The latest C’s Chat is with 2022 Vancouver Canadians outfielder Garrett Spain.
The 5-foot-11, 178-pound outfielder was a 15th round draft pick of the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2021 Major League Baseball Draft out of Austin Peay University. That’s the same institution that 2016-2017 Canadians pitcher Jared Carkuff attended.
Spain was elected by the Governors after starring in his hometown at Clarksville High School in Tennessee. A huge hockey aficionado who played the game growing up in the Nashville area, Spain hit .433 with 41 runs batted in as a junior in 2017 before batting .513 with 43 RBI in his senior season of 2018. That earned him numerous accolades including a berth on the Tennessee Baseball Coaches Association Class AAA All-State Team.
The right-handed hitting Spain made an impact at Austin Peay by beginning his career with a 43-game on-base streak in 2019 and finishing the year batting .333 with a .412 on-base percentage and a .502 slugging percentage. He added 19 extra-base hits, including seven home runs, along with 52 RBI and that performance earned him the Ohio Valley Conference Freshman of the Year award.
The shortened 2020 season due to COVID-19 saw Spain lead the Govs in home runs (4), triples (2) and walks (10) where he slugged .597 in 17 contests.
In 2021, Spain was named to the First Team All-OVC squad for slashing .330/.408/.515 with nine homers and 43 RBI. He also oearned his fair share of plaudits on the academic front as he was named to the OVC Commissioner’s Honor Roll and made Austin Peay’s Dean’s List and the Academic Director’s Honor Roll for all three years on campus as a finance major.
Spain also played a couple of seasons of summer collegiate ball by joining the Anchorage Glacier Pilots of the Alaska Baseball League where he hit .265 with a .340 OBP in 2019. His next summer stint came in the MLB Draft League with the West Virginia Black Bears in 2021. MiLB.com described Spain as “one of the most consistent hitters in the league” where he had a team-leading 36 hits and was tied for second in the league with 11 doubles, putting together a batting line of .327/.378/.536.
Prep Baseball Report provided this scouting report on Spain leading up to the 2021 MLB Draft.
“Spain has been an impact player for the Governors since 2019, when he garnered OVC Freshman of the Year honors and made Collegiate Baseball’s Freshman All-American Team. The 5-foot-11, 178-pounder can generate triple-digit exit velocities from the left side of the plate, showing the potential to hit for average as well as power. He’s gone deep 18 times in 102 collegiate games, with seven of those homers coming in just 29 games so far in ‘21. On top of that, Spain is regarded as a solid defender in center, with the potential to remain there at the next level.”
After being signed by scout Nate Murrie and agreeing to a $125,000 signing bonus from Toronto, Spain reported to Dunedin to join the Florida Complex League Blue Jays in 2021. His first professional hit came against the FCL Tigers West in just his second at-bat August 6. After collecting three singles and a double in 12 at-bats over six games that included a 2-for-2 effort against the FCL Tigers East August 12, Spain was bumped up to Dunedin. With the D-Jays, he had a pair of two-hit games August 25 in Lakeland and September 9 in Tampa. That was a stretch in which Spain had a hit in eight of his first 13 games in Dunedin before tailing off late in the season.
Spain was named to the 2022 Vancouver Canadians season opening roster and helped the club get off to a good start by getting two hits in a win on Opening Night in Spokane April 8. He belted his first professional home run in the series clincher April 10 to highlight a three-hit day. Spain compiled an on-base streak of eight games and had a hit in the last six from April 23 to May 3. He would be sidelined with a wrist injury that forced him to go on the injured list May 17 before being activated June 7.
The best game of Spain’s career was a two-homer game as part of a C’s victory in Hillsboro June 24. His first home run at Nat Bailey Stadium capped off a win over Everett July 31 and he went deep again in front of the hometown faithful in another victory over Tri-City August 5.
Spain has also made his mark with his throwing arm by recording eight assists, four each from center and right field. He also started two double plays from the nine-spot.
C’s Plus Baseball caught up with Spain during the team’s homestand against the Everett AquaSox. This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
C’s Plus Baseball – It wasn’t that long ago you were drafted. What do you remember about your draft day?
