C’s Chat – Josh Winckowski

Vancouver Canadians Josh Winckowski

Josh Winckowski won the Northwest League Pitcher of the Year Award in 2018.


2018 Vancouver Canadians pitcher Josh Winckowski is the latest to take the ball on this edition of C’s Chat.

The 6-foot-3 righthander from Fort Myers, Florida is expected to emerge as one of the Toronto Blue Jays top prospects on the mound in 2019 after enjoying a banner 2018. The 20 year-old Winckowski was named the Northwest League Pitcher of the Year this past season after finishing second in the league in earned run average (2.78) and strikeouts (71) and fifth in innings pitched (68.0).

Despite those impressive credentials, Winckowski did not land a spot on Baseball America’s Northwest League Top 20 Prospects list. In BA’s Northwest League Prospects Chat, Bill Mitchell did mention Winckowski was lauded by one of the league’s managers for his competitiveness on the mound. That sentiment was also echoed by his pitching coach Gary White at Estero High School. White told The Naples Daily News that Winckowski is “the nicest guy off the field, but when you get between those white lines, he’s going to come after you. He’s a kid that always wanted the ball, always wanted to win.”

Vancouver Canadians Josh Winckowski

Josh Winckowski averaged just over a strikeout per inning for the first time with Vancouver in 2018.


MLB Draft

It was in the 15th round of the 2016 draft that the Toronto Blue Jays selected Winckowski from Estero High. He received a $125,000 signing bonus, forgoing the opportunity to attend Florida SouthWestern State College. According to The Naples Daily News, Winckowski will have up to eight semesters of paid schooling courtesy of the Blue Jays, something that he was happy to receive.

“Obviously your mentality is that you’re going to pitch in the big leagues and that’s your goal. I’ve always kind of been someone that’s if I want something, I go after it. I remember being a young kid and saying, ‘Hey, I’m going to play baseball.’ Adults would say, ‘What’s your Plan B?’ and I’d say, ‘There is no Plan B.’ But obviously, having it is smart you know because some stuff is out of your control – injuries or just certain situations that you can’t control. It did mean a lot to have that knowing that if something does happen, you can go back to school and hopefully get a degree that you can use in life.”

Things were up in the air for Winckowski in 2016 before he decided to turn pro.

“It was kind of a crazy (year) for me. I didn’t really get scouted that much to go to college at all. I got my early offer like halfway through my senior year. It was kind of weird because obviously you’re filling out stuff for pro scouts and going to a few events and they were looking at you and talking to you and saying some pretty good things.

It was kind of weird for me but I had a pretty good senior year. I thank my pitching coach Gary White for that. He helped me out a lot there and then fortunately enough when the draft came around, they called me. They called my name and I went from there.”

Vancouver Canadians Josh Winckowski

Josh Winckowski has made 27 starts in three seasons since turning pro in 2016.


High School Shift

Winckowski’s decision to transfer from Cypress Lake High School in Fort Myers to Estero High before his junior season paid off as he got to experience the tutelage of pitching coach Gary White. The two broke down video of Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens and Corey Kluber to help improve Winckowski’s posture on the mound. Winckowski was able to draw upon plenty of White’s wisdom during their time with the Wildcats.

“He played a little bit of minor league ball for the Orioles and he was obviously a really good pitcher himself and he was a lefty. He kind of prepared me for all of this. He kind of knows and knew some of the things I was going to go through. He was kind of a guy that didn’t really throw all that hard himself, he’s a little bit more of a crafty lefty. He kind of taught me some things that especially down the road I’ve definitely seen be valuable to me like hitting spots and mixing speeds and changing locations.

There’s a lot of guys who come out of the draft and throw really hard in high school. They kind of just blow everyone away and I could do that a little bit but I’ve known how to pitch for a long time. When you come here, you can’t just blow people away all that often unless you’re throwing really, really hard but it’s knowing how to pitch and change speeds (that) has helped me out a lot.”

Vancouver Canadians Josh Winckowski

Josh Winckowski had a 2.66 ERA in July before posting a 0.66 mark in August for the C’s.


Turning Pro

The first pro stop for Winckowski was not too far away from home as he joined the Gulf Coast League Blue Jays in Dunedin.

“It’s only about two hours away. It’s kind of interesting like you think you’d be able to go home all the time but when you only have like Sundays off in the ‘G’ (GCL), you don’t really go home that often but you go home a few times and then the mom can come visit you here and there so it is nice really nice being close to home because then you can just drive to the complex and having a car there is a pretty big deal. It makes packing a lot easier. (laughs)”

It only took two appearances for Winckowksi to earn his professional victory as he tossed three innings of relief August 3 against the GCL Pirates. He would get one more win against the GCL Tigers East August 17. Winckowski would finish with a record of 2-2 with a 4.61 ERA in his five appearances covering 13-2/3 innings in which he struck out 13 and walked four.

The jump from high school to professional baseball was a big one to make for Winckowski.

“That first year was just kind of getting used to all the routines and the sheer number of days and hours that you’re on the field. That’s definitely something you got to get used to. And physically, I had a lot of catching up to do. That first year, I kind of came in and the velo was down and some other things that was kind of from fatigue or whatever it was.

It was a lot of adjustments. In high school, you face a team that’s maybe one or two hitters you got to worry about and then you get here, every hitter one through nine is really good here. It’s definitely a lot of physical and mental adjustments that you got to make and it’s been a really big growth period. Still to this day, I’m still learning a lot.”

Second Season

The 2017 campaign saw Winckowski report to Bluefield where he took some lumps before turning his season around. One highlight was a 10-strikeout game against the Danville Braves. He ended the year with five shutout frames against Johnson City in his lone relief appearance August 30. His final numbers were another 2-2 record with a 5.33 ERA.

“Last year was definitely not the year I expected. I was hoping to pitch a little bit better but I definitely did in the second half. I kind of picked it up like that game (against Danville). I kind of used my changeup more in the game and the second half.

It was really good to finish strong. It kind of set me up in a good mental state for coming into (2018). It made it a lot easier to go home and do all the things that I needed to do in the offseason. I learned an insane amount last year and I think it’s all helped me out this year.”

Vancouver Canadians Josh Winckowski

Josh Winckowski won two Northwest League Pitcher of the Week awards in August.


Baseball North

Vancouver, British Columbia was next up for Winckowski in 2018. He took the loss in his first two starts with the C’s in an up-and-down first half. His first win came at the end of June when he limited Salem-Keizer to two runs over six innings. That was followed up with five shutout innings to earn another victory in Everett July 6.

“The first half wasn’t bad. At different times, I got to have fastball location and then I had my slider and then sometimes the slider wasn’t on.

In the second half, it kind of just all came together. I’ve really been locating the fastball and I’m throwing my slider really well and mixing in the changeup there. When I have the combination of those three pitches going, it’s usually going to be a pretty good outing.”

Winckowski says C’s pitching coach Jim Czajkowski played a big role in his best season to date.

“It’s been huge. He’s helped me a ton this year. I can’t even say all the things that he’s done for me. He’s helped me out with my pitches and mechanics a little bit but just mostly, I’d say 70 or 80 percent of what he’s helped me out with this year is on the mental side and like sequencing and just staying calm. I’m really competitive and at times it gets a little too much so he’s helped me out a lot with that this year and I can’t thank him enough. I owe a lot of my success to him this year for sure.”

The second half saw Winckowski spin seven innings of one-run ball against the Eugene Emeralds July 29 before tossing six shutout frames in Hillsboro August 4 for a second straight win. Two more scoreless outings in Salem-Keizer August 13 (6-1/3 innings with a career high nine strikeouts) and at home against Spokane August 19 helped Winckowski extend a shutout string of 22-1/3 innings that ended August 25.

That effort against Spokane earned Winckowski his second Northwest League Pitcher of the Week award for the month of August after earning one for the week of August 4. He found out the good news from one of his biggest fans.

“To earn that award was pretty cool. It’s kind of funny. My grandpa was the one that found out. He’s always checking on my all my stats and all that stuff and he saw those and texted me about it.”

The start against Spokane in a playoff-type atmosphere between the top two teams in the North Division was one Winckowski rated pretty highly.

“It was probably top three for sure. I’d have to dig a little deeper into if it’s the best start of my career. You don’t put a lot of pressure on yourself but you definitely know what’s behind the game, you know the rankings so you got into that one. They’d been hitting really well. We knew that as a staff. You go into it hoping to have your best stuff and luckily I had pretty good stuff that day. I just sort of put it together.

