.

Me leading off the playoffs with that home run, I was really fired up because we beat them (in Game 1). Leading off with that homer was a great, great feeling. My teammates really wanted the game, really wanted to win. That was a great, great feeling.”


Chavez Young homered four times with Bluefield and added two more in the playoffs, including one for Vancouver.

On whether he thought he was going back to Vancouver.

“No chance. I was lost. I was already packing to go home so I could get ready for instructs. Right before we were supposed to go on the bus at 4 o’clock in the morning to head down to Charlotte Airport, they told me that they were changing my flight ticket to Vancouver and I was shocked, it was mind-blowing. I was really happy because I was minding my own business and I was staying in my own lane and the opportunity came right back for me again. I was really happy to get the opportunity to showcase myself in Vancouver.

I flied right in to Spokane so I didn’t drive down to Spokane with the team. When I came in, my teammates – it was like, “Chavy!’ They were happy to see me again. It was like coming back home. They greeted me like I was coming back home from a long visit. Everybody was happy to see me. I was already comfortable. They were already family to me. It was a great feeling being back with my own boys.”

On playing his first games in Vancouver during the North Division final against the Spokane Indians.

“I remember the great diving catches in right field, that’s what I remember the most. Every time I made a catch, even a fly ball when I make a catch, the crowd goes crazy. Every out, the crowd would just went crazy. Especially when I made those diving catches right on the side of the wall, flipping over the wall or stuff like that, the crowd was going insane and that was so fun.”


Chavez Young contributed three hits, three walks and three runs during the post-season.

On returning to Eugene and hitting a home run in Game 1 of the Northwest League final against the Emeralds.

“When I was going into that at-bat, I was thinking ‘Attack the fastball.’ When I saw that pitch, (I was just) staying back, staying back and trying to drive it. I wasn’t trying to do too much. I was just trying to drive the ball and get on base. Once I get on base, I know for sure my teammates are going to bring me in and it was just for happened for me to go over the fence. I was just trying to drive the ball and hit the ball hard every time I get to the plate.”

On the events leading to scoring the tying run as part of a two-run rally in the fourth inning to win Game 3 of the Northwest League final.

“I remember, (manager) Rich Miller, we had a meeting right before that game. He was saying, ‘Just go hard! Doesn’t matter, should I go? Passed ball? Just run hard. Your teammates need you.’ That’s what I felt like. My teammates needed me. It doesn’t matter, you just need to get on base and just go hard for how long, like five minutes, 10 minutes.

Me hitting that ground ball, I was pissed off, I hit a ground ball to shortstop (Jhonny Betencourt) but I just thinking ‘we run it out, we run it out, we run it out.’ Especially when I’ve got kids who’ve been watching me at the dugout, see how I play and go about my business. I want to be a good example. I run it out and luckily I was safe by an error.

Logan (Warmoth) had a great hit, he hit it really like a missile. I couldn’t react that quick, I shuffled and then turned around and dived back into the base and luckily, (third baseman Austin Filiere) threw it over the first baseman’s head and I got to third base. I remember I was just trying to go hard every time.

And then I see (Kacy) Clemens hit a little dribbler to first base but I was (running) on contact, no matter what. We always practiced it in extended (spring training) on contact, you got to be (going) on first movement, the secondary (movement) and the shuffle. Everything happens for a reason, which you practice and it pays off, and that’s how it went down.”


Chavez Young is introduced on the scoreboard prior to Game 3 of the Northwest League final.

On his tumbling catch over the right field wall in foul territory for the second out of the ninth inning of Game 4.

“I was like, ‘We only need three more outs. Three more outs!’ That was it, three more outs.

It’s funny. I was like ‘If I get injured, the season’s already over so after three more outs, three more outs. I mean, man, I’m going to be wearing a ring!’ That was all I thinking about in my head, “Just three outs.’

I was hoping the ball was going to be hit to me. I was going to jump through a wall just to get the out. The only thing in my head was like, ‘I need a ring in March. I’ve already giving my ring size.’

On how he felt physically after that catch.

“To be honest, I didn’t feel it. My energy was flowing really fast. I was hyped. My teammates were there for me. They hyped me up. The crowd was hyping me out so I couldn’t feel nothng. I could feel no pain. I was probably sore (the next day) but it didn’t matter. We won a ring.”

On being part of the championship celebration.

“I felt like if there was a time to do a 60-yard dash, that was going to be the moment right there. I was just flying to the pitcher’s mound just to celebrate. I felt like I got to the pitcher’s mound in like 0.3 seconds from right field. It was kist amazing, it was mind-blowing. I was like, ‘Wow! It felt like the World Series, a mini-World Series.’

With a great crowd and we had great support behind us. We played hard. Everybody did their job on the field. It was just fun, I was just happy, just mind-blowing. I was happy. I couldn’t talk, I was happy, I was lost for words.

I run to the middle, I throw my glove up. I just remember in the (celebration), Lundy, (Brock) Lundquist, he was under everybody and I was trying to help him up so he won’t get smashed. I was trying to get him up. That’s how happy we were. Everybody was there for each other.”

On being a switch-hitter.

“Because I’m a natural right-handed hitter, I feel like I needed to work more on my left side. What I learned this season, even when I hit good on the right side, even when I had more swings and more at-bats from the left side, I can’t abandon my natural side.

I had been a little shaky this year. I would swing a lot from the left side because I feel like I was facing a lot of righties this year but I worked so much on my right side.

What I did so good this year is that I balanced both sides off. One day left-handed and one day right-handed so it was like equally 100-100. Both sides get both reps so both sides feel really great right now and I need to keep the routine like this going through the season.”

On when he started switch-hitting.

“I started switch-hitting when I moved to the States when I was 15 or 16 years old. It was something I decided to do on my own. I remember when I played with Lucius Fox from the Rays. Before he even got drafted, we played together in Boca Raton and West Palm Beach. I was in the (batting) cage and he was hitting left-handed and right-handed. One day, he showed me like, ‘Hey, just try it out,’ and I started and practiced it a little bit but that’s when I was 13 or 14 years old. I didn’t really take it serious but when I went back home to the Bahamas, I was thinking about it and then when I moved to the States for boarding school, that’s when I started switch-hitting when I was 16. Lucius Fox helped me out to think about it like ‘Hey, this is what you should start doing, you know, for your speed.’ And it was kind of my own thing. That’s when I started working-out left-handed and getting the swing right.”

On who he would compare himself to.

Kevin Kiermaier defensively. Offensively, I’m kind of like a Jose Reyes because he’s a switch-hitter, a spark plug and a hype player.”

On what he is focusing on in 2018.

“I like to improve on my consistency. Offensively, I need to work on getting on base, getting my on-base percentage higher and improve my batting average. Any league I go in, I want to be top-five in stolen bases and get to a Futures All-Star game.”

A big thank you again to Chavez Young for being more than generous with his time in this edition of C’s Chat.

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