Toronto Mets History
1. Describe your experience with the Toronto Mets, how elite travel baseball prepared you for post secondary, and the work world.
My time as a Toronto Met provided me with a sense of pride in myself as a player and member of an elite team in high school. I was fortunate enough to be around some great people, players and coaches such as John Jepson, Bob Lecours, Honsing, Leitch, McBride, Roberts, Chee-Aloy and many others. Just my first team with the Mets, 16U, 4 of us ended up playing affiliated professional baseball. As member of an elite team, you are exposed to many different personalities and expectations. Being able to adapt and exceed in those challenges shapes you into the player and person you leave as after high school. The pride of being an elite player creates an expectation within yourself to hold oneself to a higher standard both on and off the field.
2. What advice would you give the current group of Toronto Mets?
My advice for any current Met, and the advice I give to my younger players now, is to be a critical thinker and understand the importance of off-field actions. Don’t stop learning and gathering ways to improve yourself, ask questions to everyone, understand their perspective and critically evaluate your own development. Take nutrition, sleep, strength and conditioning seriously. Finally making real sacrifices and challenging myself in the weight room was what elevated my game and I wasn’t doing enough outside of baseball in high school, no matter what excuse or reason I was giving to my coach. Lastly, find a school that fits your future and wants to invest in you as a player and person. Not everyone has the same path and finding a school that cares about you and your development will get you to the places you want to be and set you up for life past baseball.
3. Share your post secondary experience, degrees received, lessons learned, Professional baseball.
At UBC, I majored in Sociology and received my Bachelor of Arts in 2017. UBC was my choice school since I was 13 and playing college baseball there kept every door open for me. I was playing at a high level, getting a world-class degree in a beautiful city and had the opportunity to play professional baseball after. For me, I wanted every opportunity and I got that here. I was also able to play for great teams in summer ball such as the Okotoks Dawgs and Kelowna Falcons that gave me incredible experiences living throughout Canada and playing in front of large crowds. After my 4th year, I was signed as a free agent by the Milwaukee Brewers. I played a season with the Rookie Ball team in Phoenix. Although it was short lived, finally reaching my goal to play professionally was incredibly rewarding and made me feel as my playing career was complete.
4. What do you remember and or miss the most about competing in Elite level and College level sports and professional, what are some of the major differences and similarities between the three levels.
As a college coach now, I don’t have much I miss about playing as I’m still so much involved. Having a consistent schedule and tunnel vision on your own goals as a college player is something I miss as I now have to balance so many different players as a coach. Being on the mound, living with teammates or spending hours throwing each day are all things I miss greatly but I get a little bit of each still now as a coach. The grind of college baseball is both a challenge and a luxury. Everything is available to you and planned but days can be long and demands on the field and in the classroom need to be managed. As a college player, there are so many moments that make those difficult practices and late nights studying worth it. At each level you progress you get more perspective about how you compare as a player and what you need to address to move on. From high school to professional baseball, players get better, expectations grow and you have to manage your time. Understanding what you need to do and when, is an important skill you need to have. As a coach, I do my best to communicate and assist my players through that.
5. Share your thoughts on some coaches, teachers, family members that helped develop both the athlete and person you are today.
The Mets coaching staff gave me an opportunity to get better, helped me with the recruitment process greatly, and also gave me the freedom at times to develop myself. Coaches like Bob Lecours kept baseball fun, Chee-Aloy kept me accountable and Leitch, McBride, Honsing and John Jepson made me feel proud to be a part of the program and family. As a coach now, I hope to have the same impact on my players that those had on me as a Toronto Met.
6. What is your current role in coaching? what goals do you have now? What are the best tools you use to get the most out of your players?
Currently, I am coaching our Junior Varsity at UBC, assisting the Varsity team on the pitching side, and running private sessions and programs. In my coaching career, I am working towards my goals of coaching at the pro level or as a college pitching coach. I am also building my own private training with @pathpitching so I can have an impact on more players in Vancouver and remotely across Canada. As far as training tools go, I am lucky to have access to an assortment of different tech at UBC such as HitTrax, K-Vest and Rapsodo. Plyo balls, medballs, the Core Velocity Belt and command balls are just some of the tools my players use during our time together. For the last couple years, my focus has been on understanding and bringing in different disciplines such as S&C, motor learning/skill acquisition, and biomechanics to my training. Recently, I have been diving deep in the world of baseball R&D departments and new developments in pitch design, such as seam-shifted wake, keep me up at night. I love learning and baseball won’t let me rest easy.