It felt really good to keep the team in because I think it was 0-0 when I left the game. When I’m starting, my goal is to keep the team in it. If we score three runs, then my job is to keep it less than three. Keeping the team in it was a big goal and I was able to do it that day.”

The radar gun showed Winckowski hitting 100 miles per hour on the radar gun during that start against Spokane but he was not buying what the gun was selling.

“The gun was pretty hot that day. Personally, I’ve been up to 97 I think this year. I’ve flashed a few (96’s), 95 is usually my number. A good day for me is 91-96, touch a decent amount of (95’s) and sit 93. That’s kind of like my good velocity.”

Pitch Mix

Winckowski says he uses a different type of fastball depending on the handedness of the batter.

“When I go armside into righties, I get a little bit of run and then when I got into lefties, I’ll cut it – it gets a little bit of cut. I hold it the same but it’s kind of wherever we’re going on the plate, it’s kind of gets a little different movement.”

Winckowski also adds he has two variations of his slider.

“I kind of have like a harder, sharper one and then I have like a little bit of a slower, big breaker that I kind of just use on what I’m seeing from the hitter. I usually use the big breaking one for a strike. I’ll set it like I get a chance or something to drop it in. When I’m going for the strikeout, I’ll start the harder one that’s like 86-87 (miles per hour) at the knees and just drop it in to the dirt for when I’m going for a strikeout.”

Winckowski is expected to put his three-pitch mix to the test with the Lansing Lugnuts in 2019.

A big thank you again to Josh Winckowski for being the latest guest on C’s Chat and to C’s Media Relations Assistant Sharlene Canning for setting up the interview.

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C’s Chat – Justin Watts

Vancouver Canadians Justin Watts

Justin Watts is introduced on C’s Diamond Vision at Nat Bailey Stadium.


2018 Vancouver Canadians pitcher Justin Watts climbs the hill in this episode of C’s Chat.

Climbing the hill is something the 25 year-old Watts is still getting used to after getting a late introduction to pitching.

After lettering during his high school career in his hometown of Bryan, Ohio as a catcher and outfielder, Watts did not become a hurler until his freshman season in 2013 at Lincoln Trail College in Robinson, Illinois. A strong right throwing arm and a sudden growth support led Watts to a new beginning on the mound.

“In high school, I never pitched an inning. I went to junior college and I was short, a little pudgy kid. Within two months of right before Christmas break, in the first semester of college, I sprouted up to 6-3 out of nowhere. I was struggling hitting and they threw me on the mound one time and I guess I looked pretty good to them. Ever since then, nobody wanted me as a position player anymore, they wanted me to pitch.”

Watts would post a 1-1 record with a 5.84 earned run average and a save for the Statesmen but he would be sidelined with Tommy John surgery on his right elbow due to mechanical and arm care issues. That caused him to miss the entire 2014 season.

Vnacouver Canadians Justin Watts

Justin Watts has made 35 appearances in relief in his two-year pro career.


Buckeye State To Bluegrass State

Northern Kentucky University was Watts’ next stop in his college career. He made 14 starts among his 31 appearances for the Norse during the 2015 and 2016 campaigns. Despite winning just three of his nine decisions with an ERA over six, Watts struck out 89 batters in 100 innings.

Something that helped Watts find his footing on the mound according to the linked story above from the Evansville Courier & Press was working out with former high school teammate and fellow Bryan, Ohio native Matt Wisler. The righthander spent parts of three years with the Atlanta Braves before being traded to the Cincinnati Reds organization last July 31.

Watts gained more experience on the hill by playing summer collegiate ball with the Madison Mallards of the Northwoods League in 2015 and 2016. Pitching in Wisconsin prepared him for what to expect with Vancouver.

“It’s kind of similar to here (Vancouver) actually. They had a great fan base. We played in front of like 7,000 (fans). Madison, Wisconsin is a beautiful place. Great people, great coach. Donnie Scott (former major league catcher with Texas, Seattle and Cincinnati) was an awesome manager out there. I couldn’t have asked for two better summers.”

Fly Like An Eagle

The 2017 season saw Watts transfer to the University of Southern Indiana, the same place where 2014-2015 C’s righthander Jon Wandling pitched. Rated as the number 13 prospect in Division II by Baseball America heading into 2017, everything came together for Watts in his senior season. He became the Screaming Eagles closer, saving seven games and winning five of eight decisions with a 3.93 ERA and a strikeout-walk total of 45-9 over 34-1/3 innings. Watts had one four-inning start and allowed just two hits and struck out six against Kentucky Wesleyan College.

“My best memory of Southern Indiana was probably the fact that I was only there for one year and the fact that those guys took me in like I played with them for four years. It was just a great group of guys. We had a great team. We ended up losing in the regional but we were regular season champs. The first couple of weeks we struggled and after that we went on an absolute streak of just winning and it was just fun to play with those guys.”

Vancouver Canadians Justin Watts

Northwest League hitters batted just .185 against Justin Watts in 2018.


Getting The Call

The Toronto Blue Jays would take Watts with their 37th round pick in the 2017 draft, something he called the realization of a childhood dream.

“It’s everything I worked for my whole entire life since I started playing at age five. It’s all I ever dreamed of was getting to play professional baseball. Going through high school, just getting an opportunity to play college baseball to the point where you find out that you’re actually pretty good enough to go on and advance to that, it was just like an amazing feeling.”

Also sharing in the joy of Watts’ draft selection was Bryan baseball coach Jeff Inselmann, telling The Bryan Times it was “one of my most satisfying moments of my coaching career.”

It was the head coach at Southern Indiana Tracy Archeluta who first told Watts he was drafted.

“I was actually working at a baseball camp and I got done. The draft was about to end. We were getting toward the last few rounds and stuff like that so I headed home and then I got a call from my coach and he said, ‘Hey, you just got drafted by the Blue Jays.’ And I was like, ‘Don’t play with me. I haven’t heard anything like that.’ Then my Mom was calling and my grandparents were calling and stuff like that. I didn’t even hear from the Blue Jays yet but I found out through all of them and finally they called me.”

Vancouver Canadians Justin Watts

Justin Watts has won seven of his 11 decisions with an of ERA of 3.00 in his two seasons as a pro. 


Pro Debut

The Gulf Coast League was the first stop for Watts in his professional career. He collected his first save in just his second appearance against the GCL Yankees West June 29 by walking one and striking out four over two shutout innings. Watts then earned his first win in his next outing with two perfect frames and three strikeouts against the GCL Braves July 6.

Other highlights for Watts included a five-strikeout performance against the GCL Pirates July 20 and his second pro win against the Braves August 8. His last three outings were in a starting role and they would skew his final numbers by raising his ERA to 3.62 but he struck out 34 batters and walked eight in 32-1/3 innings along with two saves.

Pitching in the GCL for Watts took some getting used to.

“I mean, it’s hot. I’m not going to lie but it’s a different experience. I’m from up north and I was in college up north so I was used to the cold. It was a good change.

It was a different type of game. It’s nothing like it is playing here (in Vancouver). You don’t play in front of many people and stuff like that but it was a good experience to really learn how to pitch. I just became a pitcher a few years ago so it was like my first turning point of learning how to pitch and not just throw so it was nice.”

Vancouver Canadians Justin Watts

The month of August saw Justin Watts put up a microscopic ERA of 0.60 in 15 innings.


Next Stop – Vancouver

The 2018 season saw Watts make his first trip to Canada and first trip anywhere outside of the U.S. when he was assigned to Vancouver. His first appearance with Monty’s Mounties was June 18 in Eugene when he struck out three over two scoreless innings. He rung up a career-high six batters over three shutout frames of one-hit ball against Salem-Keizer to collect his first win of the year July 2.

The month of July saw Watts pick up two more wins in relief but he hit a rough patch by coughing up runs in four of five outings. August saw him finish up strong by allowing just one run, finishing the year with 15-1/3 shutout innings. That dropped his ERA to 2.45 and along with a 5-0 record, he struck out 52 batters and walked just 10 over 36-2/3 innings.

Getting to pitch in front of the fans at Nat Bailey Stadium was something Watts enjoyed.

“It’s an unreal feeling. These fans are unbelievable. You couldn’t ask for better fans that like I’ve played in front of. They’re always behind you and like it just gives you a little bit of a satisfaction knowing that they got your back too.”