Garrett Spain – It was exciting and obviously the most nervous day of my life, trying to figure out if you’re going to get picked up by somebody, who it is, to see if you’re gonna go back to school or not. There’s a lot of decisions, honestly. You’re just kind of waiting, sitting there, just waiting for a call. You see your name pop up and then from there, it’s kind of just surreal and it’s all a blur.
CPB – Did you have any idea it was going to be the Blue Jays who would take you?
GS – During the draft, I had no idea until probably about 30 minutes beforehand. And then that’s when I kind of got the grasp of it that the Blue Jays were showing some interest, so I knew they were an option.
CPB – How did you feel when you got drafted by the Blue Jays? What was that like when you saw your name on the scroll?
GS – I remember my phone blowing up, being there with some of my family and friends and kind of just soaking up the moment, which is really hard to do. Just to take the time to appreciate everything and everybody who helped along the way. And just like sit there and know the moment you’re in because it’s not going to happen again.
CPB – Who were some of the people to helped you out along the way?
GS – Obviously, my parents and family helped. My Mom and Dad sacrificed a lot for me to play baseball and hockey, a lot of money, a lot of time. And then all my coaches growing up, whether it be hockey or baseball, those guys had a huge impact on my life outside and on the field, on the rink. And they kind of all came together and brought me to who I am today. So it’s been an awesome journey. And I’m grateful to have those people who helped me along the way.
CPB – You played hockey in Nashville. Has that hockey background helped you out in baseball?
GS – I’m very competitive. Sometimes you have to hate the competitive edge and aggressiveness from hockey and not allow it to affect how you play baseball because baseball is not very aggressive as hockey. You can’t just go out and take your anger out, just like that. You strike out, you have 30 minutes, 20 minutes before you hit again and then you have to go out in the field. In hockey, you make a dumb play, five seconds later, you can hit somebody. So trying to get the competitive edge and aggressiveness to a happy medium is probably one of the cooler things that I’ve been able to experience.
CPB – I know that this hasn’t been your first time in Canada. Where else have you been north of the border?
GS – I’ve been to Windsor and I’ve been to Quebec and some of the surrounding areas of those two places.
CPB – You’re from an NHL market in Nashville and (now you’re in) Vancouver. How do you compare the markets?
GS – I didn’t get to really see the Vancouver Canucks because they struggled this year. And I know we got here later in the season in April so it was the end of the season. Hopefully we come back here in September and get to experience some of it. But Nashville and Vancouver, they’re both extraordinary places. A lot of fun, a lot of things to do, you can never be bored. Great people.
CPB – The MLB Draft League you took part in before your draft. How did you join up with West Virginia?
GS – I got lucky. My head coach at Austin Peay, Travis Janssen knew (MLB Draft League President) Kerrick Jackson and we had a phone call. I emailed him and luckily Kerrick was nice enough to extend the offer to come out there and play. And that was second to none. That league was amazing. The people who ran it, coaching staff and the players, they’re all awesome. And I’m thankful that I got the opportunity to go there.
CPB – You also spent some time in Alaska. What was that like?
GS – Similar to this in some ways and very different. You don’t really see the nighttime there so a lot of blackout curtains and a lot of beautiful outdoorsy-type things to do, just like here. But it doesn’t get too hot. Just hot enough to where you can feel the heat. I like that.
CPB – At Austin Peay, you had a really good three years there. Freshman of the year and you started your career with a 43 game on-base streak. That was a nice way to get your career rolling, wasn’t it?
GS – Yes. I’m just thankful to have the guys that helped me out to get there and believe in me from day one. It’s an awesome feeling to go there and know that guys are believing in you from the first day you step on campus so it was really cool.
CPB – What would you say was your best baseball memory, either in Austin Peay or before that?
GS – The one that pops my head is probably my first walk off at Austin Peay or maybe the Homer Derby when I was 12 years old with my Dad, winning that. Those are two that pop in my head but I’m sure there’s plenty more.
CPB – You got your feet wet with Dunedin last year. What was that like getting your first pro experience under your belt?
GS – It was an amazing experience. (Just realizing) your dreams, just throwing out there. You’re here and learning not to settle and like you’re happy that you got here but you have to push that aside. Be happy that you’re here but you also have to try to learn and be better so you can move on through the ranks. That place is phenomenal. The facilities, everything there is awesome. No complaints there.
CPB – You start out with Vancouver this year and had an awesome opening series in Spokane with your first professional home run. What do you remember about that series?
