C’s Chat – Graham Spraker

Vancouver Canadians Graham Spraker

Graham Spraker was promoted to Vancouver for the Northwest League final.


cs_chat_logoThis episode of C’s Chat features the second player from the Quincy Hawks to wear the Vancouver Canadians uniform in 2017, righthanded pitcher Graham Spraker. The Quincy Hawks reunion between Spraker and first baseman David Jacob did not materialize after Jacob was called up to the Lansing Lugnuts in mid-August while Spraker was promoted to Vancouver just after the Appalachian League playoffs. By the time the 6-foot-3 hurler from Tucson, Arizona was summoned from the Bluefield Blue Jays, the 22 year-old Spraker was well-versed with post-season baseball after some memorable runs with Quincy during his three-year college career.

“That was probably the most fun I’ve ever had playing baseball my whole life. We were contenders in our regional in my sophomore and junior year. We hosted actually in my sophomore and junior year and we dropped the ball both times.

Coming back for my senior year, this was kind of my last shot to get to the (Division II) World Series. We ended up winning our conference tournament, which gave us our bid to go to our regional. We didn’t host the regional, we barely snuck in.

We played Northwood University all the way up in Michigan and we beat them twice on the championship day to take the title and that was awesome. I pitched the first game that day. I started a game two days before that and I got yanked kind of early but we came back and won that game anyway. I started the first game of the doubleheader, got a win and we had a freshman come in and pitch and he threw seven strong. His name was Riley Martin and we won the Midwest Region and that was awesome.”

On coach Josh Rabe’s influence on the Quincy Hawks.

“He’s made all the difference. He played at QU during his time in college and so with him coming back, you could almost say he’s kind of like the hometown hero. He’s a fantastic coach. He’s put together one hell of a program and he really believed that we could do it, especially going into that senior year. We were so close the two years before. It was just as tough on him obviously, us dropping those games in the regional. He has made the biggest impact on my career and I’m sure Dave (David Jacob) would say the same thing.”

On why he was successful on the mound during his senior season.

“I stopped stressing about pitching. My junior year, I kind of had a rough year and on the mound, I was kind of trying to force things to happen a little too much. I know that most pitching coaches would tell you that’s kind of a good thing but I don’t know, I just lost my edge in my junior year and so coming back for my senior year, I just kind of got my composure back on the mound. It was a mental change for me more than it was a physical change.”

On who has had the biggest influence on him as a pitcher.

“I’ve always been a pitcher. I’ve played a little bit of infield in high school…I wasn’t good at it but it was fun. (Pitching) was more fun than being a P-O (putout) that early in my career. I have been a student of Brent Strom’s for a really long time. Brent is the pitching coach with the Houston Astros right now but he was in Tucson during the off-season so I’ve been seeing him on and off since I was like maybe 12 years old. He’s kind of modelled my—not quite my mechanics—but my mental approach to pitching, that kind of thing so I’ve always had him to guide me and give me little pointers year by year.

My pitching coach at QU, Matt Stembridge, he would always do his best to give us the best resources and just as much knowledge as he could possibly could. He was a blessing to the QU program too.”

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Graham Spraker was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 31st round of the 2017 draft.


On his approach to pitching.

“That really changed for me while I was with the Blue Jays and at the end of college. I picked up a lot of velocity after I made some mechanical changes right at the end of my college season. Once I started throwing a significant amount harder and I had to pitch in the bullpen, I didn’t have to worry about tapering my stamina to stay in the game.

Once I had that plus velocity, I could really challenge hitters. It opened up the top half of the strike zone for me. Before in college, I was basically trying to throw sinkers or sliders and staying low in the zone, trying to get poor contact but then once I got to the Blue Jays, I was able to challenge hitters with the fastball. It opened up the entire half of the strike zone to me. I was able to do so much more.”

On his fastball usage.

“I still throw two seams. I kind of got away from the four-seam fastball while I was at Quincy. That was Coach Stembridge right there. For some reason, my two-seam is just as hard as my four-seam fastball so in college, it was just more efficient for me to throw the two-seam because it had a little more movement on it so that we just kind of scrapped the four-seam but not that I can’t use it. I usually go to my two-seam because it’s my comfort pitch so I just started throwing my two-seam fastball up in the zone and that’s how I got most of the strikeouts with the Blue Jays, that in combination with my slider.”

On adding another pitch to his repertoire.

“I’m probably going to be focusing on the change right now. I had one in college, I didn’t really use it very often because I was so much more confident with my slider but I’ve been working with the pitching coaches during instructs and I have a totally new grip. I threw it all throughout September/October while we were in the instructional league and I’m already very proud of it.

I don’t think I’m going to try to throw a curveball any time soon. I’ve never had the talent or like the natural ability to create like a 12-to-6 spin so I think we’ll put that on the back burner for now until I start to get the feel for that. I’ve never thrown anything remotely close to a 12-6 so it’d be tough for me to pick it up right now. ”

On developing his changeup.

“I guess the one issue that I have with it right now is that it does come out still pretty firm. It’s got the downward movement that I want from it but that’s my tendency, which I’m aware of on the mound so I’d be able to identify it and fix it when I do mess up. My mistakes I would make with it would be throwing it too hard. Right now, normally it was like 87-88 miles an hour and if I’m starting to get tired during a game and my fastball velocity is coming down from mid-90s coming down to low-(90s), then that spread’s a little too small.”

On taking part in instructional league.

“Instructs was actually a lot of fun. It felt like summer camp and everybody was always packed in the conference room to start the day. It was a good time. The pitchers did a lot of PFP (pitcher’s fielding practice) drills as expected but I’ve learned a lot during instructs about everything pitching from pitch sequencing to mental toughness in general.”

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Graham Spraker chats with Travis Bergen (#23) before Game 3 of the Northwest League final.


On getting drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays and who scouted him.

“I was so relieved. I remember watching almost every name get called on that third day and I knew that if I had any chance of going, it was going to be with the Blue Jays so every single time it was their turn to call a name, I was glued to the computer screen hoping waiting to see mine. I remember when they did call, my parents both jumped out of their seats screaming so it was a really fun experience, a huge relief!”

Jeff Johnson was my scout. He was the Midwest area scout and Jeff actually just got a position as the coordinator of amateur scouting with the Tampa Bay Rays so he’s no longer with the Jays. Jeff was definitely the most enthusiastic just by the normal conversation with all the scouts I had spoken with.”

On his introduction to pro baseball with Bluefield.

“Bluefield was great. The coaching staff was fantastic. Dennis Holmberg was the man and (pitching) coach Tony, Antonio (Caceras) was the boss. He helped me out a lot. They kind of let us try to do our own thing for the first year there. I could tell that some of the second or third year players would get a lot more one-on-one instruction than the new kids would but I think that’s just because they told us they wanted us to try and acclimate to our first year of pro baseball. It’s kind of to get used to the little things like the change in lifestyle, that kind of stuff but (the coaches) did a hell of a job. They managed a hell of a team and they took just great care of us. I couldn’t be more grateful from everybody, from Roswell and our coaching staff, Caleb (Daniel) the trainer and (Aaron) Spano, our strength coach. They just did everything they could to make sure that we had all the tools that we needed.”

On pitching with Ty Tice in the Bluefield bullpen.