Pitching Repertoire & Style

When asked to break down his pitching arsenal, Watts rated his four-pitch mix in order.

“I have a fastball, slider, curveball, changeup. My slider is definitely my go-to pitch right behind the fastball. My fastball is my one, my slider is my two, my curveball is my three and my changeup is my fourth.”

His variations of the fastball include a sinker along with a four-seamer. He says he wants to improve his curve and change.

“Just being more in control of my curveball and just keep developing my changeup. It’s something I really want to have in my repertoire to be consistent.”

One thing Watts also focuses on is being aggressive on the hill.

“I just attack. I’m a guy that’ll just come right at you and see what you can do with it. Just try to get the ball in play and try to get through the inning quick. I wouldn’t compare myself to anyone yet but someone I loved to watch pitch would definitely have to be Justin Verlander.”

According to Watts, a number of coaches have helped him develop on the mound.

“Truly, honestly, it would be a few guys. My coaches back at Southern Jeremy Kuester (assistant coach) and Tracy Archuleta (head coach), they were both impacts in developing me as a pitcher. A couple of years (with the Jays organization), it’s been Adam Bernero and Cy (Jim Czajkowski), our pitching coach (in Vancouver). Bernero helped me with my mechanics and then Cy helped with the pitch repertoire like knowing what to pitch and helping me make those decisions after and stuff like that.”

In terms of starting or relieving, Watts does not have a preference.

“As long as I get to pitch, I don’t care, you know. I just want to keep pitching, just keep playing ball.”

Lansing, Michigan or Dunedin, Florida is where Watts is expected to play ball in 2019.

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

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C’s Chat – Joey Pulido

Vancouver Canadians Joey Pulido

Joey Pulido whipped Northwest League hitters with a 0.81 walks-hits-innings pitched ratio in 2018.


2018 Vancouver Canadians pitcher Joey Pulido gets the spotlight in this episode of C’s Chat.

The 5-foot-9 righthander from Clute, Texas pitched in the Lone Star State up until his professional debut this past season. Pulido attended Brazoswood High School in his hometown and  lettered four times. One notable performance came in 2013 when he gutted out a seven-inning complete game in which he threw 134 pitches to help Brazoswood outlast Elkins. Brazoswood coach Bobby Williams praised Pulido as a battler who “has a lot of guts when he is on the mound.”

The 2014 season saw Pulido being named a First Team All-District pitcher and the District Pitcher of the Year. His efforts helped Brazoswood win two District Championships and an appearance in the regional final.  The year was capped off by Pulido being named a 2014 Perfect Game Qualifier MVP Pitcher to lift the Houston Banditos to the Perfect Game WWBA South Qualifier championship.

Ryan Express College & Division I

It was off to Alvin, Texas for Pulido as he attended Alvin Community College, the same institution Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan attended. The 2015 season saw Pulido go 7-0 with a 2.86 earned run average with 10 of his 12 appearances coming out of the Dolphins bullpen. In 2016, Pulido was in the starting rotation and finished with a 5-4 record, a 4.86 ERA and three complete games. His 65 strikeouts in 64 innings bettered his 2015 total of 64 whiffs in 62 frames. Both seasons saw Pulido land a berth on the NJCAA First-Team All-Conference squad.

The 2017 season saw Pulido transfer to the University of Houston where he became a key member of the Cougars bullpen. His 21 appearances was tied for the team lead and he struck out 42 batters in 40-2/3 innings, collecting two saves to go with an ERA of 3.98.

In 2018, Pulido won six of eight decisions with a 3.55 ERA, six saves and 53 strikeouts in 50-2/3 innings. Of his 28 appearances, all but one were out of the bullpen. One of those outings out of the pen included 6-2/3 innings of relief against Houston Baptist University in March.

During Pulido’s tenure, the Cougars won back-to-back American Athletic Conference titles and advanced to NCAA Regional play. He also succeeded in the classroom with American All-Academic Team honours in 2017 and 2018.

Pulido has very fond memories during his time at the University of Houston.

“Houston was awesome. Great coaching staff, great players there. I got to spend two good years with them. My first year, I was kind of like in a mid-relief role. I got to come out of the bullpen. I think I had around 40 innings my first year. I pitched well. They helped me. They changed some things mechanically with me that allowed me to perform better.

My second year, they changed me into the closing role there at the University of Houston. I enjoyed it. I mean, I don’t know how many saves I had. I didn’t keep track of it too much but it was a fun year, a great time, the fans were awesome and I enjoyed playing there for two years.”

The pitching coach with the University of Houston was the one who got Pulido straightened out mechanically.

“My junior year, I had a big problem with closing off my body so I was coming in front, step in front of my body. My pitching coach at the time, Frank Anderson, who’s now at the University of Tennessee, he helped me open up more and start driving towards home plate. It really allowed me to kind of come more through my body and gain some velo and get more accurate with some of my pitches and hit locations and what not.”

Vancouver Canadians Joey Pulido

Joey Pulido (with infielder Otto Lopez) held Northwest League hitters to a .148 batting average in 2018.


2018 MLB Draft

The 2018 Major League Baseball draft was next on the baseball calendar for Pulido and the Toronto Blue Jays came calling by using their 32nd round pick to take him, giving him a $1,000 signing bonus. Unfortunately, Pulido was not feeling like a thousand bucks that day.

“During the draft, I was feeling kind of sick. I was in bed laying down, following it on my laptop. I had talked to the Blue Jays a few times before the draft and they seemed to be very interested so I had a feeling that I was going to go at some point in the draft. I was keeping up with it on my laptop and as soon as I saw my name, about five minutes afterward I got a call from Charlie Wilson and my area scout (Brian Johnston) who drafted me and told me I got drafted by the Blue Jays.

I went home. I was in Houston at the time where I was staying for college. I drove down home, about a 45-minute drive and I spent some time with my family. It was a good time.”

Pulido says things moved fast once he was drafted by the Blue Jays.

“I got the call. I think it was a Wednesday afternoon whenever they drafted me. That day, when Brian (Johnston) called me, he was like, ‘Hey man, we have your flight info for Friday.’ It was a quick turnaround. I went home and spent (time) with my parents. Packed some things. I went to see my grandparents, talked to them for a little while. I went back to Houston. Packed all my things from my locker at the university. Thanked the coaches for the opportunity.

That next morning, on Friday morning, I was heading out to Dunedin. I got there, I got situated in at the hotel and the next day, we started our little mini-camp for all the new draftees.”

One thing Pulido was used to during his stay in Dunedin was the humid weather.

“Houston is really hot and humid. It’s about 100 degrees there too. The climate there was very similar to Houston so it wasn’t too much of a struggle for me.”

Pro Debut

The Gulf Coast League was the first stop for Pulido as he made his professional debut June 18 in Bradenton against the Pirates. He induced a tapper back to the moudn and struck out the next two batters he faced and got a groundout. However, the first strikeout was a wild pitch that allowed the hitter to reach first base. Two singles, an error and a hit by pitch followed, leading to a pair of runs (one earned) before getting out of the inning.

Five days later, things went better for Pulido as he retired the GCL Tigers in order with two punchouts to earn a hold in his one inning of work.

Vancouver Canadians Joey Pulido

Joey Pulido struck out 32 batters in 36-2/3 innings over three stops in the Blue Jays system in 2018.


Two Promotions

The next time Pulido was on the mound was June 26 in Bowen Field, the home of the Bluefield Blue Jays. He wasn’t around for long as he needed just six pitches to retire the side in order against the Princeton Rays. Pulido needed just seven pitches two days later to take care of the Greeneville Reds. Though he would suffer his first professional loss, four of Pulido’s six outings in the Appalachian League were of the scoreless variety.

“Bluefield was awesome. It’s kind of smaller, a smaller location. You’re in the middle of a lot of mountains but I enjoyed my time there though. The team was fun. The guys were good. The coaches were good with Adam Bernero the pitching coach there and (manager) Dennis Holmberg were both great guys I got to meet and I enjoyed my time. I enjoyed being there.”

The second promotion of Pulido’s career came in mid-July when he was assigned to Vancouver and that was a boost of confidence for the righthander.

“Definitely. I’m just trying to take it day by day, whatever happens. Obviously being promoted is big. When I got the promotion to Bluefield, I was really excited, you know, going from the GCL to Bluefield. I thought I was going to stick there to be honest with you for the rest of the short season. Two weeks later, it was a short time there, they called me again and said, ‘Hey, we’re promoting you to Vancouver.’ I can’t say anything better about Vancouver than what it is. It’s awesome being here.