This week in Toronto Mets history, we connected with Les Williams. The Toronto Native enjoyed a very impressive baseball career that included the honour of playing for the Canadian Junior National Team, an Education from Northeastern University and being drafted by the hometown team Toronto Blue Jays.
Today, Williams enjoys as much time playing golf as he possibly can, while living in Los Angeles with his wife Jennifer and almost 2 year-old daughter Noelle.
1. Describe your experience with the Toronto Mets, how elite travel baseball prepared you for post secondary, and the work world.
My time with the Toronto Mets, Jr National Team and elite travel ball in general played a large part in preparing me for adulthood. I feel that many of my teammates would agree that being in a highly structured and competitive environment day in and day out prepared us for the challenges that life brings beyond the game of baseball. This was evident during my college years where there was a vast difference in the level of confidence and maturity between those that played at a high level in high school and those that didn't.
2. What advice would you give the current group of Toronto Mets? Perhaps things you wished you knew then that you know now.
Firstly, GET AN EDUCATION! I can't stress this enough. I am so grateful that I went to college first before playing professionally. I would not be where I am today without my college experience which were the most formative 4 years of my life. Hedge your bets, unfortunately most of us can't play this game forever, but those 3 or 4 years of college will allow you to further develop your skills, confidence, and prepare you for life after baseball.
Secondly, go to the gym and take care of your bodies. Your competition in the US and more so in Latin America live and breathe this game and they are no doubt taking every opportunity to get better. For many of them this is the ONLY way to better the lives of their families. One less hour of COD, Fortnite, or MLB the Show won't kill you.
3. Share your post secondary experience, degrees received, lessons learned, Professional baseball.
I graduated from Northeastern University in Boston with a degree in Criminal Justice (not relevant for what I do now lol). I am currently a FinCrime Technology Consultant at Ernst and Young. I help my clients build and validate technologies to identify, monitor, and report money-laundering and terrorist financing. Some advice regarding choosing a major/career. Spend freshman year figuring out what you may want to do after college. Speak to some adults in your life and reach out to recent alumni of the baseball program. No need to rush and declare a major right away.
Being drafted by the Blue Jays was a dream come true. Although I only played for 2-3 years, it was an honor to live out that dream. And I was prepared to move on to the next chapter of my life with confidence and no regrets because of all the experiences and life-long preparation leading up to that moment.
5. What do you remember and or miss the most about competing in Elite level and College level sports and professional, what are some of the major differences and similarities between the three levels.
What I miss the most about Elite and College ball are my teammates and coaches. When you live, travel, work and hang out with the same people everyday, you become close to them and form a bond. You become family. And then in a few months, the season ends and they are gone and you may never see them again. That taught me the value of friendship. I may go years (decades now) without seeing them, but they are my brothers.
Biggest difference between pro-ball and the rest is that pro ball is a business. Your job is on the line every single day. If you weren't good enough, you didn't play. And if you didn't play, you didn't get promoted.
6. Share your thoughts on some coaches, teachers, family members that helped develop both the athlete and person you are today.
Too many coaches to name and at the risk of forgetting someone, I wont do that. But if you did coach me, just know that you've had and continue to have an impact on my life. Many of you were volunteers and coached us with your own free time, time that could have been spent with your families. For that, I am eternally grateful.
"Bob was one of the most instrumental people in my coaching career. His experience and patience with players and coaches helped to shape the way I think about coaching today. He is a great mentor and friend." This quote from long time Mets Coach, Honsing Leung.
Bob Roberts had a tremendous impact on the Toronto Mets Program, and today we celebrate him, and thank him for his time, dedication and knowledge he has given to the Toronto Mets players, coaches and families.
1. Talk about the early days, playing, how did you became interested in baseball?
2. What was the path that led you to coaching the Toronto Mets?
3. What were the best parts about being a part of the Toronto Mets program? Who are some of the people you remember most?
4. What are some accomplishments you received as a Mets coach? Individual and or team awards and championships.
5. Can you describe what is like to see your son and grandson be a part of the Mets program as well.
6. Advice for current and future Toronto Mets?
Toronto Mets Alumni Greg Densem shares his experience as a Toronto Met player and his season in Major League Baseball as the Toronto Blue Jays bullpen catcher. Greg continues to be a part of our program as a catching and hitting instructor.
What were some of your favourite memories as a player with the Mets?
Some of my favourite memories as a player have to be winning the National Championships. Any time you can call yourself a national champion is a very proud moment and you just feel like all the hard work has paid off. You don't get that far on your own, so on top of that, the lasting friendships and relationships made with fellow teammates and coaches through the years is also something I will never forget.
