Star in the making

Robin
Robin Short
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Southpaw Myles Vincent opening eyes after Team Canada baseball performance

You’re still only 18, throwing fastballs in the mid-80s, you’ve got a biting curveball and now you’re on Baseball Canada’s radar.

Can it be any better?

Yeah, you’re a southpaw.

“His arm works, and the trump card is he’s left-handed,” Greg Hamilton was saying this week about young Myles Vincent from Corner Brook.

“The breaking ball is his out pitch and when you’re a lefty with a plus breaking ball, well, somebody will give you a chance.”

Vincent emerged from out of nowhere to help Canada win a silver medal at the world 18-and-under baseball championship which finished up last weekend in South Korea.

Hamilton, Baseball Canada’s head coach and director of national teams, had actually been keeping an eye on Vincent for the past year or so, but his interest piqued this summer following the slender left-hander’s showing at the Canada Cup under-18 tournament in London, Ont.

In his only start, against Saskatchewan, Vincent allowed five runs on five hits. He was a bit wild, walking six batters, but it was his 11 strikeouts in six-plus innings of work — hitting 87 on the radar gun — that got tongues wagging.

“He was very dominant,” Hamilton said.

It was at that point fate intervened.

One of Hamilton’s starters on the national junior club — a left-hander — saw his season come to an end with Tommy John surgery. The Nats needed an arm and Hamilton tabbed Vincent.

“It was a perfect storm, if you will, and Myles was the guy who fit right in,” said Hamilton, who invited the Newfoundlander to join the team less than a week before the Italian Baseball Week Tournament in Trieste, Italy.

Vincent is heading back to Alberta’s Prairie Baseball Academy for another year, but Hamilton suggests the youngster shouldn’t get too used to Lethbridge.

Bird dogs from a number of U.S. colleges have tabbed Vincent.

“He’ll play NCAA DI ball, without a doubt,” said Hamilton from Florida, where he’s joining Ernie Whitt, Larry Walker and Denis Boucher as the coaching staff for the senior national team as it prepares for the World Baseball Classic qualifier in Germany later this month.

“There are opportunities out there now, maybe even as early as January. And it’s not far-fetched to think he’ll play pro ball after college.”

Hamilton said Vincent is throwing between 85 and 87 miles per hour, and he can see him topping out at 87 to 90 as he matures and grows stronger.

Vincent isn’t overly big, standing at about five foot ten, but Hamilton isn’t concerned.

“He’s about Rhéal Cormier’s size, and it worked out well for him,” he said of the native New Brunswicker, who won 71 career big league games.

“Myles can probably pitch at 87 to 90, which is plenty with his breaking ball. His curve has a real tight spin, and a real bite to it.”

Vincent seems well on his way to following in the footsteps of another Corner Brook southpaw. Frank Humber did pretty good for himself, attending Wake Forest on a scholarship, pitching for Canada in the 1988 Olympics and playing a couple years pro in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ system.

Humber is back in Corner Brook now, teaching school. But his best pupil might be Vincent, whose mechanics are flawless, his delivery best described as effortless.

“You can’t devalue the value of genetics,” Hamilton said. “Good players are born, not made. Myles has that natural ability to spin a nice breaking ball.

“All he needs now is maturity and a better understanding how to pitch.”

•••••

I’m fed up.

Up to my molars, actually, with rich hockey players and even richer hockey owners bitching and moaning and otherwise trying to make sense of something that is utterly senseless.

And that, of course, is the prosects of an NHL labour dispute.

I don’t care about hockey-related revenue, the industry’s new buzzword these days. I care less for salary cap ceilings. And I surely have no interest in reading or hearing about the NHL Players’ Association filing application to the Quebec Labour Relations Board or in Alberta to declare the impending NHL lockout illegal in the provinces.

All I know is this:

Since the last labour stoppage, in 2004-05, league revenues have grown by over a billion dollars. The average player is pocketing $2.5 million. Scrubs I’ve seen come through the American Hockey League are making a million up top.

This week, as new locks are being readied to put on the doors of NHL rinks, the Boston Bruins signed Tyler Seguin to a six-year, $34-million contract. Friday, the Dallas Stars signed goaltender Kari Lehtonen (five years, $29.5 million) and the Washington Capitals inked defenceman John Carlson (six years, $23.8 million).

Players are driving Jags and Cadillacs (that’s when they’re not riding around in freebies courtesy of the dealerships). They’re wearing Rolex and Hugo Boss.

Yet fans give up their firstborn to buy a hockey ticket, pay 10 or 15 bucks for a program, 20 (when you leave the change) for a beer and hotdog, and $40 for a lousy ball cap.

The whole thing is enough to make you puke.

Robin Short is The Telegram’s Sports Editor. He can be reached by email rshort@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Team Canada, NHL, Prairie Baseball Academy Los Angeles Dodgers Quebec Labour Relations Board American Hockey League Boston Bruins Dallas Stars Washington Capitals Rolex

Geographic location: Corner Brook, Canada, Alberta South Korea.Hamilton Saskatchewan Trieste U.S. Florida Germany Wake Forest

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