The atmosphere is tremendous. It definitely gives you a rush, a thrill when you’re on the mound. It makes you want to perform in front of these fans because they’re great. It’s awesome.”

Pulido made his C’s debut with 3-1/3 scoreless innings of relief in Tri-City July 16. He gave up an unearned run in his Nat Bailey Stadium debut July 20 against the Hillsboro Hops. Pulido was nicked for another unearned marker August 1 in Hillsboro. Against everyone else in the Northwest League, he slammed the door shut. Pulido ended the year with 10 scoreless appearances and a 15-1/3 innings scoreless streak. He finished the season with a 1-0 record and a 0.00 ERA. That first professional win came in Everett with two scoreless innings of two-hit ball against the AquaSox July 24.

Pitching Repertoire

When it comes to his arsenal of pitches, Pulido is confident in what he throws.

“I throw a fastball, changeup, curveball and slider so I throw four pitches, I like to think I can throw them whenever I want and have control of every pitch and I trust every pitch with everything.”

Pulido says he has two different fastballs he uses.

“Usually two-seam. I like to throw two-seam a lot just because it gets some movement inside and some arm-side run. I throw them both, two-seam and four-seam. I guess it kind of just depends on the count or the hitter.

When I’m trying to go outside, I usually try to go four-seam. That way, it doesn’t run back over the plate. I’m trying to go inside with the two-seam definitely, try to get it in under their hands or whatnot.”

The secondary pitches Pulido uses depends on the matchup but he does have a preference for which one he throws.

“Probably my slider. I mean, I guess it would depend on if it’s a lefty or a righty. With lefties, I like to go with my changeup. Righties, it’s a lot of slider and curveball.”

One major league pitcher Pulido likes to follow is 2012 C’s righthander and Toronto Blue Jay Marcus Stroman.

“I don’t think I compare myself to anyone in the major leagues but if there is one I’d admire and who I kind of look up to for what he’s done is Marcus Stroman. He’s a smaller guy, kind of like me and he has dealt through some adversity with being a smaller guy and I like to see smaller guys have success. He’s obviously one of the best at it.”

Future Role

Vancouver Canadians Joey Pulido

All 23 of Joey Pulido‘s professional appearances have been in relief but he still holds out hope of being a starter again.


Though he remained in relief in his first professional season and made 56 of his 72 appearances out of the bullpen during his college years, Pulido would love to be a starter again someday.

“Definitely. I started, pretty much started my entire life. I was a starter until my junior year in college. I went from two years in junior college being a starter, having over 90 innings, and then my role changed. Everything kind of changed, two completely different roles, but no, if I got a chance to start again, I’d definitely embrace it and I’d love to do it.”

The 23 year-old Pulido is expected to head to Lansing for 2019 and a promotion to Dunedin would not be out of the question if he can replicate his successful 2018 campaign.

A big thank you again to Joey Pulido for participating in this episode of C’s Chat and to C’s Media Relations Assistant Sharlene Canning for arranging the interview.

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C’s Chat – Connor Law

Vancouver Canadians Connor Law

Connor Law limited righthanded hitters in the Northwest League to a .186 batting average in 2018.


cs_chat_new_logo2018 Vancouver Canadians pitcher Connor Law takes his turn in the order on the latest round of C’s Chat.

The 6-foot-4 righthander from Chatham, Illinois was a free-agent signing of the Toronto Blue Jays in 2017 after a five year-stay at NCAA Division II Lindenwood University. A redshirt freshman in 2013, Law made only made four relief appearances totaling 4-1/3 innings in 2014. He remained in the bullpen for his first extended action in 2015 and compiled a 3-3 record with a 4.04 earned run average and two saves.

The 2016 season saw Law move into the Lions rotation in 2016 where he made 12 of his 15 appearances, winning six of his eight decisions with a 2.82 ERA. It was back to the bullpen for Law in 2017 and he averaged more than a strikeout an inning for the first time in his college career, ringing up 67 batters over 65 innings. Duplicating his 2016 record of 6-2, he saved 12 games and recorded an ERA of 3.16.

Roar Of The Lion

2017 was a banner year for Lindenwood as it won the MIAA Tournament Championship and NCAA Central Regional Championships to reach the Division II Championship for the first time in its four-year history. Law had a huge hand in that effort as he pitched a whopping eight innings of relief, allowing just a two-run home run as the Lions knocked off No. 1 seed Emporia State to advance to the Division II tournament.

That effort earned Law honorable-mention all-region honors on the heels of a 1st-Team All-MIAA selection after being named a 2nd-Teamer in 2016. His academic excellence never wavered as he was named to the MIAA Academic Honor Roll five years in a row.

The time Law spent at Lindenwood really helped him develop his craft as a hurler.

“I had never really pitched in my life and I came in as a pitcher so I was trying to figure out how to pitch and to throw strikes. It was a big thing. It took me a couple of years to get it down. I’ve been like at the bottom of the barrel, so they say, like I’ve hit rock bottom and don’t know how to pitch, don’t know how to do anything. It’s not a great feeling but I’ve been there.

I feel like that gives me an advantage of you could always go back up, you could always figure something out. There will always be a new day. I don’t know how to describe it but just hard work and stuff like that. The whole mindset of just getting through stuff. I just feel like it really gives you an advantage.

I pitched a little bit in high school, like 10 innings or so, and then a little bit in summer ball but I pitched like enough where the scouts had seen me. I threw decently hard so they were like ‘Well, we could always teach someone mechanics but feel (for pitching) is kind of harder to teach.’ At least I had one thing going for me.”

Working with strength coaches to put on weight and muscle to improve body control was one part of the equation for Law. The other part was the tutelage of Lindenwood’s pitching coach and recruiting coordinator.

Nathan Beuster, who’s a scout for the (New York) Mets now. He was my pitching coach down there and he taught me pretty much everything. It’s just night and day different on what I used to be and what he’s helped me do. He altered a lot of mechanics just how to feel out like how you’re throwing and how to make an adjustment.”

Vancouver Canadians Connor Law

Connor Law signed with the Toronto Blue Jays as a free agent June 25, 2017.


Free Agency

When the 2017 Major League Baseball draft rolled around, Law did not hear his name called but he heard from the Blue Jays not too long afterwards.

“The draft ended about 15 minutes later. They called me and asked if I still wanted to play baseball. I said, ‘Alright, yeah. Absolutely!’ They were just like, ‘Alright. We’ll send you the information in about 10 minutes.’ It was just a plane ticket. It was that easy.”

I had my family over and we were watching it. I kind of expected to get drafted but the fact I wasn’t doesn’t change anything. I’m still here. I just wanted the opportunity and I got it so I can’t be too mad at it.

I know some teams had contact with my coaches and then I filled out questionnaires and then spoken to them a couple of times. That’s why I kind of expected to get drafted and kind of had an expectation in my mind but I couldn’t be more happy than to play for the Jays (organization).”

Not all of the questionnaires were the same according to Law.

“All the teams are different. Some of them have personality questions like who are your role models and stuff like that. Other people you may know that play professional baseball and then kind of like medical stuff but it’s nothing really too in detail. It’s kind of basic information.”

The man who brought Law into the Blue Jays nest is no longer with the organization.

Jeff Johnson was the area scout. I think he’s actually in the front office with the (Tampa Bay) Rays now (as coordinator of amateur scouting). Great guy. He gave me this opportunity.”

Vancouver Canadians Connor Law

Connor Law got a victory in his first professional appearance in the Gulf Coast League in 2017.


Pro Debut

The Gulf Coast League was Law’s first stop as he made his professional debut June 27 when he earned his first win with two innings of one-run ball against the GCL Tigers West. He did not allow an earned run until his sixth appearance. His second win came against the GCL Phillies July 31 when he spun 2-1/3 shutout innings. That was followed by his first two professional saves versus the GCL Pirates August 4 and the GCL Braves August 7.

A 2-1 record and a 1.54 ERA earned Law a promotion to Bluefield where he completed the regular season with a victory against Johnson City August 30. That game saw Law strike out four over two innings as part of his three scoreless appearances with the Bluef-Jays. Law also got the win in Bluefield’s playoff opener September 2 against Pulaski but the Yankees would prevail in the Appalachian League semi-final.

