Alomar, former Blue Jays host development camp

Event part of Tournament 12, which showcases top college-eligible talent

Alomar, former Blue Jays host development camp

TORONTO -- It was an experience like no other.

After taking the field at Rogers Centre in May at a tryout for the upcoming Tournament 12 -- an event showcasing the top college-eligible baseball talent from around the country -- 150 of the hopeful participants returned to Bond Park (Toronto) this week for a three-day development camp with the Blue Jays Baseball Academy.

During the afternoon on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, the group of young players went through a variety of stations covering all facets of the game with former big leaguers including Toronto alumni Jesse Barfield, Denis Boucher, Lloyd Moseby, Duane Ward, Devon White, Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar -- Tournament 12's commissioner and namesake -- his father Sandy Alomar Sr. and nine-year big leaguer Mario Diaz.

"For kids, this is a great opportunity to work with some ex-Major Leaguers and to get some good pointers and to try to keep working on their skills and improve themselves so they can get better," Boucher said. "The tournament is great just for being at Rogers Centre and being able to play on a Major League field. And in the tournament, you're one of the best in your province and you get to play against the best in the country, so it's really good.

"Baseball in Canada just keeps improving. We have more and more guys in colleges in the States and we have more guys getting drafted, more guys signing pro contracts, and we even have more guys going to bigger schools now, four-year schools. We're on the right track."

Hailing from Puerto Rico, this is the first time Diaz participated in a tournament event north of the border, and he was pleasantly surprised to see the level of talent Canada is producing at the high school age.

While many of the players in the development camp won't make it to the games played at Rogers Centre in September, he is happy to contribute to their progress and the continued growth of the sport in the country.

"The tournament is outstanding," Diaz said. "I never thought when I came up here last year that there would be so much talent, and I was really impressed. … [The development camp] is great. You're not always going to make it in baseball, but at least it gives you some background about baseball and what to do and the fundamentals of it."

Working with all of the attendees and taking a vested interest in each one, Sandy Alomar's focus is simple during events like the one the academy hosted over the three days at Bond Park.

"I'm always trying to teach them just to learn about themselves," the 15-year big leaguer said. "This is what a lot of these kids are lacking. They're just lacking confidence, and they're lacking trust in themselves.

"When we work with them, all they want to do is rush and try to impress us instead of doing things right so we can be impressed. I always try to tell them to stay calm so they learn the things they need to do in order to do it right. Then we will be impressed."

The elder Alomar also makes sure that everyone constantly keeps a smile on their face, and that each participant goes home happy.

"I'm always having fun," Alomar said. "I'm always cracking jokes with the kids, because I want them to be relaxed, and I enjoy this. … What's been great has been the enthusiasm we've been getting for all the clinics."

Added Boucher: "Working with the kids is great, especially when you see improvements from them and how hard they work. That's fun. It's also fun to see the boys. … It feels like we're part of a team again."

While Evan Magill, a 15-year-old catcher from Pickering, Ontario, knows that the majority of the participants won't make the shortlist for the final tournament, he made sure to enjoy his opportunity and take his chances to learn along the way.

"I've enjoyed it," the young backstop said. "It's been fun. It's something I've never done before, so I've enjoyed it. The best part is just talking to all the guys, and my favorite instructor has been Jesse [Barfield]. He's helped me a lot with my swing, and I've learned a lot because I've noticed how much my swing has been messed up.

"And it was fun to play at Rogers Centre. It was just a good experience. The whole thing has been really cool and fun. There's a lot of talent here and there are a lot of good players."

The Blue Jays Baseball Academy will host one final invite-only tryout for Tournament 12 for 80 participants on August 20th and 21st in Ajax, Ontario, at the same ballpark where the Pan Am Games baseball events were hosted, and where Team Canada's senior squad won gold in July. The final rosters will be released at the end of the month before the event takes place from September 14-18.

Alexis Brudnicki is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.