“Me and Ty, we were competing with each other to see who could rack up the most saves, although, I mean he kind of ran away with it at the end. Ty was always first up but when Ty couldn’t pitch, then it was my turn. We had a healthy competition going on all year long.”

On Bluefield winning the Mercer Cup against their arch-rival Princeton Rays.

“The Mercer Cup was pretty fun. We won it pretty early in the season. The County here, they take it pretty seriously. It was cool to be a part of it. When we finally won and got the trophy, that was a good time. Champagne showers. It was kind of weird though, we were shaking champagne in the middle of the season.”

On pitching in the post-season with Bluefield.

“I loved it. I came out. I got the save in the first game but I got to pitch at Pulaski (in third and deciding Game 3) and I remember when I came out of the bullpen, I can’t remember the score, it was pretty close but the crowd started chanting ‘Go Yankees!’ or something like that and I was just like (speechless).”

On the possibility of getting called up to Vancouver after the Appalachian League playoffs.

“I didn’t really think about it because (the C’s) had made call-ups like two weeks before that and I didn’t move so I kind of assumed I was just going to play the rest of the season (in Bluefield). And then (the Jays) gave me a plane ticket to go home and so I had all my stuff packed up and ready to leave and then about an hour before I was set to go on the bus and get to the airport, they called me and sent me a new itinerary and told me I was going up to Canada.”

On finally making it to Vancouver.

“I was pumped. That was my goal from the beginning of the season was to at least end up in Vancouver by the end but I was kind of bummed that—I wasn’t bummed that Dave (David Jacob) got promoted—but I was pissed that I was still one level behind him. (Laughs) I was really looking forward to playing on the same team with him again but we’ll get there. We’ll catch up.”

On other players he’s close with in the Blue Jays system.

“Pretty much all the pitchers. I was always pretty close with Ty (Tice) and Marcus Reyes. I can name off a ton of names. Connor Law was one of my buds. He started off in the GCL and then finally he came up to Bluefield and it was a riot when he got promoted but Connor, he played in the Division II World Series against us. We didn’t get a chance to play him but I didn’t meet him yet but I knew he was with Lindenwood which was like two hours away from Quincy but we’d always been in the same area. It was fun to finally meet him.”

On making his first playoff appearance during Game 1 of the Northwest League finals against the Eugene Emeralds.

“Eugene was fun. I came in kind of early. I think I was trying to do a little too much when I first got into that game. I let one of those runs score on a sacrifice fly and I was disappointed but in all hindsight, I did my job. And then they gave me one more inning after that and I was kind of on edge to be honest. It was the first game up there but once I struck out my first batter in that second inning, I calmed down a lot because I just did exactly what I would have done if I was pitching in Bluefield and it worked out in that same way so I kind of reassured in my mind that like it’s the same game and I shouldn’t be worried about it. These guys, they’re not that much better from where you were just at.”

On the difference between the college and Appalachian League playoffs to the Northwest League playoffs.

“It was the crowd. The huge difference in the amount of people who were there, especially in Vancouver. We had 5,000 people or something like that and pitching in front of that many people, the noise was a distraction I guess. Just from Bluefield, we played with maybe about 700 to 1,000 people. The atmosphere was just totally different.”

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Graham Spraker pitched 2-2/3 scoreless innings for the C’s in the Northwest League final.


On pitching in Game 3 against Eugene in Vancouver.

“I remember our pitching coach Jim Czajkowski. I remember coming out of the game and he was asking me about a certain pitch sequence that I just did to one of the batters that I just struck out. I remembered how disappointed he was when I told him that I just hung a slider. It was a terrible pitch but (the batter) missed it anyway. (Laughs).

Pitching in Vancouver was so much fun. I had to drive out to the mound in that golf cart. I was having fun. That’s what I remember about that outing. I wasn’t stressed. I wasn’t thinking. I was just playing baseball and having a good time.”

On riding in the C’s bullpen car to the mound.

“I’ve never done that before. Yeah, it kind of puts you in a different mindset I think because if I was to run in from the bullpen, I’d probably be thinking about all sorts of stuff, trying to be as locked in as possible but driving out in a golf cart with a big ol’ Canadians helmet on it, I don’t know, it just made me smile.”

On getting credited with the victories in both of his playoff appearances with Vancouver.

“That was a blessing. That was kind of just a scorekeeper’s decision though because both times, I think if the starter would have gone one more inning just to get to the fifth, then they would have got both the wins. Still, I’m happy that I was the guy that got to sneak in there and grab those two.”

On watching the clinching Game 4 from the bullpen.

“Once we took the lead, the whole atmosphere in the bullpen changed. Everyone was on the edge of their seats leading up to that and then finally when we got ahead, we definitely didn’t relax but there were a lot more looks of hope and joy around the pen with the guys.”

On seeing Chavez Young’s catch and tumble over the wall in foul territory down the right field side for the second out of the ninth inning.

“Chavez is just a clutch player. That’s exactly what he is. Chavez had bailed me out multiple times while I was in Bluefield too so I always loved pitching with Chavez in the outfield but yeah, it was definitely our year. Chavez needed it too because Chavez, you could tell the way he was playing that he’d do everything possible to win and he did. He did more than that.”

On running from the bullpen to the infield to join the celebration of the final out.

“It was the fastest I’ve definitely ran in a long time. That gate was open before the umpire even called a strike I think. I wish I would have been in Vancouver longer but not that I didn’t appreciate all of it. It was a fantastic experience and I just remember being in the locker room when we were done. We had a champagne shower and then the team owner came in, he was ecstatic and he told us that he was going to get us the biggest ring possible. I could tell from looking around the locker room from the guys that had been here all season and had worked for it the whole year, they were just so excited. I’m just blessed. I just wish I could have the same feeling or known exactly what it would have been like if I was there the whole year.”

On his off-season preparation.

“I just got back from Tampa two or three days ago. I was at a high performance camp at our Spring Training complex in Dunedin so that’s set me up really well going into the rest of the off-season. I got to go through my program for two weeks with our training staff so I know exactly how to do everything, how I should be going about all my workouts and lifting and stuff and now I’m just going to spend some time through it. I got three months now to just do what I can to be ready for spring training.”

My thanks again to Graham Spraker for this episode of C’s Chat.

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C’s Chat – Samad Taylor

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Samad Taylor made his Vancouver Canadians debut on August 11.


cs_chat_logoI caught up with Vancouver Canadians second baseman Samad Taylor to talk about his eventful 2017 season. The 19 year-old right-handed hitter from Corona, California was in the midst of his second professional season with Cleveland before he was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays as part of the deal that sent reliever Joe Smith to Ohio. The 10th round pick from Corona High School in 2016 was with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers of the New York-Penn League at the time of the trade. To say he was taken aback about the deal would be an understatement.

“I was getting ready for a game and our GM came into the clubhouse and told me to go into the coach’s office and they told me I was traded. It was a pretty big shock. You don’t grow up expecting to even get drafted and then you definitely don’t grow up expecting to get traded. So when that happened, it was like, ‘Dang, this really happened.’ It didn’t really hit me that I got traded until I got to Bluefield.”

On the Blue Jays wanting to trade for him.

“That was a big thing because I don’t really pay attention to the TV stuff and all that. I really focus on just my game and that’s about it. I didn’t know how the trade stuff went or anything like that so I was like, ‘I got traded.’ I didn’t know how to react. And then hearing who I got traded for and talking to the Blue Jays guys, it sounded like the Blue Jays really wanted me. Now that I am a Blue Jay and I see that they wanted me, it feels way better than when it felt the first time when I first got traded.”

