When his turn came, Gavin Roy was able to turn some heads at Terry Fox Sports Complex on Wednesday. The Sudbury Voyageurs infielder was one of several Nickel City natives to impress coaches and evaluators at the Northern Open ID showcase event, held throughout the day by PBR Baseball Canada and drawing members of all three local teams in the Premier Baseball League of Ontario, as well as a few players from points to the south.
“That’s awesome,” said the 17-year-old Val Caron product, when told he had received high marks from PBR brass. “This is a great event, very well organized and it feels good to hear that, for sure.
“It’s harder to get looks in Sudbury, so it’s definitely a relief to get some looks today.”
This baseball season is a short one, after all, with a start date delayed by COVID-19 restrictions, and though the PBLO schedule includes several trips to southern and eastern Ontario, the Voyageurs were not about to pass up an additional chance to perform before prospect-watchers whose reports, video and testing data could increase their profile with post-secondary recruiters.
“Everyone had been putting in work, everyone has been coming in early to hit at the cages, and this shows who has been putting in that extra work,” Roy said. “Good on the guys, for sure.”
A fifth-year Voyageur with aspirations of playing college baseball, his individual efforts in the off-season carried over to team training once Terry Fox re-opened in mid-June, and then to an impressive start on both sides of the ball this PBLO regular season.
Roy has a batting average of .311 with five RBIs through 13 games with the 18U Voyageurs, along with a tidy .918 fielding percentage.
“We practise four times a week and I have been coming in early, hitting with a couple of guys on the team, getting some extra reps in, trying to do whatever I can to be prepared,” said the former Ecole secondaire catholique l’Horizon student, who plans to join 18U head coach Jean-Gilles Larocque at St. Charles College this fall, and to suit up for the Cards’ entry in the SDSSAA baseball loop.
“I definitely want to play collegiate baseball in the States, that’s the plan,” Roy said. “I feel like giving me an extra year gets me more well-prepared for that.
“It’s nice to see where everyone is at in this type of atmosphere. I’ll have to go to come to more showcases, too, and see where I am compared to southern Ontario.”
There may well be more showcase events in Sudbury, as well as tournaments organized by PBR Canada, said assistant director George Halim, considering the success of his first foray into the region.
“I have known J-G for a long time and I have known about this facility, but we have never actually run an event here before,” Halim said. “Coming up here, the biggest thing for us is identifying the players. I’ll lose sleep at night if I think there’s a good player out there and I don’t know who it is, so to come up here and to see the turnout is incredible.
“We’re here to get their numbers, get their metrics, get some good video and hopefully get them some love on Instagram and Twitter.”
Youngsters from the 14U, 16U and 18U squads all managed to earn accolades from Halim and his colleagues, who were impressed by not only the fundamental skills, but also the physical condition of players from each age group, despite the training challenges posed by a pandemic.
“The reality of it is the best players are the ones who get bigger and stronger,” he said. “They’ve all got a degree of talent, but the ones who come out and are bigger and stronger are the ones who come out on top. Looking around here, I can’t always tell who the 2023 grads or the 2024 grads are, and the difference-maker is essentially their size and strength.”
Regardless of age or experience level, Larocque said, the showcase participants stand to benefit from the experience.
“It’s about the big picture,” he explained. “For our 14U guys, it’s to give them the experience to be exposed to this environment, and for the 16s, it’s the same concept. The 18s, not that it’s time to go now, but we probably should have done this a year ago, if not for COVID, because again, it’s about giving them experience in this setting, to hear someone else’s voice and for them, this is the exposure they need to go to that next level, where they’re going to get seen by colleges, universities, pro scouts, those types of things.
“People want to say hey, we found diamonds in the rough here, but we’re not in the rough here. We already had good baseball players, but no one knew they were here.”
Halim and Larocque have already discussed hosting tournaments on the local turf.
“It’s good to see them in these showcase events, but we’d like to see them in as many games as possible,” Halim said. “If we can be selective about who we want to bring, how we want to portray them and get them seen by schools and colleges and get them an opportunity to use baseball as a vehicle to get their education, then we have done our job.”
For more about PBR Baseball and its events in Ontario, visit www.prepbaseballreport.com/ontario .
Roy and his 18U teammates will return to Terry Fox this weekend for quartet of contests against the Sarnia Brigade, with scheduled start times on Saturday at 3 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. and Sunday at 9 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.
The 16U Voyageurs will visit the Ontario Yankees for games on Saturday at 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. and Sunday at 8 a.m.
Sudbury’s 14U squad will host the Oshawa Legionaires, Saturday at 9 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m.