Overall, the 2017 campaign was a good one for Law once he got over some early jitters.

“It was kind of scary. I was really nervous. I didn’t know how pro ball really worked. Any little thing, I would be like, ‘Oh no! Am I going to get released?’ The first year, it doesn’t really matter how you do. It’s more of the organization getting a feel for you. Once I kind of came to the realization of that, it was a lot more relaxing and it was a lot more fun that way. It was like all the pressure is off, just go play baseball.”

It was a good time though. The GCL (with) the 12 o’clock games and the humid Florida heat, that was a little rough. Going to Bluefield and having night games, that was a blessing. It was so nice and then coming here (to Vancouver), this place is unreal.”

Vancouver Canadians Connor Law

Connor Law kept the opposition scoreless in 18 of his 22 outings with Vancouver.


Second Season

Before getting to Vancouver, Law made his 2018 debut with the Dunedin Blue Jays and put together two scoreless appearances covering 3-2/3 innings against the Florida FireFrogs May 22 and against the Lakeland Tigers May 26. His C’s debut came in Eugene June 17 when he earned the save with 1-2/3 innings of shutout ball in which he matched his career high in strikeouts with four.

Though his ERA with the C’s was a little on the high side at 4.23, a couple of four-run outings against the Tri-City Dust Devils helped inflate that mark but he converted all four save opportunites, struck out 33 batters in 27-1/3 innings and limited Northwest League hitters to a .238 average.

Getting to pitch in front the sell-out crowds at Nat Bailey Stadium was something Law really enjoyed.

“Every game here feels like a playoff game with a packed house. It’s always loud, the fans are always into it. It’s just a great experience.”

Pitching out of the bullpen is something Law also thrives on.

“I feel like I almost do better when the game is on the line. I feel like I’m more locked in to the game. I just love ending the game. It just makes me feel like powerful and dominant over the other team.”

When it came to keeping his focus on the game on the mound at Nat Bailey Stadium, Law channeled his inner Billy Chapel.

“There’s a movie called For The Love Of The Game. In that movie, (Kevin Costner) always says ‘Clear the mechanism,’ and he clears out all the background noise. I don’t know how to describe it but that’s what you kind of have to do here.

As soon as the game is over and you hear everyone cheering and stuff, it’s so cool, but during it, if I sat there and listened to the fans, I feel like I get in my mind and be like, ‘Oh no!’ (laughs).”

Pitching Repertoire

Opposing batters have to deal with a three-pitch mix from Law, beginning with his fastball.

“I throw a four-seamer. I’m kind of working with a sinker. It’s just me holding the ball differently. It’s like a one-seam. It’s kind of hard to describe. I haven’t really thrown that a whole lot. I kind have just been focusing on my slider and changeup mostly but I feel like the sinker is going to come along as soon as I start getting on it.”

Also in Law’s arsenal are a changeup and a slider.

“I have a changeup that kind of acts like a split-finger, It just kind of has a violent drop to it, and then a slider. I wouldn’t say like it’s a sweeping slider, like real big. It’s almost like a cutter, like it’s pretty small but it’s late. I’m just making sure I throw them as hard as my fastball at least in my mind. It’s like the biggest thing.”

When it came to working with a breaking ball, Law opted for the slide piece.

“The slider is just easier because I can throw it basically just like a fastball so I feel like that’s going to be more of my suit rather than a curveball.”

Vancouver Canadians Connor Law Pitching Coach Jim Czajkowski

Vancouver pitching coach Jim Czajkowski meets with Connor Law and Brett Wright (#17) on the mound.


Laws Of Confusion

Something that Law has had to deal since his arrival in the Blue Jays system is getting confused with fellow pitcher and 2017 Vancouver Canadian Colton Laws, a previous guest on C’s Chat. The situation was no different in Vancouver.

“Even Cy (Jim Czajkowski), our pitching coach still calls me Colton or Connor Laws. I always make sure I correct him but everyone does it. As soon as they know Colton, and then Connor, they’re like ‘Oh no!’ (laughs).”

A Cardinals fan growing up, Law could begin 2019 where he started in 2018 and that’s with the Dunedin Blue Jays. It would be fitting if the 24 year-old Law can accelerate his climb to the majors as he warmed up to The Eagles ‘Life in the Fast Lane’ out of the C’s bullpen.

My thanks again to Connor Law for participating in another C’s Chat and to C’s Media Relations Assistant Sharlene Canning for setting up the interview.

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C’s Chat – Reilly Johnson

Vancouver Canadians Reilly Johnson

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Junior College

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

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

MLB Draft

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

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

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

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

Bluefield

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

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

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

Vancouver Canadians Reilly Johnson

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


Playing The Field

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life In The Bullpen

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

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

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

Vancouver Canadians Reilly Johnson

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


2018 Highlights

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vancouver Canadians Reilly Johnson

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


Lansing

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

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

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

Returning To YVR

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

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

Vancouver Canadians Reilly Johnson

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


Going Without The Flow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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C’s Chat – Will McAffer

Vancouver Canadians Will McAffer

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


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

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

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

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

BC Premier Baseball League

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vancouver Canadians Will McAffer

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


Division 1, Summer Ball & Junior College

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vancouver Canadians Will McAffer

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

2018 MLB Draft

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pitching Repertoire

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

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

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

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

McAffer says he has two other pitches in his arsenal.

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

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

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

McAffer says consistency is what he needs to improve on.

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

Vancouver Canadians Will McAffer

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


Pitching in Vancouver

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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C’s Chat – Brett Wright

Vancouver Canadians Brett Wright

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


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

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

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

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

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

Vancouver Canadians Brett Wright

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


JUCO in San Jacinto

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

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

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

Vancouver Canadians Brett Wright

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


Eye of the Auburn Tiger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vancouver Canadians Brett Wright

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


Heading to the Pros

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vancouver Canadians Brett Wright

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


Scouting Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vancouver Canadians 2019 Schedule

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scheduling Shift

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

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

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

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

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

rob_fai_ken_huckaby.jpg

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


C’s New Radio & TV Home

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

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

State Of The Nat

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

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

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

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

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

C-Tweets

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

 

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C’s Chat – Nick Allgeyer

Vancouver Canadians Nick Allgeyer

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vancouver Canadians Nick Allgeyer

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


Multi-Sport Athlete

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

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

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

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

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

Vancouver Canadians Nick Allgeyer

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

Pitching in Iowa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vancouver Canadians Nick Allgeyer

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


Pitching Repertoire

Allgeyer says he throws the standard four pitches.

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

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

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

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

Vancouver Canadians Nick Allgeyer

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


2018 Season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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C’s Chat – Cobi Johnson

Vancouver Canadians Cobi Johnson

Cobi Johnson was one of three Vancouver Canadians selected to take part in the Northwest League/Pioneer League All-Star Game in 2018.


The latest C’s Chat shines the spotlight on 2018 Vancouver Canadians closer and Northwest League All-Star Cobi Johnson.

There are quite a few father-son connections throughout the Toronto Blue Jays farm system. There’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Sr., Bo Bichette and Dante Bichette, Dwight Smith Jr. and Sr., Kacy Clemens and Roger Clemens and Griffin Conine and Jeff Conine among others. 2017 Canadians closer William Ouellette is the son of former San Francisco Giants catcher Phil Ouellette and the father-son closer combo continues in 2018 for Vancouver. Cobi is the son of Dane Johnson, a former Toronto Blue Jays pitcher and current bullpen coach.

Cobi Johnson was drafted by the Blue Jays in the 30th round of the 2018 draft out of Florida State. The 22 year-old righthander reported to Vancouver to begin his pro career and became a key part of the Canadians bullpen, eventually earning the closer’s role. The Holiday, Florida native’s efforts were recognized when he was named a Northwest League All-Star for the league’s annual game against the best of the Pioneer League in August.

Johnson said he found out the good news from C’s manager Dallas McPherson.

“We had a team meeting and he got everyone together and he announced it. I was kind of surprised to be honest with you but I’m happy. I told my parents and they are happy for me too. Even when the meeting was called, I knew I was putting together a good season but I didn’t think I had a chance of becoming an All-Star but it happened and I was happy and I was kind of surprised. It feels great. It feels good to be recognized and be thrown in with a group of good guys, guys who have been having good seasons.”

Johnson owes a huge amount of credit to his father for who he is as a pitcher.