On his first contact with the Jays and heading to Bluefield before Vancouver.

“I’m sure it was (Blue Jays general manager) Ross Atkins. He called and asked when I wanted to head out and I got my plane ticket and I was in Bluefield the next day.

“I had to wait for my passport so I got my passport. I purchased it the week before and then I get traded and Ross was like, ‘Do you have your passport?’ I was like, ‘I just ordered it. I’m waiting for it to come in.’ ‘Do you know when it will be in?’ I told him, he was like, ‘Alright, We’re going to send you to Bluefield for a couple of days and then once you get your passport, we’re going to send you out to Vancouver.’”

On the difference between the New York-Penn and Appalachian Leagues.

“In the New York-Penn League, you’re seeing guys that are not necessarily trying to blow fastballs by you but you’re seeing guys that can spot a fastball and come back with a good off-speed and stuff like that. In the Appalachian League, it was more guys trying to overpower you.”

On joining a new organization.

“It wasn’t that big of an adjustment. I’m real good friends with Chavez Young. Once I got there (in Bluefield), he was there and it took off from there.”

On getting promoted to Vancouver.

“I was happy. I was thrilled. I felt like once I got sent to Bluefield, back in Rookie ball, and then get the call to Vancouver and it was like I’m back where I should be. I was ready to get out.”

Vancouver Canadians Samad Taylor

Samad Taylor hit an opposite-field home run at Nat Bailey Stadium for his first home run in a Canadians uniform August 12.


On his first home run as a member of the C’s.

“0-0 count and I knew I was batting in the lower half of the lineup and I knew I was going to get a fastball. I got my foot down in time and (Volcanoes pitcher Greg Jacknewitz) happened throw the ball on the outer half (of the plate) and I drove it out.

To be honest, I wasn’t even looking at the ball. I didn’t even think the ball was getting out. I put my head down and I started to sprint and I look up and the umpire is waving his finger. At that moment, I realized it was out because all of the fans were going crazy. That was a real good feeling.”

On playing in front of sell-out crowds at Nat Bailey Stadium.

“It was real different. You’re going from like in the New York-Penn League, we were playing in front of 3,000 to 4,000 fans a day and you go to the Appy League and you’re playing in front of 50 to 60 fans a day and then you get called up to Vancouver and it’s like ‘Wow!’ Like you think from the Appy League, you get called to Vancouver, you think you’re in a big league stadium so it was so wild. You can’t really hear anything. Like in the playoffs, for the championship series, I was trying to talk to (shortstop) Logan Warmoth (from second base) and we can’t hear each other, like it was that loud, the whole game.”

On the reception he received in Vancouver.

“They welcomed me real well. It wasn’t a big culture shock. It was more of like, ‘I’m here now. I’m going to do whatever I can do to help the team win and they were all for it.’ They weren’t negative fans whatsoever.”

On the final week before the Northwest League playoffs.

“That last game in Tri-City, that was a weird set-up. If (Tri-City) lost and Spokane lost, then they were in and if Spokane won, then they were out of it so they were playing to lose that whole game and it was just like, it was a weird feeling, like ‘Why are we playing a team when they’re not even giving it their all?’ And then we end up beating them and Eugene has Spokane down to the last out and they end up blowing that so when we figured out that we were playing Spokane, we knew Spokane was hot. They’ve been hot for 9 to 10 games, we knew it was going to be a good fight and we were getting guys healthy after we had seen that Spokane had won.

“We get on the bus to head there the next morning and it’s foggy. 3:00 in the afternoon and it’s foggy. Once we’d seen that, I knew off the bat there was a hard chance that we would even play on how smoky it was. They were trying to push it and we were getting on the bus and they told us that we were heading back to Vancouver.

That was a good thing to have two off-days after that one and then we get back home and they say that we’re playing as an away team, that was just a weird feeling.”

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Samad Taylor recorded hits in his first three playoff games with the C’s.


On how bad the forest fire situation was in Spokane late in the season.

“It was terrible. You couldn’t even see. Mind you, we would have played a night game (for Game 1). We played out there a week before that and it was a forest fire or something like that and it was hard to see then. And this one was twice as worse as the one we had played in. I couldn’t even imagine how it was going to look at night. That other day, it was bad. It was hard to breathe. It was hard to see, you really couldn’t function as you wanted to but they ended up moving it back home. They brought their A-Game, we brought our A-Game and we came out on top.”

On being the “road team” at home in Game 1 vs. Spokane.

“It was weird but I must say that we knew that it was going to come down to the wire. It was great pitching versus great pitching and like how the game of baseball is, it’s going to take one bad pitch to determine who comes out the winner or one error, or something like that to come out on top and that’s what it was for us…We knew that if we got runners on or if we would’ve scored, it was a done deal because we know our pitching. Our pitching was pretty darn good.”

On the C’s Game 1 victory in Eugene.

“That was kind of a weird game. They jump out ahead in the first and Chavez Young hits one out and once he hit one out, the momentum was just on our side. You could see it in their face, they were getting down and everything and it wasn’t going their way. We went back and forth that game but after a certain point, it wasn’t going their way anymore and that’s when we stepped on the pedal.

“That’s what was different between our team and other teams. Once we see a team fold and once their energy was negative, that’s when we stepped on the pedal and didn’t give up. It was a pretty good series between Eugene (and Vancouver), I got to say that. They brought their A-guys, they threw their number one (pitcher), we threw our number one. It came down to whoever was going to get a hit that day and we came out on top, with quality hits in certain situations.”

On emerging with a split of the first two games in Eugene.

“We knew from the jump that we had two games on the road, we knew that from the jump. We know how our fans are at the stadium, I can tell you from playing there, it’s real hard for a road team to come there and win three games so we knew if we had one win in Eugene, then we were fine. That was our ultimate goal, we took it one game at a time. We won the first game. The next game, the pitching wasn’t on our side. I’m not going to say we didn’t have the arms but the arms weren’t working that day and then we go home for Game 3 and once we got home, we knew the series was getting done. It’s pretty hard (for a road team) to come to Nat Bailey Stadium and win three with our fans.”

On the C’s battling back from early deficits to win Games 3 and 4 against Eugene.

“We were down in both games. The third game, a key hit, a key play in the outfield and we were back in it. Fourth game, a key hit and we win the game. It was the simple things that meant the most to our team. It wasn’t like, ‘Oh, we need the home run or we need a triple or anything like that.’ If we had runners at second and third or runners at first and second, he was getting over regardless in any situation.

“If it came down to us choking up and taking an ugly swing to put the ball in play, to get our runners over, we were doing that. We were sacrificing anything to get our runners over. That’s one thing about our team, we fought for each other. We didn’t have any guys that were just there for themselves. Everything was for us. ‘What could I do to make our team better?’

On being on the field for the final out.

“Oh man! That moment, that speechless moment. You really can’t even…you don’t even have words for that moment. It was the pitch before that, or two pitches before that, (William Ouellette) got (Will Remillard) with two strikes and (Ouellette) threw a pitch and I almost threw my glove up because I thought it was strike three. I was like, ‘Man!’ It was a borderline pitch but it could have went either way. (The umpire) called it a ball and (Remillard) fouls another one off and the last pitch, I know how Will’s slider is and facing (Remillard) earlier on in the series, I knew he would chase offspeed down and Will threw a slider and froze him.

