Local baseball player helps U.S. team to tournament medal
An Airdrie baseball player brought home some hardware from a high-profile American tournament over the holidays.
Kyran Weemaels, 15, won bronze with the Cincinnati Champions U16 team at the Rawlings Golden Glove Classic baseball tournament, which was held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Florida, Dec. 27 to 30.
“It was different,” Weemaels said of the tournament, which featured teams from across the U.S. and Brazil. “I did pretty good and I was proud of myself that I was able to play to the standards of (the American players). It was a great opportunity to go to Disneyworld and play for a good team.”
Originally from Cincinnati but now an Airdrie resident, said the tryout process to join the Champions was a bit out of the ordinary. Separated from the team by more than 1,900 kilometres, Weemaels sent a highlight reel to the team, which plays out of the Champions Baseball Academy, and was invited to join it for the Rawlings tournament.
Unlike his new teammates, who had six weeks together, Weemaels had only two practices to gel with his new squad before it jumped into four days worth of games. The Champions only lost one round robin game, a 12-4 decision to the Sluggers League team.
The top four teams played for the championship, while the bottom four played for the consolation title.
The placings were determined by run differential and left the Champions to challenge for the bronze medal. Three more runs and they would’ve had a chance to win gold.
Weemaels closed the team’s semifinal game, a 6-2 win over the Palmyra Ohio Prowlers, and was rewarded by playing six innings of the bronze-medal game, which the Champions won 8-4 over the Crystal Lake Babe Ruth team.
Weemaels’ experience pitching in big tournaments, like Westerns and Provincials, paid off when it came to pitching a majority of the bronze-medal game.
“From those games, I learned how to relax, but still be on top of it and do the best you can,” he said. “We have to have a bit of self-confidence. I can get cocky sometimes, but it kind of pays off.
“Usually the first inning I’m off and shaking, but I get more confident and get more used to the players (as the game goes on). I go from there and I get better.”
The tournament was hosted in one of the biggest baseball states in the U.S. and it was a prime opportunity for the young players to impress scouts that came from universities and colleges across the country.
It’s Weemaels’ dream to be recruited to play for a school down in the U.S., but at the age of 15, he will have to wait one more year before he’s eligible to meet with prospective schools.
If everything works out in his favour, Weemaels will be a lot closer to the action next year, as he is considering moving back to Cincinnati and enrolling in the Champions academy for his last two years of high school. Currently in Grade 10 at George McDougall High School, he considered finishing this year off in Ohio, but the Ohio High School Athletic Association ruled that because he wasn’t a permanent resident of the state, he wasn’t allowed to play the academy team.
If that doesn’t pan out, Weemaels said he’ll play Babe Ruth Baseball in Calgary.
The league, which is the equivalent of Major Junior hockey, travels across the province, but Weemaels hopes he’ll get the chance to try his hand at playing in the U.S.
“America is way better for baseball,” he said. “It’s their main sport down there. It’s better known and the players down there are better because they get more time to practice, better coaches and better scouts.”