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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Canadians, DPL ready to rock

Jeff Dahn        

The Dominican Prospect League elite squad and the Ontario (Canada) Blue Jays have arrived in sunny Florida, and are already playing games and working out in anticipation of facing off against each other in single nine-inning game on Thursday (March 17) in Kissimmee, Fla.

The special “spring training” matchup, organized and sponsored by Perfect Game USA, will be played at 2:30 p.m. (EDT) at Osceola County Stadium, the spring training home of the Houston Astros. The teams will take batting practice from 1-2 p.m., and infield from 2-2:30 p.m. prior to the first pitch.

It is the first of two games the DPL select team will play against elite Canadian teams in Perfect Game-sponsored events over the next week.

“This is going to be a tremendous experience,” DPL president Brian Mejia said via telephone from a hotel lobby in Tampa, Fla., Tuesday morning. “(The players) are all in good spirits and everybody is very excited. And I think there is going to be a good turnout (of professional scouts).”

The DPL team arrived in Tampa Monday night and had a workout scheduled for Tuesday afternoon at George M. Steinbrenner Field, the New York Yankees’ spring training home. It plays a Boston Red Sox rookie team in Fort Myers, Fla., on Wednesday (March 16) leading up to the game with the Blue Jays, and will conduct an open workout in Kissimmee on Friday (March 18).

The Dominicans then depart for the Phoenix, Ariz., area for a brief visit that includes a PG-organized game against another strong Canadian club, the Langley Blaze from British Columbia. The DPL-Blaze game will be played Tuesday (March 22) at Surprise Stadium – the Texas Rangers’ spring training home – in Surprise, Ariz., at 2:30 p.m. local time.

The Ontario Blue Jays have been in Florida since March 12 and immediately began playing games against local community colleges in the Vera Beach area.

Scouts and fans who turn out for the PG event in Kissimmee will be able to observe more than two dozen players who all have college or professional baseball aspirations. Canadian players are eligible for the MLB First-Year Player Draft once they graduate from high school and the DPL players are eligible to sign free agent contracts if they are 16-years-old by July 2.

The top pitchers for the DPL team are right-handers Dioscar Romero, Jeffrey Martes and Jose Martel. The Blue Jays are likely to counter with righties C.J. Machete and Jordan Romano.

“The kids we have, they don’t always get to see a lot of really good pitching – it’s mostly just fastballs,” Mejia said. “Playing against the Canadians will be a good experience for them.”

Other top prospects on the DPL roster include leftfielder Eric Valdez, designated-hitter Dawel Lugo, centerfielder Franmil Reyes, right fielder Ronald Guzman, third baseman Angel Yente and shortstop/second baseman Roniel Demorizi.

The Blue Jays’ top prospect is shortstop Joey Hawkins, ranked No. 2 in Ontario and No. 500 in Canada by Perfect Game. Outfielders Phil Diedrick and Matt Paculan; infielders Kyle Hann and Eric Wood; and catcher Justin Marra are also highly regarded.

The Langley Blaze is already in the Phoenix area, where it will play 18 games in 10 days. It  took enough players to play split-squad games, and with three games scheduled for March 22, it can’t be said with any certainty which ones will play in the Perfect Game event against the DPL squad.

Right-handers Tom Robson, Karl Malecek, Skylar Janisse and Roberto Suppa are among the standouts on the Blaze’s Arizona roster. Perfect Game ranks Robson the No. 1 top-prospect in British Columbia and No. 122 nationally.

Position players Justin Atkinson, Dustin Houle, Ricky Bertrand and Jeremy Filipek add punch to the lineup.

All the players from both countries are eager to get out in front of the scouts under the warm Florida and Arizona sunshine and display their talents on American soil.

“It’s going to be great … and it’s definitely been a pleasure working with Perfect Game on this,” DPL’s Mejia said.

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