The two ball players from Maple Ridge had different outlooks as they tried out for Team B.C. this summer.
Pitcher Kyle Ross was the ace of the staff of the Langley Blaze, one of the best organizations in the B.C. Premier Baseball League. He put up nine wins and a loss – exactly the same record as he did in his first Blaze season as a junior.
Consistency is his middle name. And his first name, and surname. Ross has posted a 1.68 ERA, and in 62.1 innings he has allowed only 47 hits and 15 walks. He’s a lefty starter, who stands a nick under six-foot-four.
Ross essentially walked onto the field and made Team B.C.
His teammate Andre Pelletier didn’t have eye-popping stats this year. A late-season swoon saw his batting average dip to a pedestrian .250. In 84 at bats, he had a homer, 18 RBI and five stolen bases.
Pelletier had to do something at tryouts to make the team.
So he showed the coaches an athletic, five-tool player, and let his bat do the talking. He hit one of just two homers to leave the yard in the skirmishes, smacked another one off the wall, and put up at total of 12 hits over five games.
“He hit his way onto the team,” said his coach with the Blaze, Jamie Bodaly, who was one of the coaches involved in the selection process.
His teammate Ross was also impresed, saying Pelletier “was the best hitter there.”
They will play in the Canada Summer Games in Sherbrook, Que. in August.
Bodaly said Pelletier can run – he’s one of the fastest guys in his age group, has a strong arm, can play defence, and hits for both average and power. He acknowledged that Pelletier had average numbers in the PBL, but in the U-17 tryouts, with kids his own age, he was dominant.
“He’s close, he’s just got to put it all together,” said Bodaly.
He said keys are recognizing the breaking ball, and being more consistent.
“It’s a big year for him next year. If he hits the ball real well, he could go into the draft. If not, he’s going to to go to a college somewhere.”
He said Ross was a no-brainer to make the team. A manager can send him to the mound, assured he’ll will give his team a chance to win.
“Kyle is a tremendous competitor. He’s a crafty lefty,” said Bodaly.
Ross has great run (late movement) on his fastball, an average but improving curveball, and an outstanding changeup. Hitters get geared up for the fastball, and they’re way out ahead of his off-speed pitch. The changeup is good enough that it enables Ross to “pitch backward,” said Bodaly, meaning that he can go first-pitch changeup to get a strike on a hitter.
What’s more, Ross is just going into Grade 11, so time is definitely on his side.
“He’s going to a top-of-the-rotation guy for a couple of years.”
As good as he has been, Ross said he wants to get better. He wants to up his velocity. The goal this summer is to pack more muscle onto his 170-pound frame, and get the radar gun into the mid-80s.
He struck out 32 batters last year, and wants to elevate that number as he approaches his Grade 11 and 12 years.
“I want to start putting on weight, and get my fastball going,” he said.
Ross said making Team B.C. this year was important, because it’s now a realistic goal to make the national under-18 team in the coming season. That squad travels to baseball nations such as the Dominican Republic and Korea, conducts training camps in Florida, and is heavily scouted.
Getting drafted into MLB in his high school year is the goal.
Pelletier said he was frustrated by a year where he would double off the fence one game, and then have two strikeouts the next, never getting into a groove.
Now he has simplified his approach at the plate.
“I go up looking for my pitch, and drive it – hit is as hard as I can. If I get behind, then it’s just hit it up the the middle.”
Making Team B.C. was a much-needed confidence boost.
“It’s a new start,” he said.
“My coach has always said I’ve got the potential, I just need to work really hard at it.”
He attends Garibaldi secondary with friend and teammate Tyler O’Neill, a member of Team Canada and a third-round draft pick of the Seattle Mariners.
Pelletier is proud to represent his home town on Team B.C.
“Maple Ridge boys can play baseball,” he said.