Leaside High School’s baseball team is preparing for a rebuilding year after making it to the Tier 1 South Region finals last season.
“Last year we had a good core of senior players from grade 12,” said coach Jim Georgiadis. “We had some good pitching and some good hitting in the line-up.
“We fell a bit short in the final but overall we had a very successful year.”
Now that the majority of his senior players have graduated, Georgiadis is looking to build another contender from the ground up much like he did with his last group.
“This year we’re basically starting from scratch again,” he said. “We’re basically going back down and trying to find some talent in grade 9 and grade 10 and trying to build that talent and hopefully in a couple of years we’ll be back where we were.”
Georgiadis said the rebuilding effort starts with two promising young ball players.
“Two guys I’m going to build around are going to be David Delazzari and Zach Kelcher-McConnell,” he said. “You’re talking about strength up the middle. We’re developing a good solid catcher and a good center fielder.”
Both players were on the team last year. Georgiadis said they didn’t see the field too often but played well when they did. Center fielder Delazzari will also be receiving training on his rep team, the North York Blues.
“He’s a pretty versatile player,” Georgiadis said. “He can play centre. He can also pitch a little bit.
“He’s also a very good hitter and he’s very fast. He can get on base, he can steal bases and so he’s actually a threat offensively and defensively.”
And while Delazzari can pitch, Georgiadis said he won’t be sending him to the mound this season due to a shoulder injury. Whoever does pitch will be throwing to Kelcher-McConnell who Georgiadis expects to improve every year.
“As he grows and develops and gets stronger you can see that he’s going to be a very effective catcher,” he said.
Unlike other high school sports in the city, baseball does not have separate divisions for different age groups. Therefore Leaside’s young Lancers, some of whom are still adjusting to playing on a full-size diamond, will square off against some older, bigger and stronger opponents. For that reason, Georgiadis said he intends to focus more on development than on victories.
“What we need to focus on is playing to our potential and improving each and every day,” he said. “To me, if we do that, we’ve had a successful season.”
Although Leaside may not be a baseball powerhouse this season, Georgiadis, who grew up and played baseball in Leaside for several years, said their home park was once the Mecca of baseball in Toronto.
“It all centres around Talbot Park,” he said. “We used to call it the shrine.
“As recently as 15 years ago it was the place to be on Tuesday or Thursday night watching really good baseball.”
According to Georgiadis, elite amateur baseball teams such as the Toronto Mets have taken away from the talent pool from which high school teams draw. Still, he said he understands that such teams are helping young athletes gain exposure to pro scouts and US college recruiters.
With some work, Georgiadis said Leaside can once again become a baseball powerhouse in the city.
“We’ve just got to be patient,” he said. “We’ve got the right kids, they’ve got great attitudes.
“If we just continue to develop them, if they continue to stay with the program, I know that in two or three years we’re going to be right there.”
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