Local baseball players turn major heads

AURORA KID – Youth Beat with Connect’s Crossley

By NATHANIEL CROSSLEY, Connect Contributor

Toronto Blue Jays’ Kevin Pillar signs t-shirt for a Fort McMurray fan at Northstar Ford on November 17. PHOTO: Krista Balsom, Balsom Communications

Toronto Blue Jays’ Kevin Pillar signs t-shirt for a Fort McMurray fan at Northstar Ford on November 17. PHOTO: Krista Balsom, Balsom Communications

Hello and welcome to another edition of Connect Weekly’s Aurora Kid! This week, I’m featuring the recent event: “High Plains Baseball Club Extra Innings”, where I had the opportunity to interview two local minor league baseball players who were drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays.

The event hosted a VIP Reception for one hour with special guests: Chris Colabello and Kevin Pillar of the Toronto Blue Jays with Rogers Sportsnet’s Jamie Campbell on November 17 at the Sawridge Inn & Conference Centre.

The first player interviewed was Shane Dawson – one of the greatest pitchers in the minor league. He was born in Fort McMurray in 1993, and his parents and family have been living in the area for 30 years. Dawson’s father grew up playing basketball for Composite High and Westwood, and also played for Team Alberta. Dawson, himself, grew up playing baseball. He moved to Drayton Valley when he was 14 and played on Team Alberta the year after.

From there, he received numerous offers from colleges and played for teams that competed in Western Canada championships – one with a gold win. Dawson went to college in Lethbridge and won a gold playing on their college team. After that, he went on to be drafted into the Minor leagues for the Blue Jays and won a gold medal for Team Canada.

The second player I interviewed was Joe Young. Like Dawson, Young grew up in Fort McMurray and always looked up to his dad’s teams. Young’s grandparents were a big support in his baseball career as well. Young was always a batboy for their teams, and he started pitching at a young age. As he got older, Young improved his pitching skills and he started making it on to teams like Team Alberta and Team Canada.

I asked him: “What can you say to kids here in Fort McMurray that will make them believe that they can make it to the big leagues?”

“Well, if you put your mind to something, you can make it happen. Look at Shane and myself, it’s not like we come from an area with a lot of exposure to professional players and teams. We’re really far up north; it’s just something you have to work at.”

Young responded: “Well, if you put your mind to something, you can make it happen. Look at Shane and myself, it’s not like we come from an area with a lot of exposure to professional players and teams. We’re really far up north; it’s just something you have to work at. You know, if you put your mind to it and you want to get out there and make a name for yourself and get some exposure and you do that, there is always an opportunity to make something like that happen.”

Young had a decision between hockey and baseball and he chose baseball and he said, “It’s the best decision I ever made.”

He loved the game. With him living up north and the opportunities with the teams he was able to join, he said was a dream come true. The best part for Young was the fact that they won the Junior Championships and that had only happened since he played for Team Canada. It was a big stepping-stone for him because he got to face the best teams and players in the world between the 16-18 categories.

At the end of the Q and A, I was able to sneak in a question to Kevin Pillar, an American professional baseball outfielder for the Toronto Blue Jays, and it was: “Who or what was your inspiration as a child?”

Pillar’s response was: “Probably would be my parents and my brother, just trying to do the right things and being a good person, work hard, take care of my school work, and hopefully, along the way, find my passion. You know, I figured that out at a young age that baseball is what I love to do. It’s one of those games where you constantly fail at it and when you succeed, you just want more and more of it and that is what always drove me to play baseball. It was always to follow my parents lead. They worked hard for what they earned and my brother taught me how to be a good person and do the right thing and ultimately it lead me to find my passion.”

Thank you for reading this special edition of Aurora Kid. If you know any kids you want me to interview, please email or tweet me at thelegofly@gmail.com or @TheLegoFly.

– Connect Weekly –