GS – I felt really good but it was really cold. And luckily the wind helped me a little bit on some of the balls I hit but I knew when I got there that it was going to be hard to repeat what I did. But the first home run, I hit it and I didn’t think it was going to go out but it went out by a good amount. And I was sprinting around the bases. It’s honestly really similar to my first college home run. I didn’t think it was going to go but it’s really cool to be able to do that and actually get that accomplished.
CPB – You got your first multi-home run game on not too long ago in Hillsboro. What do you remember about that day?
GS – I remember the first one I hit, also not thinking that one was going out and then the second one I hit pretty good but that was all kind of a blur too. I’m not very good at remembering a lot of it other than knowing it happened and trying to (take in) in the moment but it’s kind of hard to do that sometimes.
CPB – Your defence. You have definitely shown off a very strong throwing arm, especially in right field. How much pride do you take in your outfield defence?
GS – A lot. Honestly, sometimes I take more pride in that than I do hitting. I take every rep I can pretty seriously during BP when we’re out here doing drills and individual prep before the game. A lot of that leads to me being able to go out there and make some good plays. And also the two guys playing beside me, or if I’m in right, the center fielder is helping me out and just talking and letting me know what’s going on. If it wasn’t for their communication, then some of the plays that I’ve made wouldn’t have been able to happen.
CPB – What’s it like playing outfield here at Nat Bailey Stadium with the tall walls? You also got all sorts of funky configurations in Everett and whatnot, but how do you find playing outfield in the league?
GS – It’s really fun. Every field’s different and you get to learn how different fields play and different walls. It’s nice not having the same exact dimensions and walls everywhere you go. And it just betters your craft and you can’t get lazy out there because you never know what’s going to happen off the walls or how the tracks play. If you can only have one step or three steps in like Everett, like you just said, where it’s 330 (feet) to right-center and you have two steps and you’re at the wall, it’s all really cool to play.
CPB – Your throwing arm is something you’ve really developed. Talk about your throwing game.
GS – I really didn’t even notice that I had a decent arm until I got to Austin Peay but there’s a lot of long toss and a lot of reps just throwing the bases and just letting it rip. And hopefully my arm will let me keep doing that for however long my baseball career goes, but a lot of long toss and a lot of just working on back spinning baseballs.
CPB – How would you describe yourself as a baseball player if you give out a scouting report?
GS – Defence I’d say is probably my strong suit right now. The hitting is coming around. Just trying to get used to everything, working every day, trying to get better with that. But I’d probably try to describe myself hopefully as a fundamental guy who competes and plays hard every play and every day. And I mean, that’s all I can really ask for is for people to say that about me once I am done playing is that I’m a good teammate and played hard. And that’s what I think I do right now. No matter how good I actually do in the field or hitting, I’m just trying to compete.
CPB – Your favourite baseball team growing up?
GS – The Atlanta Braves. Watching them last year, it was hard not to root for them since I just got drafted but growing up, I was always a Braves fan. And they’re the first professional team that I grew up liking to win a championship. It was fun to be able to watch them win last year.
CPB – Your other favourite professional teams. Obviously the Predators but the Tennessee Titans as well?
GS – Yep, huge Titans fan, huge Preds fan. And now obviously the Braves but other than those three, I follow the Grizzlies. Not as closely as I do the Preds and Titans. My family (supports) Kentucky University so I follow them every now and then.
CPB – Final question. Is there something someone should know about you that they don’t? A hidden talent or anything like that?
GS – I usually say my hidden talent is hockey. Being from the south that usually works but up here, I guess it wouldn’t. I like to say I’m a good singer. I’ve never been told I’m in a good singer, but I like to say I’m a good singer and maybe a good ping pong player.
- Uniform numbers – Wore number 70 with the FCL Blue Jays and 11 with the Dunedin Blue Jays in 2021. His current number 28 with the C’s is the same number he wore at Austin Peay.
- Twitter – @garrettspain28
- Instagram – @garrettspain
- Walk-up Music – “Famous” by Kanye West.
- Major League Connection – Played under former major leaguer Jedd Gyorko with the West Virginia Black Bears.
Thanks a million to Garret Spain for participating in the latest instalment of C’s Chat and to C’s broadcaster Tyler Zickel for arranging it.