A Decade in Review: Ontario Blue Jays
Albeit the second decade in the Ontario Blue Jays existence, but this past decade will go down undoubtably as the most successful in program history. This past decade was filled with record breaking draft picks, national team members, college placements, first time championships and new highs both on and off the field. Let's take a look back at the past ten years of Ontario Blue Jays baseball.
The Ontario Blue Jays have added two more big leaguers to the programs lengthy professional history. On May 24, 2019 Outfielder Josh Naylor (left) of Mississauga, Ontario made his MLB Debut at the Rogers Centre when the Padres made the trip north to take on the Toronto Blue Jays. Josh spent the remainder of the season with the Padres after a short stint back in Triple-A. On June 12, 2019 Right-Handed Pitcher Jordan Romano (right) of Markham, Ontario made his MLB Debut in Baltimore out of the Toronto Blue Jays bullpen, throwing a shutout inning with two strikeouts. Jordan finished the MLB season with the Blue Jays after spending a short period of time in Triple-A in July.
In addition to the MLB Debuts, OBJ set records in MLB First-Year Player Draft Picks. Over the past decade, there has been 49 Ontario Blue Jays selected in the MLB First-Year Players Draft including:
1st Round Selections (2): Josh Naylor (2013) & Noah 'Bo' Naylor (2018).
Top 5 Round Selections (4): Marcus Knecht (2010), Gareth Morgan (2014), Jordan Balazovic (2016), & Dasan Brown (2019).
Top 10 Round Selections (10): Evan Grills (2010), Justin Marra (2011), Eric Wood (2012), Malik Collymore (2013), Jordan Romano (2014), Owen Spiwak (2015), Daniel Pinero (2016), Jacob Robson (2016), Zach Pop (2017), & RJ Freure (2018).
Sometimes the final stepping stone before making the jump to Major League Baseball is the MLB Futures Game held as apart of MLB All-Star Weekend. In 2016, then First Baseman Josh Naylor took part in the festivities leading the way to his promotion three years later. This past year, Right-Handed Pitcher Jordan Balazovic took part in the 2019 MLB Futures Game held in Cleveland, Ohio. Jordan has made the move to Double-A with the Twins and looks to continue his journey to the major leagues in 2020.
At the collegiate level, the Ontario Blue Jays continue to be the foremost in placing their players into a variety of college and universities opportunities. This past decade has seen over 200 players find new homes after graduation into collegiate baseball programs in the United States and Canada. These placements have lead to countless players achieving exceptionally both on and off the field with All-American, All-Conference and All-Academic honours across all levels of collegiate baseball.
On the highest stage of collegiate baseball, two Ontario Blue Jays took home the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska in the past decade. In 2015, Junior Shortstop Daniel Pinero (left) was an integral part of the University of Virginia Cavaliers drive to their College World Series Championship. Pinero played in all but one of the Cavaliers games in 2015, and was named Second Team All-ACC, as well as to the College World Series All-Tournament Team. In 2019, Sophomore Outfielder Cooper Davis (right) played a big role in the Vanderbilt University Commodores' run to the College World Series Championship. Davis returns in 2020 as a Junior to defend the National Championship.
The past decade for Ontario Blue Jays teams has been a level of success that is not new to the program but a level beyond what has been accomplished in the past. OBJ took home eight different U.S. Championships that previously had never been won by a Canadian team, including defending numerous titles year after year. Most notably, the Mickey Mantle World Series (2013 - McKinney, Texas), B.E.S.T National Championship (2013-15 - Pensacola, Florida), All-American Classic (2015 - Memphis, Tennessee), USSSA International Games (2015 - Kissimmee, Florida), Perfect Game BCS National Championship (2015 - Fort Myers, Florida), CABA World Series (2016 - Atlanta, Georgia), Future Stars National Championship (2018 - Houston, Texas) & Marucci World Series (2018 - Baton Rouge, Louisiana).
In addition to success south of the border, the Ontario Blue Jays continued their dominance in Ontario taking home 16 League Championships between time spent in the Premier Baseball League of Ontario (2010-14), and the Canadian Premier Baseball League (2015-Present).
Other Notable Accomplishments & Milestones:
- 50+ different players have taken part in Tournament 12 powered by the Toronto Blue Jays Baseball Academy at the Rogers Centre each Fall.
- 40+ different players played for a Senior or Junior National Teams at an International Events including most notably the Pan American Games, & World Baseball Classic.
- 12 different players were selected to the Future Stars Series International Week hosted as various MLB Facility in the United States including 2019 at Fenway Park (Boston, MA).
- 4 different players were selected to participate in the Perfect Game All-American Classic held at Petco Park in San Diego, California.
- 4 former players and/or coaches accepted Professional Coaching Roles including Jamie Pogue (St. Louis Cardinals), Greg Byron (St. Louis Cardinals & Minnesota Twins), Joey Hawkins (St. Louis Cardinals) and Chris Walsh (St. Louis Cardinals).
- 4 former players and/or coaches accepted Collegiate Coaching Roles including Billy Neale (Kansas Wesleyan University), Kyle MacKinnon (McPherson College), Greg Byron (Austin Peay State University) and Joey Hawkins (St. Louis University).
- 4 former players and/or coach were named to the Intercounty Baseball League Top 100 including Jordan Castaldo, Kyle DeGrace, Eric Laseke & Damon Topolie.
- 3 different players were selected to participate in the Under Armour All-American Classic held at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois.
Other Notable News:
- In 2016, The Athlete Matrix a 56,000 square foot baseball-first facility located in Central Mississauga was created, and serves as the home to the Ontario Blue Jays.
- In 2017, OBJ signed a contract with Marucci Sports to be the 27th member of the prestigious Marucci Founders Club.
- In 2019, OBJ partnered with IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida as the host of OBJ Spring Training.
- As well as becoming technological pioneer Blast Motion's first Canadian partner.
As the Ontario Blue Jays look ahead to the next decade, the bar has been reset even higher than before.