By MIKE ASHMORE
Special to the Ontario Blue Jays
GLENDALE, AZ. – Some of the best players Canada has to offer handled the heat just fine at the second annual Program 15/New Balance Baseball Future Stars Series event this past weekend.
OBJ members Lukas Barry, Jaden Brown, Blake Buckle, TJ Schofield-Sam and Dasan Brown all performed well over the three-game series for the World Team; Barry struck out three batters in the Game 2 victory, while the four position players all made key contributions.
“It’s been great competition, there are great players here from all around the world,” said Buckle, who went 4-for-6 and is a returnee from the inaugural event in 2017.
“It’s gotten better since last year with more recognition, a lot more scouts in the stands and the sponsors have really been supporting it. It’s been a great event. Last year, I think it was a bit lopsided for us. The World team got boatran in all three games, basically. But this year, it’s more competitive and seems like more of an equal playing field as it expands.”
After last year’s debut event took place in Sugar Land, Texas, the 2018 installment saw the games unfold at Camelback Ranch, the spring training home to the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers.
While Buckle got to enjoy a Diamondbacks game, and Schofield-Sam was able to explore the Grand Canyon, the focus was all on the baseball at hand.
“It’s been pretty good playing against all these good players from around the world,” said Schofield-Sam, who drove in two runs in Game 2.
“Just facing better pitching than what we have back home; not 80’s, mostly 90’s, because that’s what we’d be facing later on. There’s been a lot of guys throwing in the 90’s.”
Last year’s experience not only helped Buckle prepare for that, but also gave him the framework to make a strong impression on the dozens of scouts and front office personnel who were in the stands.
“I came here a little bit more prepared and with a little more energy,” he said. “I knew that I had to do something special and play great here, this is in front of a lot of people. A lot of the stuff we got out of it was just getting to meet new people and make new relationships, you get to show what you can do in front of people high up in a lot of organizations.”
That he got to so with four of his OBJ teammates wasn’t lost on him either.
“I’ve been playing with them for quite a long time, and it’s always a fun time to get to play with your teammates, especially at an event like this.”