It was one of those moments like I had an Alex Bregman moment where he was in the World Series and fell to his knees and it was like, ‘This really happened!’ I didn’t fall on my knees but it was like I was so shocked and froze when I realized Logan Warmoth was coming over running towards me. I’m like, ‘Dang, we really just won this!’ and after all the celebration went up.”

On getting to raise the Bob Freitas trophy as Northwest League champions.

“I still get chills talking about it. I still get chills looking at the video and all that. It’s like we play so hard and put all the work in and go through extended and spring training and we’re in Florida so it’s boiling out there. It’s not like Arizona where you get cool days or anything like that. It’s boiling out there every day and we’re going at it every single day. When guys that break a full-season roster, they’re not getting the Florida weather we’re getting unless they’re in the Florida State League.

“Other than that, it’s like we’re putting our all on the line for one thing and that’s to come out with a ring. Once we got in the playoffs, we told everybody, we told our team that we’re going to bring the trophy back to Nat Bailey Stadium. That was our one goal. It didn’t matter what it was going to take, we were going to bring the trophy back. The last pitch, we struck them out and it was an amazing moment. It was a moment that you’ll always remember.

“I get cold and the chills looking at that video every single time and to like get on somebody’s shoulders to hold the trophy and know that you accomplished a goal, accomplished a goal not just a goal as for yourself but you accomplished a team goal and to bring that trophy back to Nat Bailey meant everything.”

On how the C’s championship mentality was developed.

“When we had off days, we’d always hang out with each other. The vibe and the culture that we had, on hanging out, brought us all in as one and we had all the same ultimate goal—to get a ring. It didn’t matter what it was going to take to get the ring. whether it’d take somebody to get a hit in the head or take one for the team, that’s what was going to happen. We were going to fight for each other. Blood, sweat and tears, we were leaving it on the field.”

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Samad Taylor was at second base for all of his 25 games with Vancouver.


On his baseball beginnings.

“I grew up catching and playing center field. I didn’t really start playing shortstop until my sophomore year in high school. It became second nature, I was so used to playing short and then I was going to college to play shortstop but then I get picked up by the Indians as a middle guy and playing short, second and center. I get to the Indians and I was taking live reads and stuff at center and all that. The whole time I was with the Indians, I’ve probably seen 16 innings at short (Editor’s Note – eight in 2017) and then it was all second so I just got used to it. I look at like whenever I’m out on the field, I’m going to perfect it and help my team win and help myself get better. It really didn’t faze me that much, second base or anything like that. I don’t mind it.”

On whether the Blue Jays have approached him about playing multiple positions.

“Pretty much I’m going to stay at second for the time being unless something miraculously happens to where they have to move me to short or to where I have to go to center field or anything like that. At the moment, I’ll be at second.”

On how he describes himself as a player.

“Well-rounded. All-around player. As my stats showed, I can hit for power, I can bunt if I have to, I can run if I have to. I’m a pretty good defensive player. I’m a fastball hitter so if you’re throwing a fastball, you’re taking a big chance. I would rate myself as a Dee Gordon or coming up, a Chone Figgins or one of those guys. I’m not a guy that’s going to give you 30 home runs a year or stuff like that. I’m going to give you 15 to 20 home runs with 35 to 40 stolen bags and a great defensive player.”

On his favourite major league team as a youngster.

“I was a New York Mets fan growing up. Figgins and Jose Reyes were always my radar. I watched everything they did and tried to do everything they did because whatever they were doing got them to where they’re at.”

On his off-season plans.

“Just to keep perfecting my craft. There’s really nothing that stands out that’s like, ‘Oh, I need to do this, this and this.’ I’m just trying to get a little bit more size on me and keep perfecting my craft.”

My thanks again to Samad Taylor for this episode of C’s Chat!

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C’s Chat – David Jacob

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David Jacob played nine games at first base for the C’s in 2017.


cs_chat_logoMy final interview on the day of August 12 at Nat Bailey Stadium was with Vancouver Canadians first baseman/outfielder David Jacob. It turned out he would play his final game in a C’s uniform that night as he was called up to the Lansing Lugnuts to finish out the 2017 campaign.

The first time Jacob was in Vancouver was at the tail end of the 2016 season. Even though he saw action in one game in front of the hometown faithful, the game did not count as the C’s final two home games of the year were rained out.

The Springfield, Illinois’s official Nat Bailey Stadium debut came on July 12 against the Spokane Indians and he connected for a grand slam. Not bad for someone who only saw his first live action just four days earlier in the Gulf Coast League before playing one game at Triple-A with the Buffalo Bisons.

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David Jacob was the designated hitter 10 times for the C’s in 2017.


Jacob recalled his first trip to Vancouver and his 2017 debut.

“It was a rainy day—cold, rainy—and there was still about 3,000-4,000 fans. It’s an unbelievable experience. I got that stint up in Triple-A for just a game and a couple of guys were like, ‘If I could play one more game in Vancouver, I would.’ I had high hopes coming here, and of course the first game, I got a good ovation after hitting a grand slam. It just gives you something extra to play for every single day.”

Jacob on why his 2017 season started late. 

“About two weeks left in extended spring training, I was doing some extra work in the cage and I just tweaked my back a little bit, kind of had a minor setback. I was hoping to get up here (in Vancouver) by the beginning of the season but sometime during rehab, I re-aggravated it again. Fortunately I was still able to come up here and play a little bit this year. It was the first injury to my back ever. I’ve had some achiness but nothing to where it put me out.”

Jacob on his surprise promotion to Buffalo. 

“I thought it was a joke at first because I was supposed to be on a plane to Boise the next day to join the team. They were short on players up in Buffalo and so they just called me and Otto Lopez from the Gulf Coast League. I just thought it was a joke I got down to the lobby and (I was told)’ your shuttle leaves at 3:45 in the morning now’. I just kind of took a deep breath and just soaked it all in now.

“It was just kind of one of things that I can’t do really much wrong. I just came off rehab and I had only one at-bat in the Gulf Coast League and that was only my second through fifth at-bats of the year. I just kind of tried to learn from Rowdy (Tellez), he was explaining how things work and just take everything in from those guys.

“I feel like I’m a little spotty right now but I’m hoping to try to get some momentum especially towards the playoffs.”

david_jacob_jogging_back

Despite being called up to Lansing in mid-August, David Jacob finished the year tied with Kacy Clemens for the team lead in home runs with four.


Jacob on the difficulty of hitting home runs at Nat Bailey Stadium. 

“I don’t really think about it when I’m at the plate, it just kind of happens and fortunately enough, I’ve been able to get to four (home runs) here. Everybody says it’s a tough park to hit in and you just can’t try to think about that. Just hit in all parts of the field and see where it goes.”

Jacob on his game plan at the plate. 

“It depends series to series because there’s certain teams that will throw you in, certain teams that throw you away. Game 1 is a big determining factor on how they throw you and just kind of work on things after that. Salem-Keizer here (August 11) really worked me away so I’m going to try to focus on left-center (August 12).”

Jacob on competing for playing time with Kacy Clemens at first base. 

“That’s a big question that everybody keeps asking me and I don’t really see a big competition there. We were pretty good friends since day one and we both just want to cheer each other on and definitely motivate each other and keeping working up together. He’s a good kid.”

