Palm Trees, Quality AB’s, and Pounding the Strike Zone

by Jim Stewart

The countdown is on for the Titans Baseball Club’s inaugural trip to Florida. Sixteen players and three coaches will fly to the Sunshine State to participate in the PBR Spring Invitational with workouts and  games at the Boombah Complex in Orlando. The blended team--comprised of 16U and 18U players-- flies out of Toronto on March 14 at 4 PM in order to maximize their time in Florida. Players and coaches will return on March 20. The excitement pertaining to this trip has captured players and coaches alike.

Lawrence Vera—the Titans 18U Head Coach and Director of Baseball Operations and Player Development--is looking forward to his players’ participation in this Spring Training event.  Coach Vera acknowledged that “attending Florida March break camps provides our players the opportunity to experience college atmosphere environments as we prepare them for their post- secondary careers. By being able to provide this option to our players, it also gives them a chance to get out early and get those much-needed reps outdoors prior to the season. Who doesn't love some warm weather as we look to the end of winter? Playing baseball is the perfect cherry on top.”  Coach Vera is also pleased with the Boombah Sports Complex which is “an all-turf facility that will make for a nice break from being indoors. In addition to the beautiful fields,  our boys will be lodged at a 4-star hotel in the Orlando area.” He offered an overview of the Titans’ schedule and opponents:  “We’re guaranteed 6 games versus Ontario and American teams. A total of 26 teams will be participating this year,  including Fieldhouse Pirates, Toronto Mets, Ontario Yankees as well as US academies from across the east coast like P27 Academy (SC), Pro5 Baseball Academy (NC), and Elev8 Baseball Academy (FL).”  To prepare for these top-notch opponents, the Titans have “been facing live pitching to prepare for the games they’ll play in FLA” and the ultimate goal of the excursion is “to ensure we prep our players for the 2020 spring season.”  Safety is a key factor and Coach Vera added that “to ensure our pitchers are able to maintain their arm care, we have had them throw small live bullpens to help them get ready for game action.” 

Two of the coaches who will be assisting Coach Vera in Florida are 16U Head Coach John Bethune and 18U and Pitching Coordinator Andrew White. All three coaches have been preparing the Titans over the off-season and are looking forward to seeing a D1 night game at UCF. In addition to viewing some baseball and playing exhibition games, Coach Vera noted that PBR will provide the following our Titan participants:  Post-content coverage of event results and players results; PBR Player profiles for all players attending the event; Scout Blogs and team recaps during the week; PBR Staff on site for all games; All Games will be networked and brought to college coaches’ attention with emphasis on coaches being present for games; and Roster packets will be created for College and Professional Scouts in attendance.  Coach Vera’s advice for all Titan participants was clear: “Soak it all in and enjoy the experience. Some of the best memories you will make as a post secondary athlete are the travel and hotel nights. And learn a few new things and become a better baseball player.” 

Three Titans’ players participating in the organization’s first trip to Florida echoed their Head Coach’s enthusiasm for this excursion as well as the steps it takes to be a better baseball player.

16U infielder and pitcher Wyatt Slocum is looking forward to “Being able to play outside and get some quality at bats and innings in.” Slocum added that he wanted to “see live balls off bats to start making proper plays and locating fastballs during pitching outings.”  He hopes that all the Live BP over the winter will help him get “his timing down as a pitcher and a hitter” in Florida.

Josh McBride shared his teammate’s enthusiasm for a week in Orlando.  The 16U outfielder and pitcher sees the trip as a chance to play “baseball outside and spend a week with the boys.” In addition to these important team-building aspects, McBride added that he is “really excited to work on pitching mechanics and actually track fly balls over 25 feet.” Although McBride acknowledged the limitations of Canadian indoor sports facilities, he thinks that the Titans’ winter program will prepare them for Florida because “We have been doing a lot of drop step drills in the outfield and other foot mechanics to get us ready.”

Cooper Tomkinson delineated three benefits of spending a week in Orlando in March with the Titans.  The 18U infielder is looking forward to “being able to get away from the snow and playing baseball outside and seeing the D1 game.” Tomkinson added that “being able to get the range on the infield and showcase myself in front of the PBR staff” were two focal points for him as a Canadian baseball player playing before scouts and evaluators in the Sunshine State. He added that “facing live pitching and getting multiple ground balls” at the Titans’ True North Fieldhouse facility were key aspects that have prepared him for the PBR drills and exhibition games in which he’ll participate in Orlando.

The Titans’ inaugural Spring Training excursion runs from March 14-20.