WCBL Talent at Futures Showcase
By IAN WILSON
The Western Canadian Baseball League (WCBL) was well represented at the Canadian Futures Showcase in Toronto recently.
The ninth annual event at Rogers Centre – home of Major League Baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays – took place from Sept. 19-23. It includes a six-team tournament with college and MLB draft eligible players from across Canada, as well as a scout day, prospects game and home run derby.
Catcher Nathan Flewelling – of Innisfail, Alberta – smashed 11 home runs to claim the derby championship.
“It feels great. Obviously, I’m kind of in shock right now,” said the 17-year-old who suited up in a pair of games for the Sylvan Lake Gulls this summer.
“It’s an incredible honour and I’m just happy to get the opportunity.”
Fresh off a WCBL championship with the Okotoks Dawgs, postseason contributors Eric Hartman and Eric Machej bolstered the Team New Blue squad.
Hartman played four regular season games for Okotoks before turning things up in the WCBL finals against the Medicine Hat Mavericks by batting .375 with five runs batted in (RBI) and a homer in three playoff games.
He finished with the third-quickest 60-metre sprint at the scout day of the Canadian Futures Showcase, posting a time of 6.59 seconds. In his second game of the tournament, Hartman went 1-for-2 with a hard-hit single, a sacrifice fly and a stolen base.
“[Playing in the] WCBL was fun and gave me confidence,” said Hartman. “I got here, and the game slowed down again, so I’m feeling pretty good.”
Machej, a middle infielder with the Dawgs, got into seven regular season games with Okotoks and batted .438 with four doubles in his 16 playoff at bats.
“The Dawgs do an unbelievable job at training and polishing talent in their program and the role they’ve played in my baseball career is massive,” said Machej in a Canadian Baseball Network (CBN) story by John Milton.
“Coach Tyler Hollick and coach Lou Pote have moulded me into the player and person that I am now and given me countless opportunities to succeed and fail and grow and learn from those experiences and hold me to a high standard and to always strive and push for more and never be satisfied. Always want to work harder, move quicker, throw harder, run faster — all these things that don’t only affect my baseball career but how I go about work in the classroom and strive to try and work the hardest I can to achieve the best possible.”
Machej was selected to play for Team Jay in the prospects game, as was right-handed pitcher Michael Yusypchuk, a Dawgs Academy product who got into one game for the summer collegiate team in Okotoks this season.
Pote, the interim manager of the Okotoks Dawgs for the 2023 season, was a member of the Team Black coaching staff.
Meanwhile, the staff of the Brooks Bombers saw a pair of familiar faces from Vauxhall Academy take part in the event.
Outfielder Stevyn Andrachick, who collected nine hits in 10 games for Brooks, was on the Team Grey roster, while lefty pitcher Brett Getz – who recorded 30 Ks in 39.1 innings for the Bombers – suited up for Team Red. Getz pitched three shutout innings against Team Grey and was also a member of Team Blue in the prospects game.
“I feel like I have more of an approach and a better mindset,” said Getz heading into his second Canadian Futures Showcase.
“I want to go at it, have fun, make sure I’m taking more in of everyone and learn more from the coaches.”
Pitcher Kai Rempel, who got a taste of WCBL action during a bullpen appearance for the Lethbridge Bulls in 2023, played for Team Grey at the tournament and 6-foot-7 righty hurler Sawyer Jensen, who also got into one game with the Bulls, did mound work for Team Red.
The Moose Jaw Miller Express were represented by right-handed pitcher Tristan Eberle, who played in a pair of games in the WCBL this summer, and pitching coach Dustin Molleken. Eberle was on Team Royal, while Molleken joined recently-announced Saskatoon Berries pitching coach Andrew Albers on the Team Red coaching staff.
“Dustin keeps me going,” Eberle told CBN founder and editor-in-chief Bob Elliott.
“He helped me stay committed to pitching. He’ll send me a text, ‘Did you long toss today?'”
Since 2013, 117 Canadian Futures Showcase participants have been drafted by MLB teams and more than 600 have received post-secondary scholarships.