“My Dad’s been my coach all my life. I’ve had help here or there but he’s been my biggest influence clearly.”

When it comes to all the counsel his father has given over the years, Johnson says one piece of advice really sticks out.

“Just forget about all the outside things and control what you can control and that’s executing one pitch at a time on the mound and everything else will take care of itself.”

cobi_johnson_bullpen_cart

Cobi Johnson made 20 relief appearances for Vancouver in 2018.


Once, Twice, Three Times A Draftee

Johnson was drafted three times by three different clubs. The San Diego Padres selected him in the 35th round of the 2014 draft but he elected to go to Florida State. Johnson was chosen again in 2017 in the 29th round by the Los Angeles Angeles before the Jays drafted him in the 30th round in 2018.

Johnson says the first time his name was called was a special one.

“I think the high school one was the big one for me because I always wanted to play professional baseball. I grew up watching professional baseball. As long as I have been alive, my Dad’s been in professional baseball. I really wanted to get drafted high and be able to go play pro ball and unfortunately, it didn’t happen. To me, that one was a little heartbreaking for me. I ended up falling late and I decided to go to school.

I went to school. I was throwing the ball really well but I had Tommy John surgery and missed about two years so the second time I got drafted, I didn’t even pitch that whole year. I figured if I can come back and throw the ball the way I did before I had the surgery, I’d be putting myself in good position and fortunately the Blue Jays were able to take me the next year.”

Johnson was not totally surprised the Blue Jays called his name in this year’s draft.

“I had an idea. They liked me a lot even coming out of high school and so they told me they were going to draft me at this point so I was looking online and I saw my name pop up. I was back home with my mom and she was happy for me so it was good. A good experience for me.”

Johnson admits he would be excited to pitch for the team as his father.

“That’d be huge. If my Dad can still be there at the time and watch me when I make my debut, that’d be awesome.”

Vancouver Canadians Cobi Johnson

Cobi Johnson finished the 2018 campaign with 11 scoreless appearances covering 12 innings.


Tommy John Surgery

Johnson had to overcome adversity during his time in Tallahassee thanks to Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.

“I missed basically two years of college because of it and coming back, it was a long road. We took it slow so it took a long time but just getting that first outing underneath my belt in college earlier this year, it was big for me and to have the success I did in it was a big stepping stone.”

In this story from Steve Ewen from The Vancouver Province, Johnson received plenty of advice from other pitchers who underwent Tommy John surgery including former Jays knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. Johnson says he really had to pay attention to how his body was reacting during the recovery process.

“Most of them told me you’re not going to feel good during it some days. You’re just going to have to battle through and let your body speak to you. If you’re not feeling good that day, then take it easy. If you’re feeling good one day, then good, but just don’t overdo it and I think those words helped me out a lot.”

Johnson believes going through the adversity of Tommy John surgery will pay off for him in the long run.

“College has taught me a lot. It’s taught me how to fail. It’s taught me how to overcome injuries and I’m going to become a better person because of it.”

cobi_johnson_scoreboard

Cobi Johnson is introduced on C’s Diamond Vision at Nat Bailey Stadium.


Pitching at Florida State

One of the benefits of being a Florida State Seminole for Johnson was pitching for long-time coach Mike Martin, who became the all-time winningest coach in NCAA history by passing the late Auggie Garrido with his 1,976th victory. The main takeaway for Johnson from the coaching staff was utlizing his changeup.

“I think they preached a lot at Florida State (about) the changeup. I think in high school I was more a fastball-curveball guy and for me, the changeup made big strides in college and I’m able to use that now.”

One of Johnson’s most memorable moments with the Seminoles came not on the mound but in the batter’s box during his redshirt junior year. In just his second ever college at-bat, Johnson hit a home run against Stetson April 18.

“It was funny because we had a lot of injuries this year at Florida State and they started working me in taking some ground balls at third and working with me on my swing. One day, it was just a midweek game, we were up by a lot and I came in to pitch. The DH spot was coming up so they just threw me in the lineup too and I just got a fastball to hit and I actually hit it and it went out of the ballpark so it was a pretty cool experience.”

Johnson did not think the ball would go out.

“I didn’t. I had no idea. I knew I hit it well but it was kind of like a line drive and it just so happened to go out of the ballpark. I got to home plate, I just couldn’t stop laughing to be honest with you. I couldn’t believe that was happening. I didn’t know it was out until I looked at the third base coach rounding first base and he was all happy for me. It was a cool experience.”

Another memorable experience for Johnson was getting to play Boston College at Fenway Park April 21. Johnson was 1-for-4 with a walk, two runs scored and three runs batted in and pitched three innings of one-run ball to finish a 13-7 victory for the Seminoles.

“That was cool because I remember going to the Cape my freshman year and we had a little workout at Fenway but we didn’t actually play a game. This year, we got to play a game and it’s a cool field. There’s a lot of history there, a lot of tradition and it’s pretty cool to be able to play there.”

Johnson says pitching in college is much different that pitching in the pros.

“It’s a lot different here from college. Pro ball and college baseball, there’s a big gap. There’s wood bats and you’re calling your own game and I think those two aspects have helped me out a lot.”

Vancouver Canadians Cobi Johnson

Cobi Johnson (middle) gets ready to join the victory line after nailing down a save against Hillsboro July 21 with Brandon Polizzi (#4) and Brett Wright (#17) trailing behind.


Showcase Events

Johnson earned notice among scouts by being rated the second-best high school righthander in the state of Florida. He took part in many summer showcases, something he felt he benefited from.

“It was awesome to be competing at such a high level at such a young age. Just to see those guys’ careers take off because it’s been what, four or five years now, it doesn’t feel like it but it has. It’s cool to see some guys are starting to break out at the major league level. I just got into pro ball so hopefully I can get there as soon as possible as well.

I’ve played with Bo Bichette, I’ve played with Sean Reid-Foley. We were all on the same summer team at one point and Forrest Wall actually, who we just got, we were on the same team as well so all four of us, it’s funny. It’s a good time. It’s cool to see those guys up making big waves.”

Vancouver Canadians Cobi Johnson

Cobi Johnson was a perfect 10-for-10 in save opportunity for the Canadians in 2018.


Pitching Repertoire

Johnson says he has three pitches that he likes to use.

“I’m going to come in and I’m going to work off the fastball. I’m going to pound the zone with the heater and I’m going to try to get ahead and put you away with either the curveball or the changeup. I think they’re both good offerings and I’ll throw them both to lefties and righties and try to keep people on their toes.

It all starts with the fastball so that’s got to be number one. If you have that, you can get through any outing. It goes fastball and probably for me, either the curveball or the changeup, they’re interchangeable. I think they’re good offerings and they can put away both lefties and righties.”

Johnson expanded a bit more on his fastball of choice.

“Just four-seam. You try to move it up and down, move it around and keep guys guessing. That’s all you need.”

Johnson has given all hitters in the Northwest League a tough time but he has been especially tough on lefthanded batters.

“It might be a small sample size because I feel like I’m facing a lot of righties up here but I think, especially to lefties, the changeup is a really good pitch and it’s been working for me all season.”

Johnson says his main goal boils down to one thing.

“Just keep on being consistent. Throwing strikes and getting ahead of guys and putting guys away.”

Johnson completed his season with a 1-0 record and a 1.73 earned run average. In 26 innings, he struck out 35 and walked eight and finished with a WHIP of 0.96. His first win came in Tri-City July 18 after pitching two shutout innings with three strikeouts.

Full-season ball is next up on the menu for Johnson and there’s a good chance he may get to Dunedin in 2019 if the Blue Jays brass feel he is up to the challenge. Johnson will turn 23 on November 6.

My thanks to Cobi Johnson for participating in this edition of C’s Chat. You can follow him on Twitter @Cobi_Johnson. Thanks again to Media Relations Assistant Sharlene Canning for arranging the interview.

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C’s Chat – Sean Wymer

Vancouver Canadians Sean WymerSean Wymer collected his first professional victory against Spokane at Nat Bailey Stadium July 8.


2018 Vancouver Canadians pitcher Sean Wymer stops in for the latest instalment of C’s Chat.

The Toronto Blue Jays took Wymer in the fourth round of the 2018 draft from the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs. Gerald Turner was the signing scout for the 21 year-old from Flower Mound, Texas.

Wymer was happy to be drafted but he wished he was still playing baseball at the time.

