The claim on the Ontario Blue Jays website is a simple one.
“Canada’s #1 Amateur Baseball Program.”
But the proof is in the player.
The Blue Jays have sent 77 players to the Canadian National Team, had 108 players selected in the Major League Baseball draft and placed a whopping 417 players in colleges all over the continent.
Recent wins in the Mickey Mantle World Series, Perfect Game U18 BCS and CABA 16U Metal Bat World Series as well as seven alumni appearing in the just-completed World Baseball Classic only cement that claim as being fact.
“In the States, I guess it would be more like an Academy, an IMG or something like that,” said Blue Jays director of player development Sean Travers.
“We’re kind of unique, because we actually get the kids for 12 months of the year. High school baseball doesn’t really interrupt our program, so we get their attention for all 12 months. We have a younger program, but our ‘elite’ program starts when they’re sophomores, so 16U is the first time we take the kids to travel and start working towards getting scholarships or into professional baseball.”
Ontario has plenty of recent success in all of those categories, but certainly the latter. Josh Naylor was selected with the 12th overall pick by the Miami Marlins in 2015, and was awarded a reported $2.25M signing bonus. His younger brother, Noah, who is currently with the Blue Jays, is a potential first overall pick when he’s eligible in 2018, and has already committed to Texas A&M.
With that kind of success, as well as everything Program 15 and the New Balance Future Stars Series brings to the table with their collective wealth of expertise in player development, working together made too much sense to not make happen.
“(Program 15 CEO) Jeremy (Booth) and I have been friends for a while now with Jeremy up here scouting and crosschecking for the Mariners,” Travers said.
“We also have a mutual friend, Jamie Pogue, who is the bullpen catcher for the St. Louis Cardinals. Jamie introduced us a few years back, and Jeremy was up in Canada, and we hit it off. We talked about this, and we’ve been together on it from the beginning, just giving him some advice from stuff that we’ve been through. I’ve watched it grow from an idea into a real thing.”
And with the realization of Program 15 comes national events in which Travers and his Blue Jays players will get to participate in. For example, Travers will serve as the World Team manager in August when the best Program 15 players from the United States match up with a team of players comprised from the rest of the world.
“It’s going to be pretty cool,” Travers said. “I’m looking forward to putting together the rosters, and it sounds like it’s going to be a great weekend. With me being in Canada, I’m going to try to get the best Canadian kids to come down. Hopefully we can get a couple Dominican kids to come down, and with Jeremy’s and my connections through scouting, we want to put together the best teams we can on the field with both teams. We want to represent Program 15 and the Future Stars Series really well.”
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