As a Mets coach, what are some of the major changes, and growth in the program since you were a player?
There have been a lot of major changes since I was a player. The program has tripled in size if not more, we have a facility to call our own and built an army of the best coaches in Canada to name a few. That is no slight on the coaches I had while I was a player. I truly believe that if it were not for my coaches when I was a player, I would not have been able to achieve the things I did. Now, it is just a sheer numbers game as there are just so many more coaches to go to for advice or help during training sessions and throughout a season. When I was a player, I started when the program started. I was part of the very first 16u team and at the time, there was one 16u team and one 18u team. We would work out of the old ProTeach facility that used to be by Lakeshore Arena in Etobicoke. We would have weekend practice each day in the winter for an hour and a half and some open hours during the week. For what was available, they did their best to get us every available resource, but some things like weight training were on our own. John Jepson and Jason Chee-Aloy did a remarkable job getting the program started and now current management, Ryan McBride and his team, have also done an outstanding job continuing to expand and provide every available resource under the sun for current Mets players.
Reasons for going to UBC? What is your degree in?
I chose UBC for a couple of different reasons. First, I knew I was going to be given the chance to play. It was made clear to me by Terry McKaig and the staff at UBC that I would have to earn my spot in the lineup, but that I would be given the chance to do so even as a freshman. UBC was the only Canadian team in the NAIA division, we would be travelling up and down the west coast to different states. I had some former Mets teammates that were current players at UBC who I could talk to as well about the program. I also took input from my Mets coaches, as well as Greg Hamilton while I was with Team Canada about what would be the best fit for me. In addition to the baseball side, UBC is one of the best academic schools in the world which also helped my decision. Everyone dreams of playing major league baseball but having a strong academic background at the end of the day was very important to me. I studied and played for 5 years at UBC as I had one red shirt year due to injury. I earned a Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in History.
Describe your professional experience with the Blue Jays
How did you get the job?
I could talk non stop about the experience, although sometimes it still leaves me with a loss of words.
To the very beginning, I started in 2014 as the video coordinator for the Vancouver Canadians, the Blue Jays short season A affiliate. This was a fun experience as I went right back to Vancouver and was right back at home at Nat Bailey Stadium, where we would play many games with UBC. Unfortunately, I never got a chance to play professional baseball but this gave me a taste of the minor leagues as I was travelling with the team, in the locker room helping with pre game scouting as well as providing scouting video and reports to Blue Jays front office personnel. I even helped out by throwing BP daily which was new for them from a video coordinator. That may have helped for what was up next. It was a busy summer but nothing compared to what was coming.
April 2015, I was sitting in OPS getting ready to start a Mets practice when my phone rang, It was Kevin Malloy, the Blue Jays clubhouse manager at the time. Many MLB teams started to employ a second bullpen catcher and the Jays were one of them. I had played a couple of years at UBC with Kevin's son Cody. He knew I was in Toronto and could potentially help out and they were only looking for someone for about a month. He said if you are able, stay close to the phone as Tony Lacava the assistant GM at the time was going to give me a call. Right after that happened, I was a little in shock and didn't know what was going on. A day and a half later, I was on a plane to New York as the Jays were opening the season against the Yankees. I've always liked the Blue Jays but my second favourite team growing up was the Yankees. Now less than 48 hours after getting the phone call, I was walking out of the dugout at Yankee stadium towards the bullpen to catch my first bullpen, which was Daniel Norris. After a month had passed, we were in Tampa and in the tunnel from the dugout to the locker room after BP, Tony Lacava pulled me aside and said that the other guy that was supposed to be coming had taken another job and he asked if I could stay on for the year. The answer to that was pretty self explanatory. That's the short version of how it all started.
It was an unbelievable year, with many many ups and a deep playoff run. Everyone in the organization was first class from the clubhouse staff to the coaching staff to the players. To this day, I truly believe we went so far that year because of how close the team and group was, with everyone on the same page. I will never forget the summer/ fall of 2015.
What was the day to day like for you.
