Riley Adams batted .305 with 20 extra-base hits and 35 runs batted in for the C’s in 2017.
2017 Vancouver Canadians catcher and 2018 Dunedin Blue Jay Riley Adams gets behind the plate in the latest edition of C’s Chat.
The 2017 third-round pick out of the University of San Diego was the C’s MVP of 2017 as he helped the club win its fourth Northwest League championship in seven years. The 21 year-old right-handed hitter from Encinitas, California shared his memories of the C’s playoff drive that began with the forest fire in Spokane that forced all of the best-of-three North Division final games to be played at Nat Bailey Stadium.
“The fires definitely were a little different wrinkle that got thrown into that but it kind of worked out in our favour, that’s for sure, because we got to go back home and play that game even though we were the visiting team but at least we were playing at home.
I think in that league with all the different places, I think we definitely have the best home field advantage with all the fans that we got and how loud that places gets and they’re supportive of us and everything like that.
Yeah, getting an extra game in at home was huge and I think that definitely helped us. We obviously had some really good pitching performances throughout the whole post-season but definitely throughout that whole Spokane series.
We knew the fires were going on and it wasn’t like super close to us. We knew we had like no issues with the fires and us but you could definitely walk outside and it smelled pretty smoky. It definitely would not have been ideal to actually play in that weather.”
After winning Game 1, Adams put the C’s on the board with a two-out RBI single in Game 2.
“I think that whole post season, it was just different guys stepping up every single day. Every single game, it didn’t matter who it was. We always knew someone was going to get a timely hit in the right spot. I just happened to come up in that game with a runner on second and two outs and I got to find a way to get that guy in, especially in the post-season with how low scoring it was for us. We knew we had good pitching and so all we knew was we needed to get two runs across and then we were golden. Just being able to get up in that situation and help out, it was a lot of fun.”
Adams felt it was important to put Spokane on its heels early.
“Yeah, definitely. You know the post-season when it comes around and every game is a little bit more important and every pitch and every at-bat is a little bit more important. You got to make the most of those situations when you get the chance.”
Riley Adams hit .346 with runners in scoring position with the C’s in 2017.
2017 Northwest League Finals
The C’s began the series with the first two games at P.K. Park in Eugene. They overcame a 4-2 deficit to take Game 1 against the Emeralds. Adams felt the game simply was the continuation of a season-long trend.
“We had really good timely hitting throughout it all and a lot of trust in everyone on our team. It didn’t matter who it was, we were going to get the job done. I remember Chavez (Young) hit a really big home run that day that helped us out a bunch. It was a good comeback win. The pitching was a little bit shaky at first but we definitely had some good performances towards the end of the game.”
Adams was also happy to contribute a RBI single to give the C’s an insurance run.
“Oh absolutely. Any extra run you can get in that situation. You love those situations.”
After taking one of two games in Eugene and winning Game 3 in Vancouver, the C’s were one win away from the Northwest League. Adams gave way to Matt Morgan in Game 3 before being back behind the dish in Game 4. He and starter Justin Dillon found themselves dealing with a one-out, bases-loaded situation before a timely visit from pitching coach Jim Czajkowski.
“I think sometimes, you know, the first inning some nerves can get to you when you think about the situation and kind of overthink it and let it get to your head. I think by Cy just coming out talking to us and just kind of calm us down. We knew that Justin Dillon has all the stuff and he’s totally fine. It was just to go out there and reassure him that everything was alright and we’re going to get the job done. He obviously pitched really well. (Zach) Logue came in after and pitched just as well.”
We had some really good pitchers all throughout. It’s good to see them doing really well this year. It’s always fun when I know those guys are on the bump.”
Once Logan Warmoth put the Canadians ahead with a two-run single in the fifth, Adams was confident they would win the clinching Game 4.
“That was pretty much the story of the post-season. I remember after Logan got that run in, I just looked at our pitching coach (Jim Czajkowski) and I told him, ‘That’s all we need.’ We had a pretty good, solid bullpen that we knew was going to get the job done. We knew we didn’t need much but we had a really good pitching staff the whole year. As long as we had the lead, that’s all that mattered to us.”
Riley Adams started five of the six playoff games behind the plate for Vancouver in 2017.
After working with Dillon and Logue, Brayden Bouchey continued his second-half surge with two key shutout innings. Adams said the White Rock, BC native and Northwest League All-Stars relievers Orlando Pascual and William Ouellette were a terrific trio coming out of the bullpen.
