Striking out on his own in the NCAA
Maple Ridge’s Devon Stewart said goodbye to his minor baseball career in style last month as he and his teammates on the Langley Blaze were crowned B.C. Premier Baseball League champions.
Stewart had a 0.00 ERA for the tournament, and pitched a complete game shut out in the semi-final against Victoria.
“It was a nice send-off,” said the six-foot-two right-hander.
Stewart is moving on from the PBL after signing a lucrative NCAA Division I scholarship to play baseball for Canisius College in Buffalo, New York.
As freshman with the Canisius Griffins, Stewart hopes crack the weekday starting rotation.
“It will be tough as a freshman, but I’m hoping to get some starts,” he said. “As long as I’m making good pitches, I’ll be happy.”
Stewart said he chose Canisius because it gave him the best opportunity to get in the line-up while earning a degree.
“For me it was the best baseball program,” he said. “And they offered me the most money.”
The Jesuit liberal arts university, founded in 1870, also has a strong academic tradition. Stewart says he plans to study biology or biochemistry in case the professional baseball career doesn’t pan out.
“My first goal is to get drafted,” he said. “But if that doesn’t happen, I’d like to go to med school and be a doctor.”
Stewart grew up playing for the Ridge Meadows Royals, and after aging out of bantam AAA, opted to stay close to home and play with the Ridge Meadows midget AAA team instead of joining the B.C. Junior Premier Baseball League.
That gave Stewart to play against older players, and get more starts on the mound
“It was the right decision for me,” he said. “I still got to hit too, which was fun. I played shortstop when I wasn’t pitching.”
Stewart also got a chance to win, something he has done consistently throughout his baseball career.
Stewart and the midget AAA Royals won provincials, a Western Canada championship, and placed third at nationals.
Stewart spent the past two seasons with the Langley Blaze, where he and Kyle Joel and Karl Malecek formed the backbone of the Blaze’s starting rotation.
His fastball has been clocked as high as 91 miles per hour, but averages in the 87 to 89 range.
Stewart has a four-seam and a two-seam fastball is repertoire, as well as a change-up and a slider.
“I think I have pretty good movement,” he said. The many stunned batters he faced this season would have to agree. In 10 regular season games with the Blaze this year, Stewart had a 5-3 record and 1.34 ERA.
The Blaze had the cards stacked against them going into the playoffs this season as they had 12 wins wiped off their record for playing ineligible players. That took them from first place down to sixth.
“It was obviously upsetting,” Stewart said. “But we took it as motivation.”
The Blaze shut out the Coquitlam Reds 6-0 in the PBL final to grab the championship, and Stewart had a provincial gold medal around his neck once again.