Stovman swings and pitches for nats

Maple Ridge's Michael Stovman is aiming for summer series in Cuba.

Michael Stovman takes cut during the Dominican Summer League

This spring has been a hardball prospect’s dream come true for Michael Stovman – he’s playing internationally and getting coached by baseball greats.

Stovman, from Maple Ridge, has spent the spring traveling and playing with the Baseball Canada Junior National Team. Members are just back from the Dominican Summer League, in which Stovman and the rest of the most talented under-18 ball players in country took on teams that included elite amateurs and signed professionals.

They wrapped up the league on Saturday, May 28 by taking on a team that included the best Dominican prospects, including six players who are ranked on MLB.com’s top 30 international prospects. Those Dominicans will all be coveted free agents after July 1. The Canadians beat them 15-7.

That wrapped up a slate of 14 games in 10 days on the trip.

Normally a first baseman, Stovman got some time on the mound, as well, and earned praise for his work as a relief pitcher.

“Overall, I did alright,” he said. “I considered it a success.”

The coaches and team management keep stats, but they are not released.

That amazing experience in the Dominican was preceded by spring training events that included stints in Florida – in St. Petersburg from March 9-21 – and Orlando, from April 14-24. The Canadians took on teams from Puerto Rico and Australia, and MLB prospect teams from the Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees, Atlanta Braves and others. Many of the opponents he’s playing against are in their early 20s.

Stovman’s Langley Blaze team gets noticed as one of the top organizations in the B.C. Premier Baseball League (BCPBL).

But it’s nothing like playing for the junior national team against top prospects.

“Being on this team definitely gets you noticed by major league scouts, and college scouts.”

The Thomas Haney secondary Grade 11 student will start to talk with college scouts in his graduation year, and already knows there is interest in him from good U.S. programs.

Stovman has good size at 6’1’’ and 195 pounds as a 17-year-old. His fastball is the 86-88 mph range, although he acknowledges that he needs to get that velocity up to be considered a bona fide pitching prospect.

He wants to continue to develop both his pitching and hitting, until baseball tells him to focus on one or the other.

“I’ll stick with both as long as I can.”

The goal right now is to play professional baseball as a power hitting first baseman.

Could he be the next Tyler O’Neill – the Maple Ridge product who also played for the Blaze and is now slugging his way through the Seattle Mariners farm system.

“I’m working on it … hopefully,” Stovman said.

So far he’s been more of a line drive hitter, but with power to all fields.

He is eligible to play for the Team Canada juniors until June of next year, and he hopes to take advantage of that opportunity.

In Orlando, he was tutored by Justin Morneau, a great hitter who had at least 30 homers and 100 RBI for three seasons with the Minnesota Twins, played for 13 seasons, and was an all-star four times. The American League MVP from 2006 was still playing in the majors last season. It was just Morneau and two young first basemen working around the bag in Orlando.

“He gave us some little tips here and there,” Stovman said.

In St. Petersburg, the special guest coach was former Blue Jays all-star second baseman and Hall of Famer Robbie Alomar.

“He’s one of the better infielders to ever play the game, and he did a lot of infield work with us,” said Stovman.

They are priceless experiences for a ball player, and Stovman is working hard to stay part of the national program, taking nothing for granted.

The Junior National Team will reconvene in Toronto from July 1-4, when players will be guests of the Toronto Blue Jays and participate in Canada Day festivities at Rogers Centre. Then they will take on the Intercounty Baseball League All-Stars on July 2 in Barrie.

On July 4, the team will travel to Havana, Cuba and take on the Cuban U-18 National Team in a seven game series from July 5-11.

Stovman said he hopes to be on the plane to Havana.

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