It was an uncommon scene at Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg Tuesday as both teams mingled during pregame batting practice, posed for photos together and some old faces reunited with the common bond of baseball – Canadian baseball.
This wasn’t any ordinary game, though, as the Junior National Team met the Toronto Blue Jays for the second year in a row on ‘Canada Day’ in St. Petersburg, Florida.
The Jays line-up featured Jose Bautista, Adam Lind, JP Arencibia and last year’s sensation Brett Lawrie (Langley, B.C.), a Junior National Team graduate himself.
“We’re real fortunate to have the support of the Blue Jays organization,” said Baseball Canada’s Director of National Teams and head coach Greg Hamilton. “It starts right at the top with Paul (Beeston) and Alex (Anthopoulos) sending over their major league guys which is very special.”
The Jays also brought over Canadians Trystan Magnuson (Vancouver) and Scott Richmond (Vancouver), while Junior team grads Michael Crouse (Port Moody, B.C.), Marcus Knecht (Toronto) and Dalton Pompey (Oakville) also made the short ride over from the Jays spring home in Dunedin.
For Pompey the day was special as he was a member of the JNT team only two short years ago.
“It’s a great experience for me playing with guys in the major leagues and also playing against my old team,” said Pompey. “Playing on the Junior National Team really helped me get to where I am now and I couldn’t be more thankful to the people at Baseball Canada.”
There was a distinct Canadian flavour on the day as fans dressed in red and white, while the Canadian-born Jays players posed for a photo in centerfield with the young awe-struck ball players.
Once the action started on the field the Juniors surprised everyone and jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first when Jacob Robson (Windsor) and Kyle Hann (Oakville) hit back-to-back doubles to give the Juniors a 1-0 lead.
Gareth Morgan (Toronto) then hit his first of two singles on the day and moved Hann to third base where Brett Siddall (Windsor) brought him home with a sacrifice fly to right field.
Ryan Kellogg (Whitby) was given the task of starting on the mound and facing a two, three, four, five line-up of Lawrie, Bautista, Lind and Arencibia.
“I was a little nervous before the game, but more excited than anything,” said Kellogg. “I knew this was an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity so I just went out there and made the most of it.”
With one out in the first, Kellogg allowed a single to Lawrie before getting a fielder’s choice from Bautista and inducing a ground out from Lind.
“I worked him outside a little bit before coming back inside,” said Kellogg about facing Bautista. “I’m still shaking a little bit.”
The Jays got on the board in the top of the second when they hit back-to-back doubles off Kellogg, the latter coming off the bat of Michael Crouse for an RBI.
Crouse enjoyed a fine day at the plate as he went 3-for-4 with two RBI and stole a base.
Kellogg left after two innings giving up one run on three hits and walk.
Former pro Jamie Richmond (Mississauga) took the mound in the third inning and allowed a walk before forcing Lawrie to pop-out and getting Bautista to hit into a double play.
Young Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, ON), son of former Blue Jay Paul Quantrill, took the mound for the fourth and fifth frames and allowed three runs on five hits and two walks.
With the score 5-2 in the eighth, the Jays broke the game open with five runs to take a commanding 10-2 lead.
The game marked the end of the trip to St. Petersburg with players, coaches and staff heading their separate ways until reconvening April 12 when they head to ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando for an eight-game series in the Extended Spring Training League.