A trio of Tillsonburg baseball players displayed their talents in front of Major League Baseball scouts during the 18U CPBL All-Star Showcase on the weekend.
But not on the same team.
18U Great Lake Canadians’ Nolan McCrossin, 17, played third base for Team Black, while 17U Canadians’ catcher Connor Gaitens, 16, and centre fielder Matt Evans, 16, played for Team Red.
Originally scheduled as a three-game, three-day tournament in Dorchester, the weather forced organizers to reschedule. Friday’s game was played in Oakville and stretched into a 10-inning match. Saturday’s game was cancelled, and Sunday’s game in Dorchester, watched by MLB scouts, was a 12-inning marathon.
Evans has already committed to University of Nebraska – Lincoln, which had the No. 21 ranked recruiting class in 2021 by Baseball America.
“That was before Aug. 20,” said Evans, a Grade 11 student. “It is pretty early.
“I went down to Future Games (in late July) and represented Canada there in Georgia. Two weeks later our coach asked me to give them (Nebraska) a call because they were interested in me. They shot me an offer and I took it.”
Not a long ball hitter, Evans cranked out a home run in Sunday’s game, launching it over the right field fence.
“I don’t usually hit home runs,” he admitted.
Evans’ greatest asset is his speed, essential for a middle outfielder and running bases.
“I basically revolve my game around speed.”
Nolan McCrossin, a Grade 12 student still undecided on his post-secondary path, started and had two hits in Friday’s game – a single and RBI double. On Sunday he walked twice and scored one run.
“I’ve had conversations with a couple of junior colleges – I think I’ll probably go the junior college route,” said McCrossin, who joined the Great Lake program when he was 14. “And then head into a four-year (NCAA school) after two years.
“Yeah, it’s going to be a little sad when the time comes (graduating from Great Lake), but it was a good ride. I enjoyed every moment of it.”
Gaitens, who was fourth in RBIs with the 16U Canadians (32) and second in home runs (seven, including a dinger in Tillsonburg), was walked twice Sunday.
He also doubled, although he wasn’t sure if it counted as an error in deep left field.
“Barrelled a couple baseballs, one to deep centre,” said Gaitens. “Got a double out of it.”
Players rotated in and out of the line-up (Gaitens started at third, then caught a couple innings, went out and then back in when the Red’s other catcher was injured) during the 12-inning game, but it was still noticeably longer, they said. McCrossin subbed in for the fifth inning and played the remainder.
“Hard on the body, for sure,” said Gaitens.
Between the all-star game, and a later exhibition match, six players competed in a home run derby.
“A lot of pressure,” said McCrossin between nearby exclamations of ‘wow’ and ‘holy.’
“I can’t believe that,” said Gaitens.
“I would do it next year,” he added.
“I’d love to do it,” said McCrossin. “I would definitely do it if I was asked to do it, 100 per cent I would do it.”
While the 2021 season has ended – McCrossin’s team won a championship – their baseball will continue a couple more weeks.
“Right now we’re doing fall ball, which is till mid-late October,” said Gaitens. “So it’s kind of like games with your new (2022) team. They don’t count but…”