New Glasgow southpaw receives scholarship from Division I U.S. college
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J.P. Stevenson will have a hard time one-upping 2013.
The left-handed pitcher from New Glasgow made Canada’s national junior team, played for the Maritime team that won the inaugural Tournament 12 national championship and recently signed a full scholarship with Canisius College. He will begin his tenure with the Division I college in Buffalo, N.Y., in September.
“I couldn’t really ask for a better year,” Stevenson told The Guardian.
“Getting that opportunity on the national team, representing the Maritimes, getting a win and actually winning a national tournament for the Maritimes . . . (The scholarship) kind of is the cherry on the top of it all.”
The 17-year-old hurler said his coach at Vauxhall Academy of Baseball, Les McTavish, told him there was some interest from colleges last winter.
Stevenson visited the Canisius campus before heading to Sherbrooke, Que., this summer for the Canada Games.
He liked what he saw and was pleased when the scholarship offer arrived.
It was something he had hoped would happen when he left New Glasgow as a 15-year-old for the Alberta academy.
“There was always that desire and dream,” Stevenson admitted.
“But coming from P.E.I., being such a small province and a small baseball province, it wasn’t really in my head that I thought Division I would be an opportunity for me, let alone a full scholarship.
“Coming to Vauxhall definitely made that a possibility and it’s become a reality now.”
Canisius head coach Mike McRae is Canadian and coached Andrew MacNevin at Niagara University. He also recruited Andrew Macdonald there, but left for Canisius before Macdonald arrived.
“There is definitely a strong tie to P.E.I. and Canadian players and I’ve heard nothing but good things about the coach and the program,” Stevenson said.
“I put all the credit into Les and Vauxhall. Without him I would never had this type of contact or exposure to any of these schools down in the States.”
McRae said they like many of the things they have seen from Stevenson during the past two years.
“He has obviously what I would call advanced pitch ability for his age,” he said.
“He doesn’t necessarily light up the radar gun, but he’s had tremendous amount of success at some upper levels.”
Stevenson reminded the Canisius coaching staff of lefty Mike Goemans, who pitched four years for the Golden Griffins and also played for Canadian junior squad.
“He competes, his arm works good and he’s had the ability to get guys out,” McRae said.
Stevenson is eligible for the Major League Baseball Draft in June, but said he is concentrating on his own play right now. If drafted, he would have to decide whether to sign or go to college. He could still be drafted after his third or fourth season of college ball.
The six-foot-two, 190-pound pitcher is working on getting stronger through the off-season and is in the Vauxhall indoor facility five days a week practising.
He has a trip in late March with the national junior team and a couple of big tournaments at the end of April with Vauxhall in Kamloops, B.C., and Las Vegas.
While no guarantees, Stevenson said he will be given a chance to prove himself at Canisius.
“Obviously, (they’re) putting a lot of money into me and banking on big things for me in my four years there, but nothing is a given right now.”
Stevenson comes home Friday for the Christmas holidays and will be here for nearly three weeks. While chasing his dream far from home, he has not forgotten where he came from.
“Every time I go out there I am not only doing it for myself and my team, but for everybody back home who wants to be that baseball player and maybe play on the Canadian national team or go to a high school or college program,” he said.
“It’s starting to become a reality for Island kids.”
Before Stevenson went west there were a small number of players leaving the Island to pursue baseball. That number is increasing each year with a dozen players currently at high school and college programs.
“More young people and their parents are identifying potential opportunities,” said Baseball P.E.I. president Don LeClair.
He said it is a credit to the grassroots work being done by coaches across the province and at facilities like the Eastern Baseball Academy.
“It’s preparing them to be able to take advantage of these opportunities when they present themselves.”
He pointed to players like Tanner Craswell and Mitch MacLean as among the trailblazers for the province’s baseball players looking to continue to improve in their chosen sport.
While some of the recent players leaving the Island were infielders, there is now a good cross-section of pitchers, catchers, infielders and outfielders.
Leclair noted a new academy recently opened in Stratford, Ont., providing more opportunities for young baseball players.
John Patrick (J.P.) Stevenson
Who – A left-handed pitcher currently attending Vauxhall Academy of Baseball in Alberta. He recently received a full scholarship to attend Canisius College in Buffalo, N.Y.
Hometown – New Glasgow
Age – 17
Current year — Grade 12.
Stevenson has been busy the last couple years after training with Eastern Baseball Academy from 2009 to 2011. He has been a starter for the junior national team at the World Cup, had a successful fall in 2012 with Vauxhall not allowing a base on balls in any start and is now one of the leaders at Vauxhall. Stevenson has signed with a highly recognized NCAA Division I U.S. school, Canisius College.
In his own words – “I’m a control pitcher who throws his off-speed for strikes and keeps hitters on their toes.”
Always a pitcher? Stevenson said he was always on the mound, but also hit up until a few years ago when he discovered his best trait was pitching.
“As soon as those metal bats were gone, I wasn’t much of a hitter.”