Regina Yankees fan performs on Blue Jays turf

Martin Academy student Thomas Ireland throws a pitch on Sept. 23, 2019 at Optimist Park in Regina. He competed at the Blue Jays Academy Tournament 12 event from Sept. 17 to Sept. 21. Photo by Theresa Kliem

A dream came true for Regina’s 17-year-old Thomas Ireland when he participated at the Blue Jays Baseball Academy Tournament 12 event under the watchful eyes of Hall-of-Famer Roberto Alomar last week.

Ireland and four other young players from Saskatchewan were among the best 140 Canadian amateur baseball players chosen to perform at Rogers Centre in front of pro and college scouts from across Canada and the United States. Alomar was a tournament commissioner.

For Ireland, representing Regina on the Blue Jays home turf was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“It’s something that you dream about your whole life,” Thomas said on Monday after his return from Toronto. “Honestly, it feels kind of unworthy almost because all these great players past and present have played on this field and now I am getting the shot to play where they played and stand where they stood.

“It’s very surreal. And it’s nothing that I’ll ever forget.”

Rob Cherepuschak is one of Ireland’s coaches at Regina’s Martin Academy. He is not surprised Ireland made it into the tournament.

“He is a real competitor,” said Cherepuschak. “He has high expectations of himself and at times high expectations of those around him, too.

“Probably two ingredients in high level athletes. He is a left-handed pitcher who throws anywhere between 84 and 87 miles an hour. That’s pretty good for a guy just starting out his Grade 12 year.”

Thomas Ireland from Martin Academy on his first day back in Regina after a week of playing baseball at the Blue Jays Academy Tournament 12 event. Photo by Theresa Kliem

The annual Tournament 12 has been a stepping stone for young baseball talent since 2013, with 90 former participants being drafted by MLB organizations and over 300 receiving college scholarships, according to an email from the Toronto Blue Jays Baseball Club. One example of a Saskatchewan success story who came out of the Tournament 12 event in 2016 was Muenster’s Logan Hofmann. He was drafted in 2019 by the St. Louis Cardinals.

The other four Saskatchewan players at this year’s event were Jesse Fayant from Regina, Brody Alexander from Swift Current, Jackson Fraser from Buena Vista and Carson Hindmarsh from Saskatoon

After a week of baseball in Toronto, Ireland is focusing on his next goals. He has been offered a scholarship at Polk State College in Florida and hopes to make the Canadian Junior National team. While many changes lie ahead of the 17-year-old, one tradition will not change.

“I am a New York Yankees fan,” said Ireland. “That’s been my lifelong team. Just being drafted by that team would be a dream come true. It’s a team that my dad has always liked and he kind of brought me up that way, too. So it’s kind of born into me I guess.”

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