Reliever goes for gold with Ontario Jays

August tournament pits Canada against the world on 16U baseball diamond

Taylor Lepard headed off to Kissimmee, Fla. in the first week of this month, to take on the world.

The 16-year-old relief pitcher was a member of the Premier Baseball League of Ontario’s Blue Jays 16U squad, representing Canada at the United States Specialty Sports Association gold medal games, Aug. 2–7.

He sits on the steps behind Howard Talbot Park’s main diamond with his mom, Susanne, before leaving on the trip, recalling the process of making an elite team’s roster, and how he was excited to be playing against teams from Mexico, Puerto Rico, the UK, Germany and the top players from the U.S.

These teams would have to solve his four-seam fastball, a 4-to-8 curve ball, and his changeup.

“Not everyone has the natural movement on their four-seam fastball,” he commented. “That’s why people use a two-seam fastball.”

He got to the international stage through Leaside’s house league, where he started playing T-ball. Then he graduated to AA, playing with North York. After that it was AAA with East York, playing up an age group.

Which led the 6-foot righty to try out for the Ontario Blue Jays last August.

As for long-term goals? They’re without limits.

“The dream is to make my way to the big leagues,” he said. “Leading up to that I’m hoping to get a scholarship in the States.”

He’s coy when it comes to naming any particular role models from the majors, but he does credit his mom, who sheepishly grins beside him.

“My mom, primarily because she’s helped me along the way with school and everything,” he said. “She’s my main role model.”

Susanne is chauffeur, time-keeper, travel agent and overseer of all things baseball for Taylor.

“As a sports mom, I have my own day-timer and his calendar,” she said. “You have to balance off his practices and his games, and he’s very active in everything he does.

“He also umpires, so then you have to keep track of where he has to be workwise. It’s hectic, but it’s a family buy-in. It’s not just your son playing baseball. You have to agree to it.”

Still, Taylor is focused on achieving his MLB dreams.

“If you want to make something with your life, especially in baseball, you’ve got to work hard, put in everything you have at every opportunity you get,” he said. “Hustle on and off the field, and just make sure you don’t goof around at school, because ultimately school is really important.

“It’s not just baseball.”

But when asked if he has a song for when he strikes out the side, he lets out a chuckle, and shrugs.

“Ah,” he said, after a long pause, visibly caught off guard by the question. “I can’t think of one. That’s a tough one.”

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Posted: Aug 11 2014 6:00 am
Filed in: Sports
Edition: Toronto