“I remember early on in the summer, he was struggling a little bit and kind of leaving stuff up. I thought towards the end of the year, especially as we got into the post-season, his stuff was really good. He was a really reliable guy for us out of the pen later on in the year. He’s a taller, skinnier guy. He gets that downhill tilt with the fastball. It plays really well and it’s tough to hit. He obviously pairs that with his curveball that gets a lot of swing and misses.
He was really good for us but then we also had the two All-Stars in Pascual and Ouellette that we had relied on the whole year. I think we were pretty satisfied with where we were at with our bullpen. Whichever guy we threw out there was going to get the job done.”
Adams was confident that Pascual and Ouellette could get the final three outs to close it out.
“I think Pascual could have very easily finished the game out. Pascual relies on his fastball and his go-to offspeed is his changeup. I think just with that last batter, they brought in a pinch-hitter who has been hitting really well late for them. We wanted to go with Ouellette who’s more of a fastball-slider kind of guy living away. It was a judgment call by our coach. Honestly, I think either one of them would have been fine. I was happy with either one.”
Adams breaks down the final at-bat in which Ouellette faced Emeralds pinch-hitter Will Remillard.
“Ultimately, I knew we wanted to get him out with the slider. That was Will’s pitch the whole year. He spots up really well with his fastball outer-half. I think we just wanted to start him ahead with that fastball. I think we got 0-2 right away. He threw a slider that he threw in the dirt buried. It wasn’t the most hittable pitch so he didn’t swing at all.
We backed it up and I think he hung that slider a little bit more than we would have liked but it kind of froze the hitter. All I remember is just running straight out to the mound before the umpire could even call strike three. It was a pretty cool moment.
In the three short months or two-and-a-half short months that I was out there with this team and meeting all these new guys, I think we were really grew close together. I made some really good friendships and we really grew as a team. It was just a really cool moment to be with all those guys that we had just met. Just to be with that group and I think it was just a really good celebration.”
Adams says he did not keep the game ball from the final out.
“Every single time I get the last out, I always give it to the closer so I think Will has it.”
Adams was named the team MVP and captured the Arnie Hallgren Offensive Player of the Year award. He appreciated the recognition.
“It’s just a really cool honour especially in my first pro stint out there. Just to be recognized by my coaches but we had a lot of really good players on that team. It was just pretty easy to come to the ballpark, especially getting used to all these new pitchers and learning to call games and doing stuff like that. Having the arms that we did, it made it a lot easier. We just had a really good group of guys that make getting to the ballpark fun.”
C’s manager Rich Miller and Blue Jays director of player development Gil Kim were among those who praised Adams for his leadership skills in Vancouver last season. Adams believes that leadership is something that comes with the territory as a catcher.
“I think as a catcher, you’re kind of always looked upon. Everyone’s looking towards you every single pitch because they have to look at the hitter. I think it’s just kind of something that you have to do in order to be a catcher – to show some leadership. You’re working on that relationship with the pitchers and trying to build your trust in them and get to know them as best you can, both on and off the field. It’s just kind of a daily thing that you have to try to maintain and keep building all those relationships with your teammates.”
Riley Adams had a .991 fielding percentage by committing just two errors in 34 starts behind the plate in 2017.
After the season, Adams headed back to Dunedin for the fall instructional league to continue to work on the finer details of catching.
“I think just keeping on my craft and get better on all the little things. The Blue Jays preach ‘Get better everyday’ so I just try to get a little bit better everyday. It was a good four weeks to get after it, get a few more things in before the off-season and just kind of work on some defensive stuff with my receiving and blocking. And hitting, continuing to just get better with my swing and my approach and everything like that.”
Adams says his most favourite aspect of catching is trying to outwit the opposing batters.
“I think the biggest part is the mental side of it and learn to call a game. The little chess matches you play throughout a game definitely keeps yourself thinking and keeps yourself going. I think that’s probably the most fun part. It’s also the newest part for me because in college, you don’t get to call games – it’s all by the coaches. Out here they give you the freedom to call your own games and work through that. I think that’s probably my favourite part about it is controlling that part of the game.”
One skill that Adams showed off in Vancouver was his ability to cut down opposing basestealers as he nailed 40 percent of those who tried to steal against him. Adams says he takes pride in that part of the game.
“I think I’ve been gifted with a pretty good arm and have tried to remain as athletic as possible. I think when I started catching, that was probably the thing that I picked up the quickest on. The receiving and blocking side needed more work so I think I’ve always been able to work on that but there’s still a lot more to learn to get better at and fine-tune with the throwing.”
