Less than 24 hours after Maritime Grey clinched the inaugural Tournament 12 Championship, the dividends of the 5 day showcase had already begun paying out.
Brampton's Darren Shred and Mississauga's Royce Ando received their calls to be part of the Team Canada Junior National Team.
These are 2 immediate examples of how Tournament 12 will affect dozens of players that attended the Blue Jays Academy event.
In front of over 20 Major League scouts and representatives from many US colleges, top Canadian players from Newfoundland to BC got a chance to display their talent.
For some of them like 20 year old Andrew Case, the opportunity to be seen is all they needed. No longer one of the young prospects, the chance to put his talent on display could get him an invite to some Major League camps. He made the best of his opportunity by pitching a no-hitter in the semi-final game against Quebec White.
For others like Cooper Davis, the young Major Bantam Mississauga North Tiger, it was time to put himself on the map. That he did by displaying his blazing speed, intelligence of the game and humble confidence to hang with the big boys.
GOLDFISH GROW THE SIZE OF THEIR BOWL
For 250 players, their fishbowl was Rogers Centre from September 20-24. Apart from being seen, the opportunity to hang out and play at a Major League stadium encouraged these players. Their 10 year old dreams on a dusty field were replaced with a big league strut under the domed roof of the Blue Jays home.
They hit with a big league batter's eye. They fielded a big league hop. They pitched from a big league mound. They slid onto a big league plate.
Any players fortunate enough to be invited to this tournament improved. Whether they hit a homerun or struck out, they knew they were part of a select few athletes that represented the best in our nation.
These players were given an opportunity to grow. They were surrounded with teammates that forced them to focus more intently and pitted against opposition that made them compete fiercer.
THE GODFATHER OF CANADIAN BASEBALL
Each day started at 8am and finished near 10pm for four days in a row. For each of those games, Roberto Alomar sat beside the 3rd base dugout to take in the action.
Occasionally he would call out to a player and ask them to come over. They would sit beside him and listen to his words of wisdom. Wisdom that undoubtedly was imparted onto him by the man sitting beside the 1st base dugout, Sandy Alomar, his father.
I witnessed Tristan Clarke sitting beside Robbie for along time during the semi-final game. His family in the stands overlooking giddily.
In this context, Tournament 12 host, Robbie Alomar was indeed the Godfather of Canadian Baseball. He was surrounded by tireless troopers Lloyd Moseby, Devon White and Duane Ward. The four of them along with Robbie's Dad gave insightful council to the player's in attendance.
We are so fortunate to have Major League alumni in this country who are willing to give back to the nation that welcomed them so passionately.
They continue to impress me at every event. Rance Mulliniks's sage-like advice on hitting at last year's Coaching Clinic. Jesse Barfield's genuine desire to search out and tell a Dad what his son needs to work on during this summer's Super Camp. These former players have been given a structure to teach and they aren't disappointing.
INSPIRATION FOR COACHES
For me, Tournament 12 was an inspiration. My first team practice following the event was smooth, fun and productive. My own son remarked afterwards that it felt like a Major League practice.
My players are 10. After seeing what opportunities may lie ahead over the next 4-5 years for them, it is my duty and my passion to lead them to the waters that will nourish them.
Knowing the Blue Jays Academy and their relentless effort to grow baseball in Canada, I'm positive that Tournament 12 will become one of the "must see" events for scouts and recruiters. Apart from Canadian players, the event will lure highly touted talent from other countries and elevate the exposure for our players to a whole new level.
Rep coaches across this country should be inspired that we are more than just playing a game. We are building lives. We are opening doors. We are giving our youth the same opportunities that the kids in Texas and California have had for decades.
Something about baseball just simply appeals to us. We talk about the adversity and character it builds. We talk about how our children will become greater men by playing the game.
But the truth is, we're not coaching so they can be good in Men's League. We invest all our time because we believe in them. We see their possibility.
Be inspired by the fact that there is a door open for them. Gone are the days when they will have to pay pricey fees for showcases all across the United States. Tournament 12 will grow and become a venue for them to showcase their talent at home.
Get out there. Motivate them. Teach them. Guide them. For in a few years it won't be the Shreds and Andos getting the call. It will be your catcher or your shortstop. All your work will pay off and baseball will never cease to be a part of your player's lives.