Trail AAA Jays pitcher and leading slugger Dallas Calvin got a good long look from the Langley Blaze last week as he joined the elite baseball team on a 10-game swing through southern California.
The 17-year-old pitcher/first baseman saw lots of action, appearing in seven games for the Blaze, going 7-for-14 at the plate and picking up a win in his only start on the mound.
“I pitched good, didn’t give up any runs, and my hitting was pretty good too,” said Calvin.
Going .500 at the plate against elite U.S. teams and potential Major League pitchers is ‘pretty good’ indeed, as the Langley squad played in the Wally Kincaid Memorial tournament before winning six straight exhibition games.
“There were lots of good pitchers. Most guys were up throwing in the high 80s. But it’s not that hard to get use to once you see them a couple times,” said Calvin.
The Blaze organization would love to have a player of Calvin’s caliber join its program, which emphasizes the development of young players. Many end up being drafted into the professional ranks or recruited into U.S. college programs where new educational and athletic opportunities await.
Blaze manager Doug Mathieson said they had a chance to see Calvin play when the Jays participated in the Bellingham, Wash. tournament in June, and while they were impressed with his bat, they were equally wowed by the southpaw on the mound.
“It’s a bit early to tell, but he’s got a good bat, though he probably has a better chance as a pitcher to go pro,” said Mathieson. “Left-hand pitchers who are six-foot-four tend to draw some attention.”
The Blaze organization provides a year-round regimen with a 14,000-square-foot indoor facility for players to train and develop their skills and play a 48-game schedule in the B.C. Premier Baseball League including numerous tournaments and championships, which can only help players like Calvin develop.
“He needs to get stronger and work on his mechanics not just once in a while but on a daily basis, he needs to be in a consistent program,” said Mathieson. “You know our guys go six days a week all year, basically simulate a college or pro program.”
Calvin, a standout with the Beaver Valley Nitehawks last season, is also headed back to the Western Hockey Leagues’ Kamloops Blazers camp in August – yet another option for the talented J. L. Crowe grad.
And while he hasn’t made up his mind on hockey or baseball, the baseball Blaze provide a provocative carrot for Calvin.
“He has the tools, he’s very athletic, and I know he’s a good hockey player, but six-four, six-five lefties don’t grow on trees, he’s dedicated and I mean most of it is just hard work,” added Mathieson.
The Blaze regularly head to tournaments in the U.S. to showcase its players and attract college scouts from across the country.
“We put these kids in front of 500-600 scouts and colleges, it’s key for them to see us, and often they’ll make a point of seeing the Blaze just because of our track record.”
The 2011 Langley Blaze program had 17 players receive college commitments from U.S. schools which, again, is a testament to the caliber of the program and the respect that the organization garners from U.S. colleges and universities and their baseball programs.
The Blaze has 36 former players currently playing pro ball including Toronto Blue Jays infielder Brett Lawrie.