Adams feels he is making steady progress as a catcher.
“I think the catching side has definitely gotten a lot better since becoming a Blue Jay and everything. Just getting back there, especially learning to call pitches. That’s one of the newest things for me and I’ve been working on that. We’ve got some really good pitching coaches both in Vancouver and down here in Dunedin. They’re always there to talk to you and work with about certain things and certain situations. I think that part of the game has definitely improved.”
Riley Adams was one of three Canadians players to be named to the Northwest League All-Star squad in 2017.
Adams runs down the type of preparation he goes through when he gets the start behind the plate.
“Every single day, we get a report on the players we’re facing. Their splits, how they bat off righties and lefties. See how aggressive they are, how much they swing at a first pitch, whether they’re power hitters or speed guys.
Then we’ll meet with the starting pitcher that day and kind of go through a little game plan of what they want to work on, certain things they’re going to try and do, certain hitters we need to work around or certain guys you need to be careful of. Especially on the basepaths, which guys are the runners. You just meet with the pitcher before and kind of work through all those little things and get a good game plan ready. Just pretty much go out on the field and warm up and get ready to go and hopefully that game plan works.
Obviously, not all game plans are perfect and you might have to make changes throughout the game. Baseball is a game of adjustments. You’re always constantly talking with the pitchers. You’re talking about different situations and pitches and counts and certain things like that. You’re always constantly evolving and adjusting on the fly.”
“Pitch to pitch, you’re figuring out things as it goes. The type of swing he takes, the type of foul ball he hits, what pitch he takes, things like that. There’s always those little things you got to pay attention to.”
Riley Adams has reached the 75-start milestone behind the plate in his young professional career.
Playing in Dunedin
There was a school of thought that Adams was going to begin 2018 with the Lansing Lugnuts. However, the Jays brass felt Adams could handle the jump over the Midwest League to the Florida State and Adams says he was happy for the vote of confidence.
“It’s always good when you go up to higher levels you know. You always want to push yourself and challenge yourself against the better competition. When they told me I was going to Dunedin, it was pretty exciting. I had a feeling I was going to either here or Lansing. I was going to be happy with either one. To get to go to Dunedin was pretty cool.”
Adams says the one big adjustment to playing in Dunedin is the weather.
“The weather is a lot different than California, that’s for sure. They got a lot of humidity out here. It’s definitely a little different, a lot of adjustments. You kind of get used to it here and there. It’s started to heat up recently so we’re adjusting as it goes. It hasn’t been too bad so far.”
April was a tough month with the bat in Adams but the arrow has been pointing up since then.
“I think in April, I was trying to do too much and letting the pitching get the best of me. I really just tried to simplify everything and allow myself to see the ball better and just make better contact. Just tried to simply things recently to give myself the best opportunity. “
Even though Adams has a black belt in karate, that didn’t seem to matter during a May 29 game against the Florida Fire Frogs in which he was plunked twice by different pitchers. Fortunately for Jeremy Walker and Jon Kennedy, Adams didn’t take it personally.
“It was a little rainy, a little slippery I think. The two pitches just kind of missed. One of them was a first pitch. A lot of teams pitch me in, that’s where guys like to attack me and it’s one of my weaker zones. I know that going into it. Sometimes you get a little too aggressive and tend to miss in. I think the second time I got hit was with two strikes . Anytime you get a two-strike hit-by-pitch, it’s a good one.”
On a final note, Adams says daily improvement is his main goal for 2018.
“I’m just trying to get a little bit better everyday. Get better with catching, receiving, kind of getting it all dialed in. Calling games and getting to know all these pitchers. On the hitting side, just working on seeing the ball better and getting a good swing off when I want to. I don’t think there’s like any specific main goals but just trying to get a little bit better every day.”
Adams’ steady improvement in 2018 has been recognized as he has been named a Florida State League All-Star. He will join 2015 C’s lefthander Angel Perdomo and 2015-2017 southpaw Travis Bergen on the North Division All-Stars roster. 2017 C’s infielder Deiferson Barreto will also be on the coaching staff for the North Division for the All-Star Game in Tampa June 16.
My thanks again to Riley Adams for framing all the questions that came his way in this installment of C’s Chat. You can follow him on Twitter @RileyAdams. A special thanks again to Dunedin Blue Jays media relations coordinator Daniel Venn. His Twitter handle is @GalapagosDan.
To learn more about Adams, check out this story as well.