“It was awesome. It’s not good that we were home because we were out of the postseason at TCU but I got to experience it with my family watching the live stream on MLB.com. It was good to experience that. My brother flew in from New York, It was a good experience just kind of being able to be with the family in that special moment definitely. I was real excited to get out here and get going.

“I didn’t have any specific team in mind that I thought was going to draft me. It just kind of came down to like two, three picks before. My advisor, my agent now, texted me and said ‘Hey, the Blue Jays are going to take you here.’ I had no prior knowledge, I had no idea who was going to take me.”

2017 College World Series

Wymer was an ace reliever with the Horned Frogs who made it to Omaha for the College World Series. His biggest moment came against Louisville when he delivered 4-1/3 shutout innings to close out a win against Louisville in an elimination game. Wymer struck out Brendan McKay—the fourth pick of the 2017 MLB draft by Tampa Bay—in the fifth and eighth innings over 4-1/3 scoreless innings to pick up the win.

“That was amazing. It was probably one of the coolest baseball experiences I’ve had in my life definitely going to the College World Series. Just being at TCU was awesome. The coaches were awesome. I can’t thank them enough for what they did for me enabling me to get here.

The pitching coach there (former major leaguer Kirk Saarloos) was a huge influence in my baseball career. He kind of tweaked some mechanical things with me after my freshman year that kind of got me on pace to where I am now. That was a great experience there, great school.

I didn’t get to finish my degree getting drafted as a junior but I’m looking to do that after baseball is over. I’m a Computer Science major so I got one more year left.”

It was performances like those that earned Wymer a spot on the 2017 USA Baseball Collegiate National Team. He also earned Second-Team All-Big 12 Conference and First-Team Academic All-Big 12 honours.

Vancouver Canadians Sean Wymer

Sean Wymer pitched 75 innings for TCU before logging 35-1/3 frames with Vancouver in 2018.


Pitching at TCU

Wymer says TCU’s success during his time there could be attributed in part to its detail to mental preparation.

“I think the biggest thing we do as a team is just kind of practicing the mental side of the game. We had a mental performance coach Brian Cain and he was a huge influence on all of us. That was the first thing they do when you get on campus is you got to buy into this – how we do things here.

The mental side of the game, understanding your routines, your (breathing) and all that to kind of slow the game down and just be comfortable out there while you’re playing. I think that was the biggest thing that helped us get there.

I definitely wouldn’t say every time you’re out on the field, you’re not always the most talented team but it’s the team that plays the best who wins. Being prepared mentally is a huge advantage.”

Of Wymer’s 46 appearances with the Horned Frogs over his first two seasons, all but two came out of the bullpen. This season saw him make 10 starts out of his 15 appearances. Wymer says he doesn’t have a preference starting or relieving.

“Either is fine. This junior year was my first year starting so getting used to starting took a couple of starts. It’s a whole different routine. Instead of going through the team stretch and BP and all that, you’re sitting there in the locker room just thinking about your start. It’s kind of a different animal mentally but I’m kind of getting used to that throughout my junior year. Now I’m good with either role.”

MLB.com considers Wymer to be a four-pitch pitcher but he says it’s really three pitches he has in his repertoire.

“It’s definitely a three-pitch (repertoire) – it’s fastball, curveball, changeup. I have seen the four-pitch mix and all that with the curveball-slider but I just throw one curveball. I think it breaks differently depending on the count. If it’s a two-strike curveball, it’s going to be more down. They might see the ‘not-two-strike’ curveball as more of a silder but I just call it one pitch. So fastball, curveball, changeup.”

Wymer says his fastball is a four-seamer that can reach 95 miles an hour during shorter stints but he does not concern himself with radar gun readings.

“I hold it as a four-seam. It’s got a little sink to it on a good day. It plays as a normal fastball if it’s not sinking. It’s just a four-seam fastball. I usually don’t pay attention to (the radar gun). I let the hitter tell me how the fastball is playing. I could be throwing 91, 92 (miles per hour) and they’re swinging through it and if I look back and see 91, 92, I’m not going to try and ramp it up if it’s working. It’s kind of just play it and seeing how the hitters react to it.”

Having a three-pitch is always good if you can command all three and keep the hitters off balance. I think that’s my biggest strength is when I command all three pitches, it’s a lot easier to throw. The fastball-curveball is my main two pitches out of the pen. It’s just kind of whatever is playing that day.”

Wymer says he is trying to get back on track in 2018 after an early-season injury with TCU.

“This year, just trying to get back into sync of how I was a year ago. I had an injury at the beginning of this season in college. It kind of derailed me a little bit and I had to get back on track. Now I’m feeling the best I’ve felt this year so I’m just trying to get everything back in sync.

It was a lower back injury. It kind of messed with some things mechanically and it got me into some bad habits and now I’ve kind of worked myself out of those so now it’s kind of a stepping stone I’m ready to get back to where I was.”

Wymer has been recognized as a pitcher to watch in the Toronto Blue Jays system as he was ranked as the team’s 26th best prospect according to MLB.com in late July. Wymer was happy to find his name on that list.

“It was awesome. I was working out in Everett and it was updated and someone came up to me and said, ‘Hey, congratulations!’ I was like, ‘For what?’ ‘You got in the top 30 prospects!’ I was like, ‘Oh!’ It’s cool. It’s nice being on there.”

Vancouver Canadians Sean Wymer

Sean Wymer won three of four decisions with a 3.57 ERA for Vancouver during the month of July.


Pitching In Vancouver

Wymer says the biggest difference from college to the pro game is pitch calling.

“It’s a little different coming from college because in college, the pitching coach is calling your pitches and all that so you really don’t have control of it. He doesn’t like when you shake (him off) and all that but now getting here and getting comfortable with calling your own pitches was kind of a little shift that I had to make. It’s not terrible just because I know what I throw in certain counts. I know my strengths and all that stuff. It hasn’t been too big of a difference.”

Wymer says he really enjoyed pitching at Nat Bailey Stadium.

“It’s awesome. The crowd’s electric. It’s amazing because even at TCU, our most-packed games were like 4,000 (fans). Here with 6,000, they’re loud with every pitch. It’s awesome.”

Wymer has been in pitching in tandem with fellow righthander Joey Murray with the C’s and says the partnership has been a good one.

“We talk to each other a lot about like what were going through routine-wise. How we’re throwing before each game, when we’re going to long toss, when we’re going to take it easy when we work out on the same day and all that. It’s been good to go through and kind of bounce ideas off of each other and getting inside our routines.”

Wymer believes his routine gives him a plan of attack when he takes the mound every sixth day.

“I think just like knowing what I’m going to do each day. I mean I have specific details but the main kind of blueprint is like I’m pitching this day and then you do your lift the next day. You do your lift the next day and you have the side (throwing session). It’s kind of like having that routine of that sixth day rotation has made it a lot easier to adjust.”

Wymer says he has benefited from the tutelage of C’s pitching coach Jim Czajkowski.

“The first time we threw. He said, ‘I’m not going to tell you anything. I just want to watch you.’ He watches for about two weeks and kind of got a feel for how we throw and how we pitch and kind of what we did like routine-wise and he’s helped with that too in telling us like, ‘Hey, you just need to take it a little easier here. You don’t need to throw as much here,’ because in pro ball, you’re throwing every day. If you need an off-day, you take an off-day.

He’ll give up little tips like if he thinks something could possibly get you injured, just mechanically, he’ll mention it and you can work on it. He’s definitely not trying to make huge mechanical changes. He’s kind of letting us do our own thing.”

Wymer says his goals for the future include continuing to refine his routine.

“Just kind of getting into a routine of things. How I’m going to go about myself each day in pro ball and getting on the six-day rotation and then probably in the next year be a five-day (pitcher) in the higher levels. Just understand the pro ball philosophy and how you do things and all that.”

Wymer completed his first season in the professional ranks with a 4-3 record and a 4.84 earned run average that covered 13 appearances, seven of them starts. In 35-1/3 innings, he struck out 34 and walked seven with a WHIP (walks-hits-innings-pitched) of 1.19.

His most successful appearance came against Spokane July 8 when he spun three shutout frames of one-hit ball against Spokane July 8. His most dominant outing came against Boise August 27 when he struck out seven batters over three innings of two-hit balls. However, one of the hits was a solo home run and that resulted in a hard-luck loss. Wymer would whiff five more in another three-inning stint during the regular season finale in Spokane September 3.

