2019 Review | The Junior National Team

by Darryl Reid

Toronto, ON - During the holiday season in Canada, most hockey fans are glued to TSN to watch teenage hockey players play for their Country.

 It is a shame really that more people don't watch the Canadian National Junior Baseball Team with at least similar passion. We get it, we live in hockey country, but these young baseball players deserve at least some of the attention that the hockey giants receive.

Baseball Canada-Junior National Team (18U) Information baseball.ca

The Junior National Team is made up of some of the best high school aged (18 and under) baseball players in Canada. In 1999 the program moved to a ‘year-round’ format consisting of four annual trips and either a WBSC U18 World Cup or a COPABE 18U Pan American Championship / U18 World Cup qualifier. These two events occur in alternating years.

Each year, the Junior National Team season begins with the Fall Instructional League program at ESPN Wide World of Sports (Orlando, Florida) in October. In March of the following year, the program resumes with Spring Training in St. Petersburg, Florida followed by Extended Spring Training in April at ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando. In May, the team takes its annual trip to the Dominican Republic for a tour through the Dominican Summer League. Typically, each of these four trip last 10-14 days. Depending on the year, a summer trip can be added. The season concludes with a Final Selection Camp where 20 players are chosen to represent Canada at either the WBSC U18 World Cup or the COPABE 18U Pan American Championship / U18 World Cup Qualifier.

Athlete selection process begins each year at the Baseball Canada Cup where players are identified and invited to October’s Fall Instructional League Camp. Players are also evaluated at certain events throughout the year including MLB Scouting Bureau Camps, Tournament 12 in Toronto and various tournaments across the country.

JNT Alumni | Toronto Mets

The JNT program has produced many players that have gone on to professional baseball, college baseball and players who have represented Canada at the World Baseball Classic, Olympics and other International baseball events. Some of these players include 1997 National League MVP Larry Walker, 2006 American League MVP Justin Morneau, 2004 National League Rookie of the Year Jason Bay, MLB All Star Russell Martin, 2002 4th overall pick Adam Loewen, recently retired pitchers Ryan Dempster and Jeff Francis. 

The Toronto Mets have been very fortunate over the years to be well represented on the Junior National Team. A total of 42 players to date have been blessed with the honour of wearing their country's colours. 

2019 was a very successful for Toronto Mets players as five players were named to the Junior National team throughout the year.

Mitch Bratt | Left Handed Pitcher | 2021

Mitch Bratt (Newmarket, ON) the youngest of the Mets select to the Junior National Team was just 15 years old when he got the call from Greg Hamilton to participate in the Fall Instructional Camp, in Orlando Florida. Bratt was fortunate enough to be selected to all six trips with the Junior team, including being named to the WBSC U-18 Baseball World Cup Roster in South Korea.

Noah Hull | Infield | 2020

Noah Hull (Toronto, ON) who began his Toronto Mets career in the development program as a short stop, would move to the outfield as a 17 year old and eventually land at first base with the Junior National Team. The consistent skill that Hull was always able to bring to the field was his powerful left handed bat. Hull would swing his way to every trip that the Junior Program had to offer, including along with Bratt, being named to the WBSC U-18 Baseball World Cup team.

Ryan Leitch | Catcher | 2020

Ryan Leitch (Whitby, ON) after missing his grade 10 season with an injury, the power hitting catcher was on a mission to make the Junior National Team. He missed out on the fall selection, but was selected to go on the Spring Training Trip with Canada, and never looked back after that. Leitch would be a mainstay throughout the year participating in five trips with the team and the third Toronto Met to be named to the WBSC U-18 Baseball World Cup.

Noel McGarry-Doyle  | Outfield | 2020

Noel McGarry-Doyle (Maple, ON) was selected for the Junior Program for two of the teams trips. The Athletic outfielder was named to the team for the Fall Instructional League trip, as well as the Spring Training Camp. While that would be the end of the line for McGarry-Doyle with the JNT, to be named to even one camp with the best players in the country is a tremendous accomplishment.

Keegan Pulford-Thorpe  | Left Handed Pitcher | 2020

Keegan Pulford-Thorpe (Newmarket, ON) is the veteran of the Junior National team for the Toronto Mets. The big left handed pitcher has been with JNT program since the fall of 2017. The 2019 season would see Pulford-Thorpe compete in four trips before missing out on the WBSC. Pulford-Thorpe is an exceptional athlete who also excelled on the ice being drafted by the Sudbury Wolves of the Ontario Hockey League.