Maple Ridge pitcher Kyle Ross has earned a spot on the national under-18 baseball team.
For him, the 2014 baseball season will begin in Florida, in March with the junior national team.
“It’s a pretty good opportunity,” he said. “And it’ll be a learning experience.”
The ball season ends in October for most players, but Ross is still working five times per week at the Langley Blaze’s training facility, honing his craft.
Last year, his change-up was the pitch that most stymied batters. But Ross has been getting more feel for his curveball, and has it breaking from 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock pretty sharply.
“I’ve worked on it pretty hard.”
He’s more crafty lefty than power pitcher, but Ross’ fastball has improved to 84 mp/h, and he feels like he’s let some fly that must have been going 85 mp/h, but were never clocked. Hitting the upper 80s is his goal – scouts appreciate pitchers who throw hard.
Ross is doing a lot of long toss to build up his arm strength. There’s lots of time to improve.
“I’ve got all of this year, and all of next year, too.”
His approach on the mound jibes well with the philosophy of manager Doug Mathieson, who coaches him with the Langley Blaze.
“He’s all about throwing strikes. When you get behind, that’s when you’re in trouble, and they start hitting you.”
Ross was the rookie of the year in the B.C. Premier Baseball League, and the team leader for the Blaze.
In 10 starts this past season, he pitched four complete games, a team-high 62.1 innings, and had a team-high nine wins, with just one loss. He also had a 1.68 earned run average. He didn’t strike out a lot of batters, just 32, but kept runners off the bases by allowing only 47 hits and just 15 walks.
The BCPBL has been called the best high school league in the country, and Ross was a dominant pitcher in his Grade 10 year. He has two more years to be the ace of the staff for an organization that has churned out baseball prospects, including some drafted into the major leagues.
He and another Maple Ridge ball player with the Blaze, outfielder Andre Pelletier, both made Team B.C. last year, and it was during the national tournament that Ross made the national team,
Ross said four of his Blaze teammates – two pitchers and two hitters – have also made the national junior team.
“This year, we (the Blaze) are going to be pretty good.”