My thanks to Sean Wymer for the latest edition of C’s Chat. You can follow him on Twitter @seanwymer26. Special thanks again to Media Relations Assistant Sharlene Canning for arranging the interview.

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C’s Chat – Vinny Capra

Vancouver Canadians Vinny Capra

Vinny Capra made a combined 61 starts at short between Vancouver and Lansing in 2018.


The latest guest on C’s Chat is 2018 Lansing Lugnuts and 2018 Vancouver Canadians shortstop Vinny Capra.

The 22 year-old Melbourne, Florida native was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 20th round of this year’s draft from the University of Richmond.

“I was watching the draft with my parents and we were really excited about where I’m going to go so it was obviously a surprise when I got the call. We were very excited, I got up and hugged my parents and the next step of my career is now with the Blue Jays.I was real excited with that. It was awesome. There was nothing better than seeing your name getting called and especially by the Blue Jays. What a great organization to be with. It’s really a great start to what my baseball career is going to be.

The Blue Jays were in contact but I had a couple of other teams who were talking to me but I didn’t really know exactly which team I was going to. When the Blue Jays called, I was like, ‘Yeah, definitely. Take me.’ Doug Witt was my area scout. He did a great job with helping me out and giving me all the directions I need to once I got drafted.”

College Years & Summer Ball

Capra played for the Richmond Spiders during his junior and seasons seasons. He showed his gritty style of play by reaching base five times without a hit in the first two games of the season. With the Spiders, Capra batted .335 with an OPS of . 870 during his two years in Virginia. Those numbers helped him earn Atlantic 10 Second Team honours in 2017 and 2018. Capra says he enjoyed his time in the state of Virginia.

“I loved it. The baseball up there was great. The weather was great most of the time. A little bit of snow which was not too bad, I got around that. There was some cold games which prepared for anything. Playing here in Vancouver, we got great weather also. It’s hot but it’s not humid. Playing in Richmond, it was a great experience for me and I loved it.”

Capra transferred to Richmond after playing at two seasons at the junior college level with Eastern Florida State.  He was named to the FCSAA Southern Conference Second Team in 2015 before earning First Team honours in 2016. One thing Capra noticed about junior college was the amount of roster turnover that took place.

“The biggest difference was the team quality of baseball. Junior college, you have two years so you got guys coming in and out every time. Once I got to a four-year school, there were more developed relationships with the team or chemistry involved so that was a little bit of a change. Junior college ball was also a great step for me before going to a four-year college.”

Before coming to Vancouver, Capra got a taste of the everyday grind of baseball by spending the summer of 2017 with the Walla Walla Sweets of the West Coast League. It also introduced him to playing baseball in British Columbia.

“That was actually my first summer ball experience so I have nothing to compare it to but it was a lot of fun coming out to the west coast, the complete opposite side of the country I’ve never been on.It was a great experience like besides baseball, to experience a lot of different places playing in Oregon and even coming up to Kelowna and Victoria and Canada. That was just a great experience. It kind of prepared me getting through the border process and everything so I’m already used to that.”

Something else Capra was introduced to with Walla Walla was dealing with customs officials at the U.S./Canada border.

“They usually do a pretty good job at getting us in. They obviously have to take their own measures in letting us in but they usually do a pretty good job with us and get us through there quick because sometimes it’s really early in the morning. All of us are tired strolling off the bus just after a long road trip but they understand. They help us out a lot all they can.”

High School Years

Before college, Capra helped lead Melbourne Central Catholic to the 2013 Florida 3A State Championship. Also on the team was his twin brother Nick and his older brother John.

“I transferred to Melbourne Central Catholic my junior year so that was the first year we won state. I remember thinking we had these guys that just brought us right in, me and my brothers, we were accepted real quick and we just had great team chemistry and that kind of took us to where we needed to go.”

Capra says having two brothers on the same team kept him on his toes.

“We always pushed for each other to get better but we also competed against each other as brothers would. If one person is doing better than the other, you’re always pushing for him to get back up and pull him from where he’s at and vice versa. You’re alway pushing and pulling each other to get better everyday.”

Capra says his senior year at high school saw him change middle infield positions.

“I was actually a second baseman in high school and I switched to shortstop in my senior year and from then on out, I’ve been playing shortstop.

The coaches I’ve had have been great along the way. My high school coach was great at getting me to have the right footwork to be at shortstop, transferring from second base. Once I was good enough to get to junior college, he helped me out with the footwork and it’s always been about the footwork over there at shortstop. That’s the key for your rhythm and to be able to complete plays at a consistent level.”

Capra says a former Blue Jay was one of the coaches who helped him develop as a shortstop.

Tom Dooley was the first (coach) to get me to play shortstop and he helped me out with learning the position and everything that went along with it. (Blue Jays 2003 pitcher) Jeff Tam was my junior college coach and he helped me kind of smooth out any kinks to really get me where I need to be an elite shortstop.”

Vancouver Canadians Vinny Capra

Vinny Capra had 84 assists and helped turn 13 double plays for Vancouver in 2018.


Playing Short

Capra believes he has been able to make the necessary adjustments playing at the six-spot at the pro level.

“The transition’s pretty easy. It’s kind of the same game from all the way up and fielding position-wise. You get maybe some harder balls hit at you but other than that, you’re doing the same thing. You’re trying to keep your rhythm and just be a consistent fielder.

I’d say my forehand is my best quality. I’m much better at going to my left so that leaves my backhand as probably what I have to work on mostly.”

Capra has had a number of different partners at second base in Vancouver as Nick Podkul, Sterling Guzman and Brandon Polizzi have spent time at the keystone. He admits it can be a challenge at times.

“Yeah, but you take ground balls with them during practice so you understand how each one, the pace of each player’s work. When you’re throwing out there. you try and play at the same level, the same pace, the same chemistry and you get to know them a lot better when you’re playing every day with them.”

One aspect Capra likes about at Nat Bailey Stadium is getting to play on natural grass again.

“In college, I played on a turf field (Malcolm U. Pitt Field in Richmond) so we went to a lot of other turf fields and you get a feel for how each one plays. Going to Everett and Eugene, both of those (fields) were pretty similar to some of the other places I’ve played so it was pretty easy to adjust on that.

I like playing natural grass. I like playing on the dirt of the grass field. It just feels more natural and right for the game.”

Vancouver Canadians Vinny Capra

Vinny Capra had a line drive rate of nearly 28 percent with Vancouver and Lansing in 2018 according to FanGraphs.


Playing In Vancouver

Capra says he enjoyed his role of being the mostly-everyday shortstop with Vancouver.

“I’ve loved it. I can’t ask for anything more to be mostly starting every game here and batting in the top of the order and get things going for the team. I love getting things going and everybody following suit. It kind of gets the team rolling early when you get on base early. It doesn’t matter how you get on base but once you get on base, your team starts rolling early in the games.

Playing at Nat Bailey Stadium is just awesome. The fans get behind you for everything. If you make a mistake, they’re picking you up from the stands like, ‘It’s alright. You’re doing fine.’ They just help support you and they just want to see you get better.”

The 5-foot-8 Capra says he tries to get underneath the skin of opposing teams with his unrelenting play.

“I’d be the player that’s annoying the other team, trying to get on base, steal bags, making all the plays that normally wouldn’t be made. Kind of the annoying player on the opposing team that you’re just like, ‘Man, he does everything. He gets everything. He hits everything. Just keeps hitting balls in play.”

Capra batted just .125 in his first eight games as a professional but he got on base at least once by a hit or a walk in his first 20 games.

Capra hit his first professional home run in Spokane June 24 and picked up his second against Hillsboro July 19.  Capra was promoted to the Lansing Lugnuts August 3. Capra had an on-base percentage of .344 with two home runs and 18 runs batted in and eight stolen bases in 10 tries with Vancouver at the time of his call-up.

Capra saw his batting average jump 31 points after joining Lansing as he hit .266 in his 25-game trial. He enjoyed his first three-hit night with the Lugnuts August 25 and that was part of a seven-game hit streak.

Capra got the starting assignment for both of Lansing’s playoff games where he went 2-for-7 but the Lugnuts were swept by the Bowling Green Hot Rods.

As far as what 2019 holds, Capra may very well return to Lansing for his first extended taste of full-season ball.

My thanks to Vinny Capra for taking part in the latest episode of C’s Chat and to Media Relations Assistant Sharlene Canning for arranging the interview.

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