Jacob on how he wound up in the outfield with the C’s.

“When I was in Salem, I went up to (manager) Rich Miller, because Brock (Lundquist) went down that series. ‘ Hey, I spent some time in the outfield in college, if you need an extra guy, if something goes down, I can go out and play’. A couple of days later, I was in the lineup (as an outfielder).”

Vancouver Canadians David Jacob

David Jacob was selected by the Toronto Blue Jays out of Quincy University in the 32nd round of the 2016 draft.


Jacob on his draft-day experience. 

“I was actually playing in the Northwoods League over in Thunder Bay, Canada and my phone didn’t work. I didn’t have any (cell) service until I got to the field so Jeff Johnson with the Blue Jays called me two or three times before I actually picked up and had service. The voice mail was like, ‘It’s kind of an important day, you might want to pick up your phone.’ I had to explain to him I was in Thunder Bay. (He says), ‘We’re thinking about taking you within the next couple of picks. Are you still wanting to go?’ I said, ‘Absolutely’. It was a pretty cool experience.”

Jacob on life in the minors.

“It’s definitely a grind. People tell you that all the time. If you’re down in Florida, you’re waking up at 6:00 am every single day or you’re (in Vancouver), you have early work or something like that. There’s a lot of stuff behind the scenes that happen before the game, It’s like a 9-to-5 job, it’s a pretty neat experience.”

Jacob on who had the biggest influence of his career.

“I’d say my head coach at college, Josh Rabe. He played for the Twins a little bit. He had 2 years (2006-2007) in the major league level. He had a really good minor league career. Just learning from him, coming into college. He said in my freshman year, I was going to be the first player out of that program that he recruited was going to go pro. I was like ‘No, I didn’t think it myself’ but after a while, he stuck with me and had faith in me and eventually it happened.”

Jacob on attending Quincy University.

“It is a small town, it’s around 44,000 but the school itself right now I think is about 850 students. When I was there, it was around 12-hundred. Definitely a small school, everybody knows everybody. This year, Graham Spraker got drafted out of Quincy with the Blue Jays. He’s down in Bluefield so hopefully one day we can reunite and play together again.”

As it turned out, Spraker would get to Vancouver in time for the championship final but well after Jacob’s promotion to Lansing.

Jacob on the difference between the college and pro game. 

“Division II was a big jump because most starters, their Day One guy may be 87-89 (miles per hour), here (in the Northwest League) you’re facing 95-plus almost every single day so definitely a big jump.”

Jacob on the C’s winning the first-half North Division championship. 

“I was only here for a couple of series before we clinched but when I was down in Florida, I had a good idea that I was going to come up here so I was checking the scores every single day, texting some guys, rooting them on. It’s definitely a relief knowing that we’re going to go to the playoffs but we know we can’t let up and take every day, day-by-day and once the playoffs roll around, go right after it again.”

My thanks to David Jacob for taking the time to chat with me.

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C’s Chat – Brandon Polizzi

Vancouver Canadians Brandon Polizzi

Brandon Polizzi takes a practice swing before an at-bat at Nat Bailey Stadium August 20.


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Here is one from the archives. I had a chance to chat with Vancouver Canadians outfielder Brandon Polizzi prior to their game against the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes on August 12 at Nat Bailey Stadium. He was a month into his season in Vancouver after getting called up from the Bluefield Blue Jays in early July. Polizzi started his pro career in the Appalachian League after being selected in the 35th round of the 2017 draft by Toronto out of Cal State-Dominguez Hills, the same school that 2011 C’s outfielder Kevin Pillar attended. Polizzi was a first-team All-CCAA (California Collegiate Athletic Assocation) All-Star after batting .381 with 14 stolen bases for the Toros.

I first asked Polizzi about how he was adjusting to his first year as a pro.

“Every season, everybody has peaks and valleys. Right now, I’m in a little valley but I’m starting to rise up. (I still have) confidence. I know I can play this game. I know I can hang with these guys. I’m not overmatched or anything. I’m just out here having fun.”

Polizzi on what he is working on in the batter’s box.

“Just seeing the ball. Work on hitting line drives. I’m not the type of guy that’s going to leave the yard. I’ll get one, maybe two (homers) but my game is hit the ball on the ground, hit line drives in the gap. I’m a gap to gap guy”.

Polizzi on his style of game.

“I’m a guy that can run. I play the outfield. I’m supposed to be tracking down balls and throwing guys out. Bunting is a big part of my game. If I’m 0-for-3 and if I’m hitting line drives at everybody and if (the infield is) going to play you back, I’m going to drop a bunt and get on first and help my team score. That’s my job, get on first anyway I can.”

Polizzi on who he would compare his style of game to.

“I don’t like to compare myself to anybody really but I’d have to say Kevin Pillar. I don’t like losing. I play this game hard. Even during our little bunt practice we were doing, I’m was running 110 percent because that’s who I am. Give it 110 percent every single time.”

Polizzi on Pillar’s legacy at his alma mater.

“He is still the face of Cal State Dominguez Hills. Nobody can take that away from him. He’s absolutely the guy. If you go to Cal State Dominugez, you better know who Kevin Pillar is.”

Vancouver Canadians Brandon Polizzi

Brandon Polizzi was called up from Bluefield to Vancouver on July 4.


Polizzi on switching jersey numbers from #37—the number Pillar wore for Vancouver during its 2011 Northwest League championship run—to #2.

“The (#37) jersey was just too big. I’m only a 5-10, 170 pound dude so I can’t fit in an extra large. If it was my choice, I’d still be wearing (number) four.”

Polizzi wore #4 during his college days but that number in Vancouver was taken by manager Rich Miller.

Polizzi on how he got started playing baseball.

“My dad just said, let’s go play something. Alright, so I’m playing baseball, just playing catch with him and I just fell in love with it. I used to pick up the little balls at Chuck E. Cheese where you can just throw all over in the jungle pit, or whatever they’re called. My dad bought me my own little jungle pit for my bedroom when I was two or three (years old) and I used to throw those things around so I was always doing baseball motions so I just fell in love with baseball.”

Polizzi on who helped him out during his career.

“(Mariners area scout) Gary Patchett, (former major leaguer) Carl Nichols, (Cal State-Dominguez Hills coach Murphy Su’a, my father, Joe Magno. I can’t be more grateful (as they helped) me get here today.”

Polizzi on winding up at Cal-State Dominguez Hills.

“I had the interest of bigger colleges. I had Cal State Fullerton, Long Beach and a couple of other top D-1 (Division 1) schools. But I was actually committed to a school called Doan, a little NAIA (school). I was verbally committed.

The day I got my paperwork, a guy named Murphy Su’a who was the head coach at Cal-State Dominguez Hills calls me and goes, ‘Hey, have you signed your paperwork?’ I said ‘No’. He goes, ‘Why don’t you take a drive down to Cal-State Dominguez Hills, it’s only 10-15 minutes away.” I said, ‘Okay’.

I sat down, talked with him. Absoultely fell in love with that guy. That guy is one of the best baseball minds I’ve ever been around. I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll come and play,’ so that’s what got me to come to Dominguez Hills”.

brandon_polizzi_ball_grip

Brandon Polizzi split time in center field, second base and shortstop with Cal State-Dominguez Hills in 2017 before playing in left and right field with Vancouver.


