Qualicum Beach’s Paul Barton has
the major leagues calling
Having a courier come to your door with a letter and a kit requesting your youngest son send in a urine sample isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Especially when your boy is a pitcher, and the letter is from Major League Baseball.
“Never saw it coming,” chuckled Chuck Barton, as blue collar as they come and a dedicated baseball dad with three boys.
All of his boys have come up through Oceanside Minor Baseball and have pitched for the Parksville Royals in the BCPBL.
As for his son Paul getting the call to pee — that package is prestigious in baseball circles as it’s reserved only for the top 200 prospects in North America, “It was pretty cool.
“He was away in Florida (with the Junior National team) and I told him that night when he called.”
“It was really exciting to hear I was top 200. I was shocked,” Paul recalled from the Royals’ dugout at Springwood Park on Wednesday as his teammates took to the field in the pouring rain and a small army of volunteers set to work tweaking the infield for this weekend’s BC’s Best Baseball Classic.
This is the second year the young chucker from Qualicum Beach has been recruited by the Jr. Nats for their series of high performance spring camps that prepare this country’s top players for international assignments, and the 10 days of training and games marked the first installment of a summer loaded with travel.
That package his dad signed off on is just the latest memorable moment of Paul Barton’s baseball journey.
“It was really good,” he said when pressed about his latest trip to Florida for extended grapefruit league action on the immaculate fields at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando.
“We were on the field every day. Eight hours every day,” he said of the camp, which started each morning bright and early with a team breakfast and meetings followed by a four hour practice, a break, then a nine-inning game against professional farm teams.
The Canadians didn’t win a game against their older opponents, who ranged in age from 20-25ish, but the experience was invaluable.
Also making the trip to Florida and impressing on the hill for his second year was Royals’ teammate, southpaw Ethan Stewart from Campbell River. They were two of four players from the rock and nine from B.C. invited to the camp, comprised of about 30 players from across the country.
“I learned way more this time around,” Barton confirmed when asked about his second go-round.
At 6’3” 205 pounds, the hard throwing righty hit 92 mph on the radar gun in Florida during one game — his fastest pitch to date.
Paul pitched six innings over the 10 days, giving up two runs and striking out five.
Ready to lead the Royals into battle in the Classic in front of family and friends this weekend, Paul isn’t home for long as he and a select squad of Jr. Nats leave for the Dominican Republic May 20 for more games against MLB teams. This is his first year named to that team.
The young Canucks have already qualified for the 2010 World Junior Baseball Championships in Thunder Bay, Ontario. On June 22 the team travels to USA Baseball’s national training complex in Cary, North Carolina.
“Then we fly to Toronto for more practices (at the SkyDome) and to watch the Jays/Rays game, and then after that we fly to Havana to play the Cubans.”
The Canadians return home July 10.
His strength as a pitcher aside, scouts and coaches are also looking for players that are easy to work with and that get along with their teammates.
“It’s great to make the top 200, but nothing changes,” he said with the maturity reserved only for the focused. “I just go in day in and day out and work as hard as I can and hopefully play to the best of my abilities ... I’m always striving to be the best.”
“Paul’s so good working with young kids, he’s excellent. He enjoys it. That’s part of his deal, and that’s part of what makes him special,” Royals’ head coach Dave Wallace said about his third and final Barton boy.
“Their athletic ability aside, it’s their enthusiasm for the game, their work ethic and commitment to improving. Paul and guys like him, they just love playing the game, and they’re willing to do whatever it takes,” said Wallace. “Every sports the same ... it’s a tough grind.”