By Darren Lum
Minden’s Austin Boylan is a teenager taking a swing at a lifelong dream ofbecoming a professional baseball player by joining the elite baseballprogram Team Ontario Baseball Club despite coming from a community thatdoesn’t offer organized hardball.
The Archie Stouffer ElementarySchool graduate and former Fenelon Falls Running Rebels’ playersubmitted a video application earlier in the year that got him a spot on the team and in-person assessment of his skills with drills and time in the batting cage. He is looking forward to becoming an Astros playernot only for the experience of playing with the team this autumn butalso for an opportunity to further improve his skills.
“It means alot to make this team because I have opened up many doors for myself toget to where I want to be because Team Ontario Astros have a greatbaseball program and it shows me that hard work and dedication willhelp you achieve big goals which I was and have been training every day working to better my skills and not just through COVID-19 but to keepbettering myself to get to where I want to be. And now I will have great trainers and coaches help me get to the next level in my baseballcareer.”
The program boasts a high rate of success for its olderplayers as there have been scholarship opportunities to attend U.S.colleges for most of its under-18 and under-17 active players since itstarted in 1998.
Team Ontario Baseball Club director of baseballoperations Jason Booth said Austin was an ideal candidate for hiscurrent abilities and his potential to reach new heights thanks to agood attitude and strong work ethic.
“We feel that he checks a lot of boxes for us and is the kind of athlete that we’re looking for and wesee him as a guy that is going to be a very good player down the roadand could help our program” he said.
The coaching staff liked his arm strength batting and his fielding ability.
“He handles the baseball very well. Defensively he’s got good hands[strong] transition and we like his bat. He can swing it a little bit.He’s got some power. Like I said for us it’s about projection. Heprojects into a guy in the next couple years to be pretty good andhopefully he gets some U.S. college opportunities down the road” hesaid.
They believe Austin can pitch and take spot on the left side of the infield Booth added.
His team will play games in the Canadian Premier Baseball League during the fall until mid- to late-October depending on weather which will follow with winter training and development. Typically the season is May June and July including tournaments in the U.S. There is an autumn season.The home park is at the Stewart Burnett Park in Aurora and they train at The Dugout Baseball and Softball Academy in Concord.
As far astravelling to compete in the U.S. the program hopes to playlate-autumn but believes they will be playing in the spring. A trip toFlorida is planned in March 2021. U.S. games enable players to showcase their skills to scouts with American universities and offer strongcompetition.
Austin was surprised his video application led to this opportunity.
“I was very happy and I told my parents and they were proud and alsoshocked in excitement. When they asked me to come down I said to myself ‘This is my chance to make something of myself and I can’t screw thisup this is what I have been working towards and now I have to go get it because it is right there.’”
Accepting recruits via a video wasrelatively new for Team Ontario but is part of the a trend this yearbecause of the pandemic.
Austin said joining the program is an affirmation of his efforts to overcome challenges.
“I have worked so hard every day and it’s crazy because there is nohardball in Minden and I previously played for the Fenelon Falls Running Rebels [which] is county league and I went from that to Team Ontarioin one year. That’s crazy. I am pretty much self-taught with my parents’ help and coaches’ help along the way but I have only been playinghardball for two years … at a county league level and some guys haveplayed their whole life. Baseball is in my blood and I want to go bigone day and I love the game of baseball.”
The future now is to continue to improve he adds.
“My next goal is to improve my skills to a pro level and get scholarship to a school somewhere in the United States or Canada. I would like to getto a NCAA [division one] school” he said.
If he has his wayVanderbilt University located in Nashville Tennessee is his choice.It’s one of the best baseball programs around. However he said he’sopen to any “good offers” as far as a scholarship is concerned.
After that he hopes to get drafted and signed to a major league baseball team or any professional baseball team in the world.
“It will take a lot of hard work and dedication but I am ready” he said.
Success stories such as Matt Duchene who plays centre for the NashvillePredators in the NHL have been an inspiration reminding him hard workdoes pay off and that anything is possible even making the professional ranks from a small town.
Austin appreciates the support he has received from his parents and coaches who have helped him with his recent achievement.
“I wanna thank my parents Kristen Boylan Jason Boylan James Raposo the coaching staff from Fenelon Falls Running Rebels and my old teacherMichelle Kernohan because they all have taught me a lot in and out ofbaseball and have shown me tips and help me have the mindset to help meget to where I am today” he said.
Dad Jason Boylan is proud of his son.
“I am extremely proud of Austin and who he has become and the amount ofhard work he has put into it. He’s achieving his dreams and goals byhard work self-discipline and overall maturity. He’s never been handedanything in any sports in the area and has always had to pave his ownway even though he’s always faced obstacles and roadblocks. He should be proud of himself as his focuses are set to be successful and will go on to bigger and better things. With his families’ support we will helphim achieve his goals. I am truly proud of who he is becoming not onlyas my son but an amazing young man” he wrote in an email.
Booth couldn’t recall another recruit from the Highlands since he has been with the team from 2008.
Country athletes like Austin often share similar positive attributes which work well with the program’s atmopshere.
“They’re tough. They’re hard-nosed and they like to work. Let’s put it this way they’re not afraid to work and I think those are great characteristicsthat help take them through Team Ontario but beyond into collegeopportunities” he said.