Polizzi on when he began playing in the outfield.

“I grew up as an infielder. I was always a shortstop, second baseman. I’ve only been playing the outfield for two to three years.”

Polizzi on his outfield preference.

“Center field, that’s my spot. I like running around knowing I got left and right. I can play anywhere, left field, right field, middle infield. I’m a versatile guy.”

Polizzi on playing in the outfield at Nat Bailey Stadium.

“The ball (doesn’t) fly real well in left field. The ball definitely doesn’t go out in center. It’s not that hard. I just go out there, tracking balls down and having fun.”

Vancouver Canadians Brandon Polizzi

Brandon Polizzi batted .347 over his three-year career at Cal State-Dominguez Hills.


Polizzi on his draft day experience.

“I was actually sitting at home. I got some friends texting me and asking me, ‘hey, have you been drafted? No, not yet’ so I’m just sitting there. I had about eight teams call me after the 10th round, going ‘Hey you know, expect your name to be called early’, I said ‘Okay’, so I got about 20 phone calls from eight teams (saying), ‘Hey, sit tight, we’re going to get you, sit tight.’ So I’m sitting there and going, ‘Okay, is it going to happen? Sooner or later, right?’

The 30th round comes along and I’m sitting there (thinking), ‘Okay, I’ve only got 10 rounds left,’ so I’m squirming a little bit. It went down to two teams, the Royals and the Blue Jays.

The 34th round came along and the Royals passed and the Blue Jays passed so I said, ‘Okay’. I felt like (the 35th round) was going to be the round so the next thing you know, the Royals passed and I was like ‘Okay, I’m probably going to be a Blue Jay in the next couple of rounds.’

So I’m sitting there, my brother is in the room. He goes, ‘Oh crap!’ He got to know before me and the next thing I know, my phone goes off. ‘Brandon Polizzi, 35th, Cal-State Dominguez Hills, 35th round by the Blue Jays’ It was an exciting moment for my family and I. They’ve been on this journey with me. This is not just my dream but their dream as well. Everything they’ve done for me, I couldn’t be more than grateful for the parents I have.

Polizzi on his father’s premonition he would wind up in the Blue Jays organization.

“He was talking to me since the beginning of the college year, going ‘I think you’re going to be a Blue Jay’ I mean, ‘How do you know? It’s already January’ ‘I think you’re going to be a Blue Jay’. ‘I said, ‘Okay’. It’s funny so I’m a Blue Jay.”

Polizzi on meeting Kevin Pillar.

“I talked to Kevin before the season started. In February he came out just before spring training. He came out to the school. I just got done working out by myself. I know who that is. I walked up to him and he goes, ‘Who’s the center fielder?’ ‘That’s me’, ‘Okay, good. You’re holding the fort down, keep doing a good job’

I’ve talked to him. My agent is really close friends with him so obviously I know a lot about Kevin Pillar. I’ve been picking his brain during the off-season and how on how he prepares for the season and all of that good stuff.”

Polizzi on the C’s winning the first-half North Division championship.

“It took me back to last summer when we won the first half and the second half for the Wisconsin Rapids (when) I played in the Northwoods League. That’s basically what this is. Maybe a couple of more games here but it was a blast. It prepared me for this season.”

Polizzi would get to celebrate one more time in 2017 as he was in left field when the final out was recorded in the fourth and  clinching game of the Northwest League championship against the Eugene Emeralds at Nat Bailey Stadium.

My thanks to Brandon Polizzi for this interview.

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C’s Recap – Zeuch, Case & Davis Lead Peoria To Arizona Fall League Championship

Vancouver Canadians T.J. Zeuch

2016 Vancouver Canadians righthander T.J. Zeuch was the winning pitcher in the 2017 Arizona Fall League championship game.


C's RecapSix former Vancouver Canadians are getting a championship ring as their Peoria Javelinas upended the Mesa Solar Sox 8-2 in the Arizona Fall League final at Scottsdale Stadium Saturday.

2016 C’s pitcher T.J. Zeuch got the start for the Javelinas and he was greeted by three solid singles and a sacrifice fly that gave the Solar Sox a 2-0 lead four batters in before getting a double-play ball to end the frame. The second inning saw the 6-foot-7 hurler give up two more hits in the second but he kept Mesa off the board. Zeuch had his first 1-2-3 inning in the third and got another double play ball to end a one-hit fourth. He faced the minimum for a third time with a perfect fifth. Zeuch gave up a base hit to start the sixth but erased that by inducing his third double play grounder of the day. However, he gave up another single and that was the end of the line for the 2016 Toronto Blue Jays first rounder.

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Andrew Case contributed 1-1/3 innings of perfect relief in the AFL title game for Peoria.


The ball was turned over to 2014-2015 C’s righthander Andrew Case. The Saint John, New Brunswick native sat down all four hitters he faced by getting an inning-ending strikeout in the sixth before getting three fly ball outs in the seventh, the last two caught by his 2014 C’s teammate, center fielder Jonathan Davis.

The Javelinas leadoff hitter helped lead their comeback by taking one for the team in the third. He would then steal second before scoring on a single by Atlanta Braves prospect Ronald Acuna to tie the game at 2-2. Davis was again hit by a pitch in the fourth to join fellow Blue Jays prospects Lourdes Gourriel Jr. on the bases after he began the frame with a walk. Gourriel and Davis would score on another Acuna single to expand Peoria’s lead to 6-2. Davis would line a triple to center to begin the eighth and would score for the third time on another three-bagger by Boston prospect Michael Chavis for the Javelinas’ seventh run.

Vancouver Canadians Jonathan Davis

Jonathan Davis reached base three times and scored three times in the AFL championship game.


The C’s trio who saw action in the championship game all wrapped up successful seasons in Arizona. Davis hitting .295/.387/.410 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with six doubles, a home run, 13 runs batted in and stole seven bases in eight attempts in the regular season. Case put up nothing but zeros in his fall ball stint with 10 shutout innings by allowing just eight hits and one walk while striking out six to win both of his decisions. Zeuch posted a 1-1 record with a 3.44 earned run average of 18 innings with a 15-4 K/BB total and a 0.98 WHIP. Zeuch was singled out by MLB.com‘s Jim Callis as one of the 10 standouts from the championship contest.

Even though they did not see any action in Saturday’s game, catcher Max Pentecost (2014), lefthander Danny Young (2015) and Jackson McClelland (2015-2016) will also be fitted for championship bling.

Pentecost struggled with the stick in the AFL by slashing just .195/.267/.293 with one double and one dinger while stealing a base in his only attempt. He struck out 17 times in 41 at-bats. Young also had a rough go of it on the mound with a 16.43 ERA over 7-2/3 innings. McClelland had an ERA of 7.20 over 10 innings but earned a save, finished off four games for Peoria and struck out eight against a pair of walks.

Congratulations to the Vancouver six on becoming Arizona Fall League champions.

C-Notes

C's NotesCongratulations to the Northwest League champion C’s on winning the Ballpark Digest 2017 Continued Excellence Award.

The date for C’s Annual Hot Stove Luncheon is January 26, 2018. Tickets are now on sale. The event is a fundraiser to support the Vancouver Canadians Baseball Foundation.

And now a look at the C’s past and present on Twitter…

Spot the three Vancouver Canadians signatures!