For home games in Toronto, I would usually get to the stadium about 2pm for a 7pm game. If there were no side session bullpens or anything else to help with, maybe sneak in a workout or just hangout in the clubhouse. I would help veteran bullpen catcher Alex Andreopolous in our daily duties, who really helped me through everything. We would make sure the ball cart for BP was full, get the bullpen bag set up with weighted balls, bands, any other accessories some players liked, rubbed up baseballs (all catchers know how picky pitchers are about brand new balls). There were many little things to do before batting practice and game time. Same kind of idea just earlier in the day for afternoon games. Sometimes early games meant we were flying to another city after the game. On those days, you show up and leave your suitcase with security (you don't see it again until it shows up in your hotel room when you get to the next city). After the game, bus times are posted and you do what you have to do until it's time to get on the bus and head to the airport.
For away games, all the baseball duties are the same except for the BP balls. Whether we were at home or on the road, if you're asked to go in early or stay late to help, you do whatever you can to do it. Main part of day to day was watching a lot of baseball from the best seat in the house.
Based on your experience, what advice would you give to current Toronto Mets Players on preparing for post secondary.
Every aspect of these next couple of years can open a lot of doors. The same cliches apply, work hard on and off the field, in and out of the classroom. Post secondary school is not cheap and you can help yourself and your parents with scholarship money. BOTH athletic and academic scholarships are available and either one go a long way towards your future. Don't let these years go by and look back and think about missed opportunities. The same goes for university and college. They will be some of the best years of your life, enjoy them, have fun. At the same time, there's a lot of work to be done on and off the field. Use the skills you acquired by being a student athlete most of your life. Stay on top of things, time management, hard work ethic. When everything runs smoothly, the years will be that much more enjoyable. Most importantly, with a glove or book in hand, don't be afraid to ask for help.
Jake Eliopoulos appeared destined for the big leagues - a hard-throwing lefty, drafted by his hometown Blue Jays. He was a kid with a bright future, brimming with potential.
In 2013, Jake tragically lost his battle with mental illness. This is the story of his life, his struggle and his legacy. Click the image to watch his story. #BellLetsTalk#mentalhealthawarenessFive Questions with Toronto Met Alumni Maxx Tissenbaum.
What is favourite memory or accomplishment as a Toronto Met?
Back to back National Championships in 2007 (Quebec City) and 2008 (Halifax)
What is your favourite memory in baseball?
Reaching the College World Series in 2012 at Stony Brook. It was the most exciting 3 weeks of my life, with the regional at Miami, the draft, Super Regionals at LSU and then CWS in Omaha.
What is your advice to current Toronto Mets -
Take ownership in your career, and understand that you’re basically running a business full time. Everything you do on the field, in the classroom, and online is a record of who you are, and what you represent. Make sure all of your personal brands show what you want to get out of baseball and life.
Where are currently living and what are you doing professionally?
Living and working in Long Island, NY, about 15 minutes from Stony Brook. I work on an inside sales team for Shred-it selling service contracts.
Are you still involved with baseball?
Currently working with two teams, based out of the same area, the All Pro Stars 15u team full time, and helping out with the Bayport Bombers 13u team.“The ability to make people laugh, with a quick one-liner or a good baseball story.” A quote from long time Mets coach Honsing Leung, about friend and mentor John Jepson. “He is one of the most personable people I have ever met, his ability to have an excellent relationship with parents, players, and coaches was the foundation the Toronto Mets was built on.” John Jepson, known to the baseball world as “JJ” led the Toronto Mets for the building years of the Program.
Ryan McBride, current president of the Toronto Mets continues to value what JJ built from the beginning. “While we have grown in size, we continue to follow, what JJ spent so much time building. We are still a family, just a little bigger one.” John Jepson co-founded the Toronto Mets in the early 2000’s and was a program that fielded players at the 16u and 18u Divisions. The Toronto Mets now has seven teams in their program and have established themselves as one of the best baseball development programs in the country.
JJ grew up in Park Extension in Montreal and moved to Toronto in 1970. A lifetime passion, for over 50 years, was organized baseball - as a player from peewee through junior ball in his youth in Montreal - and later as a successful coach in the 80’s and 90’s in Toronto with the North York Blues where his teams won two national championships. Along the way, he was a Board member and, ultimately, President of the Premier Baseball League of Ontario. In 2018 he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the PBLO; in the citation he received it was noted that “John Jepson has touched thousands of baseball lives “.
Sadly, on October 14th, 2018 JJ passed away after an 18-month battle with pancreatic cancer. He is missed. Missed by the so many players he had an impact on the baseball careers. Missed by all the coaches, who he mentored and took care of. Most importantly missed by the families, the families that he took so much pleasure in welcoming all of them into the Mets Family.
Thank you JJ, thank you for everything you did for baseball. We miss you and will continue to celebrate you and keep you alive in every player that is fortunate enough to wear a Mets Jersey.