One of the harsh realities of any baseball season is that players may not get a chance to finish the campaign and help their teammates when they need them most.
For pitchers at the Major League Baseball (MLB) level, they may have innings limits or be forced to sit out due to injury.
In the Western Canadian Baseball League (WCBL), many pitchers are required to heed the requests of coaches at the schools they attend, rather than the summer teams they play for. It’s a common scenario for university and college programs to try to protect young arms and ensure players at their post-secondary schools are as effective as possible. Most summer collegiate teams are aware of conditions for players on their rosters and are eager to accommodate playing time limits.
Such is the case for lefty hurler Jaden Griffin, who recently wrapped up his season with the Lethbridge Bulls and is entering his sophomore year at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), a Division 1 program in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
The Vauxhall Academy graduate from Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia put together a stellar 2019 campaign for the Bulls. His 3-1 record, 1.80 earned run average (ERA), 31 strikeouts and one save in 30 frames for Lethbridge helped position the team for a playoff spot, while securing him a place in the WCBL All-Star Game.
We caught up with Griffin at the All-Star festivities in Edmonton and touched base with him again recently from his home in Nova Scotia to pose him seven questions as part of our 7th Inning Stretch series. Here’s what the southpaw had to say:
1. We noticed you haven’t pitched for the Lethbridge Bulls for a couple weeks. Is your WCBL season done?
Sadly, I got shut down and went home to Nova Scotia about two weeks ago. It was a request of my VCU coaches. It sucks I have to miss playoffs, but I’m glad I got to visit home.
2. You were having a good season in Lethbridge. What worked well for you this summer?
I just found that once I came back and I realized that I need to get rid of all the pressure that I’m putting on myself – just have more fun, stay loose and realize that it’s just a game and we’re all here to have fun – I feel like that’s what led to my success this summer.
3. Did you have any specific goals in mind when you reported to the Bulls?
No, it was basically just work on some of the things that my college coaches want me to work on and try to improve my game a little bit.
4. Before you came to Alberta for summer collegiate action, how did your freshman season at VCU go?
Baseball-wise, I struggled. I went through a bit of a freshman struggle, but I’m hoping that this summer will help me get back on track so that next year I can go back to school and have a much better year.
5. When did you find out you were a WCBL All-Star and what does it mean to you?
We were on our way to Brooks on the bus and I had my headphones on and a couple guys tapped me on the shoulder and they were, like, ‘Hey man, congrats,’ and I was like, ‘On what?’ They said: ‘You made the All-Star team!’
It was nice. It meant a lot, considering I moved out here for high school to go to Vauxhall and I know a lot of guys in this league and it was nice hearing from everybody.
6. The All-Star Game hasn’t happened for several years in this league. Tell me about the All-Star festivities and what those are like for the players?
It’s a really good opportunity for all the guys in the league to kind of come together instead of being rivals for so long.
There’s one day where we can all just have some fun and play a fun game with some of the best guys in the league here from all around the United States and all around Canada. I think it’s a great activity to have.
7. Many athletes are superstitious about pre-game rituals. Are you superstitious at all?
I’m superstitious about my on-field antics, so like what I do in the dugout before I go out to the mound, and how I warm up, and things I tell myself before each pitch. I’m a little bit superstitious about that, but not too much off the field.