 

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C’s Chat – William Ouellette

Vancouver Canadians William Ouellette

William Ouellette warms up in the bullpen at Nat Bailey Stadium.


“I might take you down, but I’ll never let you down.” — theme from Shaft 2000.

cs_chat_logoWilliam Ouellette (pronounced ‘ooh-LET’) had plenty of takedowns as closer of the Vancouver Canadians and he never let his team down when he was summoned from the bullpen. The NWL saves leader and a mid-season All-Star, the 24 year-old Ouellette had a season to remember in YVR. He led the way with 13 saves to help the C’s reach the post-season and added three more in the playoffs.  It was save number 16 against the Eugene Emeralds that set off a big celebration that crowned Vancouver as league champions in Game 4 of the NWL final at Nat Bailey Stadium.

The 6-foot-1, 195-pound righthander began the season with the Dunedin Blue Jays and earned a victory in three appearances, giving up just one run over 6-1/3 innings during the latter part of May. The son of former major league catcher Phil Ouellette—who played 10 games for the San Francisco Giants in 1986—he was reassigned to Vancouver in time for the start of the C’s regular season.

Though the 24 year-old Ouellette was hoping for a longer stay in Dunedin, the Cal State-San Bernardino product said his first taste of full-season baseball was a good learning experience.

“I would say that being able to pitch in that league (Florida State League) and talk to some of my teammates like Jordan Romano and Ryan Cook and (Ryan) Borucki and (T.J.) Zeuch—just seeing what those guys are about, how they attack hitters, what their game plan is. Also, the pitching coach Mark Riggins. He was pretty helpful with me developing a slider, or the slider that I throw now. The biggest thing was realizing that you have to throw more than one pitch for a strike in Dunedin, in High-A, for me because those guys, they can eliminate a pitch if you can only throw one pitch for a strike so that they can look for that pitch and they can take advantage of it and really punish you there.”

Ouellette on his pitching repertoire.

“I do have a fastball, a slider and a changeup. However, being the closer this year, the role I took upon this year, in that particular role, you don’t want to get beat with your third-best pitch. And for me, the changeup is my third-best pitch. It has come a long ways, considering since I didn’t have one last year. So now that I do have one, I’m confident in throwing it. I just really didn’t get a chance to use it in those high-leverage situations that I was pitching in. I didn’t want to get beat with my third-best pitch.”

Ouellette on being sent down to Vancouver from Dunedin.

“When I first went over there, I wasn’t sure for how long that I was going to be there or I thought, maybe if I pitched there well enough that maybe I could stay (in Dunedin) for the rest of the season if I pitch well and get people out but when I was told I was going back to go and pitch in Vancouver, I found out that I was sent over there because they had a guy that was injured and I was just filling in for him while he was getting healthy. I made the most of it while I was there. I thought I pitched well and I think that it gave me a nice confidence boost going into the season knowing that I can pitch here, I can get people out and I can dominate hitters.”

Vancouver Canadians William Ouellette

William Ouellette pitched two shutout innings to earn his first Northwest League victory against the Spokane Indians at Nat Bailey Stadium June 23.


Ouellette on the moment he realized the C’s had a chance to be a championship club.

“Once we clinched the first half, we were kind of struggling going into that and kind of sort of backed our way into the first-half (North Division) championship I would say. I feel like once that we won that or clinched that as a team, I felt like we all as a team, or everybody in the clubhouse, took a deep breath and was like, ‘Alright, we got that out of the way, now we can play our baseball. We can throw strikes, we can hit the ball, we can play good defence and move runners over when we have to, get those clutch hits. To me, that’s what I would say our turning point was, simply because of the way that we backed into the first-half championship.

“Once we clinched the first half, it wasn’t that the second half was like, ‘Oh man, we don’t have to play as hard, we’re already going to the playoffs.’ It was very much, ‘Well, we won the first half, now let’s win the second half.’ That way, we can basically eliminate one of the other teams that we didn’t really play so well. That way we controlled everybody else’s destiny as opposed to our destiny was in someone else’s hands like a Spokane or a Eugene or maybe even Everett.”

Vancouver Canadians William Ouellette

William Ouellette ran his record to 4-0 with a win over Eugene July 2.


Ouellette on being named a Northwest League All-Star.

“I thought the All-Star Game was a ton of fun. The manager of the All-Star Game of my All-Star team (Hillsboro’s Shawn Roof) said that to embrace this because for some of us, it might be our only All-Star team. For me, up until this point of my career, it has been the only All-Star team I’ve ever made. That was a big accomplishment. I found out when we were in Tri-City. It was after our game, after we had won, I got a text from our trainer that said ‘Bring your passport to the field.’ I was a little thrown off. I was like, ‘Why would I need my passport? That doesn’t make sense.’ But I brought it and then I didn’t think anything of it and then (C’s manager) Rich Miller, we had a meeting in the clubhouse and said, ‘Hey, by the way, Orlando Pascual, Riley Adams and William Ouellette, you guys are All-Stars so congratulations! Go get ‘em in Hillsboro.’

“It felt like you were an All-Star because of the Fan Fest and the way that everything was set up. Everything that we were given, I felt like I was in the big leagues even though I was just at a minor-league All-Star game so that was a great experience for me and something that I’ll always remember.”

Ouellette on his favourite stadiums in the Northwest League.

“In terms of just like playing surface, I thought Spokane was awesome. The field was really nice. They got a lot of fans although it was very quiet with 5,000 people. It’s not like Nat Bailey where you could hear those guys from it seems like downtown. Those fans get so loud there. Hillsboro was cool, their 2,500-3000 fans were also very loud. They really got into the game. They cheered on their players, they really got behind their players, much like our fans at Nat Bailey so that was awesome. It was a cool experience to play in some of those stadiums.”

Vancouver Canadians William Ouellette

William Ouellette found a home in the C’s bullpen in 2017.


Ouellette on when he felt he hit his stride in 2017.

“Believe it or not, it was actually during extended spring training I would say. I went into spring training with a goal of making the Lansing roster and I thought I pitched well during spring training but I didn’t make the Lansing roster. There was a time we were playing the Braves in extended spring training. I go into a game, I have a clean first inning and my second inning, there were two infield singles and an error and I ended up pitching my way out of it with no outs and the bases loaded. I had to make some good pitches, some good, quality pitches in what I felt was like a high-leverage situation. For me, it felt like from that point on, I was confident. I had the most confidence in the word, like ‘Man, I can get anybody out. I can put the ball where I want, my slider feels good.’ At that time I was still throwing my changeup because there’s no statistics during extended but I took all those games seriously because for me, I was still trying to win a job. Being an undrafted free agent, I don’t have much leverage when it comes to success or failure.”

Ouellette on joining the Blue Jays organization.

“It was mainly the Blue Jays who were really talking to me because the scout (Jim Lentine) who ended up signing me, we were in contact basically all weekend (before) the draft. He kept telling me, ‘Like hey, you’re probably not going to go day two, if you’re going to go, it’ll be late day three. I just said, ‘Alright, no problem.’ We were actually in San Francisco for my Dad’s reunion – the ’86 (San Francisco Giants) reunion team. Me and my brothers and my Mom, we were watching the draft on my phone although I really tried not to think about it. I didn’t want to think about it but being day three, at that point, it was either now or never so I really started to watch the draft, check who was picking, check who the Blue Jays picked. The very last pick had came and my brothers looked at me, I had looked at them and we didn’t say hardly anything. About 10 seconds later, Jim the scout had called me and said, ‘William, I know the draft is over. We didn’t pick you but we’re going to give you a contract and there will be a plane ticket out if you want to sign.’ I said, ‘Jim, when do I leave?’ and that was it.”

