Soroka picks up win in MLB debut

Calgary pitching prospect Mike Soroka – who we interviewed before he left for spring training – made his Major League Baseball debut last night, taking the mound for the Atlanta Braves during a start against Noah Syndergaard and the New York Mets at Citi Field.

The 6-foot-5, 225-pound righty ended up picking up the win after putting in six innings of work. He gave up six hits and one earned run – a solo home run off the bat of Yoenis Cespedes – while issuing no walks and striking out five, en route to a 3-2 Braves victory.

Here’s a look at Soroka’s special day and the reactions to it:

Soroka gets the call:

Pitcher Nick Vickers, who was a teammate of Soroka’s on Team Alberta and Canada’s 2015 Junior National Team (JNT):

“I think it’s great for Calgary and Alberta because it gives all of the younger players a really good role model. It also gives them hope that if they work hard enough that one day it could potentially be them. Personally, I’m just excited to see him get after it. I know he’s ready for this moment.”

Jackson Wark was another Team Alberta and 2015 JNT teammate:

“Mike was the best pitcher on the national team and he knew it, but instead of making him arrogant I think it just made it more fun. He’s a serious guy when it comes to getting his work done, but I remember him having a lot of fun with the game,” said Wark, whose St. Louis University Billikens were playing while Soroka was on the mound, leaving the university pitcher to duck into the indoor facility to watch between innings.

“He is very focused and has worked hard to get where he is. He and I made Team Alberta in 2013, and look where he is now just five years later. On a more selfish note, it’s reassuring to see that he put in the work and got where he is. Maybe we can follow his path and achieve our dreams, too.”

Jeff Osadec, Head Strength & Conditioning Coach, Calgary’s Canadian Sport Institute:

“It’s exciting. He called the other day to say thank you for all the help. That’s the kind of kid he is … amazing person,” said Osadec, who helped Soroka with his offseason training.

“He knew the day (of his MLB debut) was coming sooner than later … so he knew that he had to keep putting in work, take care of the details and not get too far ahead of the situation. He has been preparing for this for so long, he knew that all the work was going to culminate with this moment.”

“Everything about Mike is professional. He is beyond the maturity of a 20 year old. He came to me this summer, prepared and with a plan. On his last days in the gym he thanked all of the staff and said good bye. He is the kind of athlete all coaches dream of working with.”

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Brent Cooper prepares a “K” shirt in advance of Mike Soroka’s MLB debut

Brent Cooper, Pro Baseball Force (PBF)/Calgary Redbirds Coach:

“It’s safe to say this is the biggest moment of Mike’s career to this point, a moment he and his family will never forget. Mike will absolutely be competing against the best of the best, in every capacity and sense of the word,” said Cooper, who flew to New York to witness Soroka’s debut in person.

“It doesn’t take long, when you hop on social media, to see what’s happening here. This isn’t just a personal win for Mike and his family; it’s not an organizational win for anyone, or even a provincial win for Baseball Alberta … this is Canadian baseball’s national program showcasing one of its best talents ever. Period.”

“That’s why we’re here – for our Canadian boy, to show our love and support for Michael Soroka and his family across this proud nation.”

LaRon Smith, 17-year-old Okotoks Dawgs player and current member of Canada’s Junior National Team:

“What he is doing, to be in the majors at 20 years old, is unheard of from Canadians …. It lets us have hope to one day play in the big leagues.”

Coach Ramon Valdez, who caught several of Soroka’s offseason bullpen sessions and has known him since 2010:

“With his determination and maturity on the mound, I doubt (pitching in New York) will phase him,” said Valdez.

“It’s always awesome seeing someone you know achieve their dream, more so in this case having caught him the past couple offseasons and seeing him progress.”

Soroka signs first MLB contract:

The Fan Club:

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Members of the Soroka fan club: Brent Cooper (left), Tom Gayef (centre), James Trask (right)

James Trask, president of the Foothills Major Baseball Association:

“That was the best MLB game I’ve been to. Hard sinkers from Mike tonight – not sure there was a fly ball all night. And the Canadians represented!”

Former Kansas City Royals draft pick and Calgary Viper Jordy Alexander, who has known Soroka since the Braves pitcher was in Little League:

“I’m just very happy for him and his family. He’s put in work mentally and physically, and continues to get better with age and experience. I’m looking forward to seeing many more of these great outings that he had today. Super exciting!”

Before he took the mound, Soroka had his first MLB plate appearance: 

First career strikeout for Soroka:

Drew Miller, former Calgary Viper and program director/coach at Calgary’s Coyote Den, where Soroka spends time training in the offseason:

“It was an amazing outing, so much fun to watch …. He acted like he had been in the bigs for years. He went right after each hitter and wasn’t rattled by anything.”

Gary Soroka, Mike’s father, in conversation with Fox broadcaster Paul Byrd during the game, discussing his son’s call to the majors: 

“It was actually pretty calm between the two of us. He gave us a call on Saturday night and said it’s a possibility. We exchanged a couple of, ya know, ‘way to go buddy, I knew you could do it’ and I hung up the phone and broke down, and I don’t know what he did but it’s very, very exciting to see him here. It’s amazing.

“I’m just so, so, so very proud of him … you know, eight years ago, almost to the day, his Mom passed away and, I don’t know, I guess we just kind of gravitated towards sports and he adopted baseball. Baseball was what he loved to do and it’s showing out there now. It’s great to see him out there having fun and we couldn’t be prouder.”

“(On hearing jeers from New Yorkers at Citi Field) He loves the challenges, always has. He’s always come up big when he has to. I think that’s part of playing hockey growing up, as well. You’re used to getting taunted from the players and from other fans and it’s like, ‘Alright, bring it on.’ He just loves the competition. I can see it on him tonight. He’s just having a ball.”

Family at the game:

Post-game comments from Soroka to the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

“I was actually telling the guys it was kind of nice to get that at-bat in the first, because I got the jitters out of the way there,” Soroka said of batting in his debut before he threw a pitch, “and it just kind of felt like another inning after that. Got out there, executed pitch one and then went from there.”

“To finally get that call was still pretty amazing, to find out you’re going to come join the team in New York, too, is pretty awesome. It’s been a blur the past couple of days and I’m really glad my dad and his girlfriend made it down. They’ve been through everything, along with my sister. A lot of family and friends and am really looking forward to spending time with them later.”

“(Former MLB pitcher and Calgarian Chris Reitsma has) been my pitching coach since I was 12 or 13. I don’t think when we started we were even envisioning something like this. It kind of just took off. He’s been there to talk to about everything – baseball, life, whatever it may be, he’s been through everything. So, very fortunate to have him by my side.”

Post-game hugs with Reitsma:

In-game interview with Reitsma by Fox broadcaster Paul Byrd:

“I’m fired up for the kid. I’m so proud of him … the first time I laid eyes on him he was a 13-year-old kid with no arm strength and now he’s pitching in the big leagues, so he’s like a little brother to me, really. It’s just really fun to see him progress and I have so much respect for him and his talents, and the respect he has for the game, just really proud of him.”

“He always asked great questions, just really wanted to learn. He was different from most kids that you talk to and his ability to take what you give him and put it to work on the mound was unbelievable.”

“What you’re seeing tonight, he’s 20 years old, I’m telling you, it’s a sign of things to come. He’s a special kid and he’s going to be great for a lot of years.”

Full post-game interview with Soroka:

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