City teen aims to crack national junior baseball roster

Barry Wright

Tyler Whitbread continues to climb the baseball ladder.

The 17-year-old St. Clair Secondary student has been chosen to Canada’s preliminary 31-man roster for the 18U World Cup in Japan next September.

The lanky right-handed pitcher was given the nod after his performance during a 12-day tour against Major League Baseball Instructional Teams in Florida this month.

Nerves likely played a role in his rocky National Junior Team debut against Houston in the tour’s first game. But he bounced back with a solid outing against the Atlanta Braves squad three days later. He pitched two scoreless innings before giving up a run on an error in the third. He allowed two hits over his three innings of work on the mound.

“It was real good competition down there,” he said.

Whitbread came up through the ranks of the Sarnia Braves system before transferring to the London-based Great Lake Canadians, an elite baseball club with players from across Southwestern Ontario.

The Canadians play a tournament schedule against other elite teams in Ontario, mainly from the Toronto-area, as well as U.S. college baseball teams from Michigan, Ohio and Kentucky/

His teammates this season included pitchers Mat Szabo and Jesse Marks of Sarnia, as well as catcher Ty Barclay and infielder Curtis Helps, both of Wyoming.

Whitbread was a front-line pitcher with the Canadians and was satisfied with his season.

“My fastball topped out at between 86 and 88 mph this season,” he said.  “I’d like to get it up in the low 90’s by next spring.”

He continues to work out at the Centrefield Sports Complex in London in the off-season in hopes of strengthening his 160-pound frame.

He and his teammates will reconvene in Florida for spring training next March before touring the Dominican Republic in May.

Players will be cut after each session in order to get down to the final 20-man roster for the World Cup.

“I think I have a pretty good chance of making the final roster,” said Whitbread.

He is also eligible for the Major League Baseball draft next June, but is leaning toward U.S. college before embarking on what he hopes will be a career in the Majors.