Ouellette on spending 2016 in the Gulf Coast League.

“It was hot. It was hot and humid. I knew it was going to be hot but I had never been in a humid environment like that. It was a little different at first but my pitching coach at the time, Juan Rincon, helped me make the transition from being an everyday player in college to pitching and learning how to pitch. He really got me through the doorway I would say, to help me hit the ground running.”

Ouellette on his introduction to pitching.

“I had a lot of doubts when I was in college. I was asked, ‘Hey, have you ever thought about pitching?’ I always said, ‘I prefer to play shortstop until I don’t have a choice anymore.’ My senior year in college came and I went up to my coach and I said, ‘Coach, I want to pitch. I want to pitch too.’ He said, ‘Alright, well, let’s see what you got.’

I threw a bullpen before that day, I pitched in some intersquad games and then our opening weekend of the season, it was a 2-1 ballgame in the eighth inning and we were on the road so after we came in to hit, (the coach) said, ‘Hey, you’re going in for the ninth.’ I said, ‘Oh, okay!’ So I ran down into the bullpen, got loose and came in for my first save. I did both for the remainder of the season, I played shortstop and I closed games out for us as well.’

Ouellette on being a closer.

“I personally love it. I enjoy the high-leverage situation. For me, it makes me feel that I can’t make mistakes. Of course, everybody is going to make a mistake but I just feel like in those situations, my stuff is maybe a little sharper, a little harder. You have the adrenaline rush that comes along in being a one-run ball game or something like that. My job is no different than anybody else’s but it’s a little bit more special because if I do end up closing the game, we get to shake hands after the game – that’s probably the coolest part.”

Ouellette on getting the call to close out Game 4 of the Northwest League final.

“Me and my pitching coach (Jim Czajkowski), we were talking about it during batting practice that day. Me and (Orlando) Pascual, we were kind of ‘A and B ‘or ‘A1 and A2’ throughout the season. I was told that the reason that I did go in in that game was because I had got (Will Remillard) out in Game 3. (Editor’s note – Ouellette got Remillard to pop up to first to end the eighth inning of Game 3, stranding two runners enroute to a four-out save.) When he was announced as the pinch-hitter, it was almost instantaneous that I was going to go in.

The reasoning behind it was Pascual has a devastating changeup but it will float into a right-handed hitter. With the smaller fence in left field as opposed to our gigantic wall in right field…all the way through left-center, one of the more important things that I learned from (Czajkowski) was you don’t want to get beat pull-side late into a game or a save situation like that. With Pascual’s changeup coming into the barrel of that right-handed hitter, we didn’t want to get beat pull-side. Czajkowski or (manager) Rich Miller made the decision and trusted me to locate my fastball down and away and my slider in the dirt and the rest is history.”

Ouellette on pitching in Games 3 and 4 of the Northwest League final, which marked the first back-to-back appearances for the first time in his pro career.

“I was a little tired when I first showed up to the field but as the game gets on and continues on and we end up scoring those two runs in the (fifth) inning, from that point on, I was locked in. I was like, ‘Alright, I want the ball. I want to get those last three outs, I want to bring this home for us, for Vancouver, for the Toronto Blue Jays, for my teammates.’ Ultimately, I did feel like I had enough in the tank and if (Will Remillard) did happen to get on (base), I feel like I still had enough for the next guy so it was win or lose at that point.”

Ouellette on the final pitch of the season.

“That was the best thing I have ever did on a baseball field. The pitch before actually was a slider in the dirt that I thought (Remillard) would chase and he kind of did like a little check swing on it. I knew if I threw the next one for a strike, he had no chance to hit it. He ended up taking it. As soon as I threw it, I knew it was going to be a strike and as soon as Riley (Adams) caught it, he didn’t even wait for the umpire to call strike three. He just ran out and gave me a giant bear hug. I threw my glove, I didn’t even know or care where it landed. It was the best thing I’ve ever done on a baseball field and I will remember that for the rest of my life.”

Vancouver Canadians William Ouellette

William Ouellette waves to the crowd during the C’s celebration of their Northwest League title.


Ouellette on the short-lived celebration.

“It kind of did suck leaving the next day because we had host families and you spend all summer long being at their house. For me and my host family—Jennifer, Wes, Callum and Quinn—I really got to know them, got to enjoy some quality time with them. They really took time out of their schedule to show me the city, show me North Vancouver, show me what the city has to offer. I really appreciate everything that they did for me. Not being able to spend my afternoon with them after we had won and after we had celebrated. The next day, at 10:00 am, I feel like I’m leaving my family. Even though they’re not blood, or blood-related, I definitely felt like I was leaving home.”

Ouellette on his off-season plans.

“I just got home from the Dominican Republic (in October). I was there for a week along with nine other of my American teammates in the Blue Jays organization. We were down there experiencing the Dominican Republic, experiencing the culture of what (Dominican players) they have to go through, what they have to deal with before they come to the United States and that was an eye-opening experience to say the least. I am going to work at Sky Zone where I worked at last off-season and then I am going to start my weight-lifting routine next week and start getting into even better shape than I was this year for the 2018 season.”

If 2017 is any indication, Ouellette will be more than ready for his first taste of full-season baseball in 2018.

My thanks again to William Ouellette for taking the time to chat with me. Our conservation took place on the night of Game 1 of the World Series. He assured me that even if the game was still on when I called, he was still available to chat with me. As it turned out, the game was long over by the time I got around to calling him but I wanted to acknowledge his willingness to still take time out of his evening to talk to me and it was very much appreciated. I certainly wish him all the best in his baseball career moving forward.

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C’s Recap – World Series Edition

C's RecapThe Houston Astros ended the season like the Vancouver Canadians did—as champions! The Astros won their first-ever World Series title by outlasting the Los Angeles Dodgers in seven games.

Even though Game 7 was not exactly a thriller, a number of Vancouver Canadians players—past and present—took to Twitter to voice their opinions on what was still a classic Fall Classic.

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brandon_polizzi_tweet_season_over Only 147 more days until Opening Day 2018 and 225 days until the Northwest League season opener.

C-Notes

C's NotesThere is still some baseball to follow with major league prospects playing in the Arizona Fall League. A couple of former C’s will be taking part in the AFL Fall Stars Game. 2014 catcher Max Pentecost and 2016 righthander T.J. Zeuch will represent the Toronto Blue Jays at the Saturday, November 4 contest at Salt River Fields.

Pentecost has hit just .216 in 37 at-bats for Peoria but does have a home run, a double and four runs batted in. Zeuch has a microscopic 0.64 earned run average over 14 innings with a 11-4 strikeout-walk total and a 0.79 WHIP.

2014 C’s outfielder Jonathan Davis is slashing .283/.377/.348 with three doubles and three stolen bases for the Javelinas. 2014-2015 C’s hurler Andrew Case has seven shutout innings to his credit with just four hits allowed and a 4-0 K/BB total.

2015-2016 righty Jackson McClelland has a 9.00 ERA over six innings while 2015 lefty Danny Young has an ERA of 18.00 over five innings.

Here are some other Tweets of interest over the latter half of October.

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