By IAN WILSON
You can add another first to the baseball milestone list for Adam Macko.
The left-handed pitcher – a graduate of Vauxhall Baseball Academy – has been dealt from the Seattle Mariners, along with reliever Erik Swanson, to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for slugger Teoscar Hernandez.
The major trade will bolster the bullpen of the Blue Jays and Macko makes for an interesting prospect in the organization.
Macko, who was born in Slovakia and lived in Ireland before he moved to Stony Plain, Alberta, was the eighth-ranked prospect in Seattle’s system and that’s where he slots in on the depth chart of the Blue Jays, as well.
As a kid, the former Parkland Twins player taught himself how to pitch by watching and replicating YouTube videos of Justin Verlander and David Price.
The 21-year-old, selected in the seventh round of the 2019 Major League Baseball (MLB) Draft, has appeared in 26 minor-league games, 19 of them starts. Through those 95 innings, Macko racked up 148 strikeouts and posted a 3.98 earned run average (ERA). In 2022, he started eight contests for the High-A Everett AquaSox and posted 60 Ks and a 3.99 ERA in 38.1 innings of mound work.
He’s been laser-focused on making it to the big leagues since he was drafted.
“One big goal of mine in professional baseball is to not get caught up in the stats or the money or the rankings or stuff like that. I would love to just continue playing the game I love, and enjoying it and not letting those things get in the way. They will always take care of themselves,” he said in a 2020 interview with Alberta Dugout Stories.
Les McTavish, the head coach at Vauxhall Academy, sees a bright future for Macko.
“Exciting day for Adam. Not every day you are part of a trade for an MLB All-Star.”
“If Adam can stay healthy we are really going to see him take off with the Jays,” said McTavish.
“The Mariners had him as their top left-handed pitching prospect and everyone involved with the Vauxhall program are really excited to see what he can do for the Jays. We couldn’t ask for a better spot than with Canada’s team.”
Macko missed some playing time this year due to a left elbow strain and an injury to the meniscus in his right knee.
Kevin Inch, who coached Macko as a member of the Spruce Grove White Sox, is excited to see how his former pupil performs in his new organization.
“It’s always great for baseball in this country when names of players with Canadian connections are in the news. It is extra special when it is so close to home.”
“I am sure the entire Canadian and Alberta baseball community is cheering Adam on as he makes this move to the Jays organization,” said Inch.
“I know a lot of people in this province and country are pretty devout Jays fans, so it will be exciting to hopefully be able to follow him a little closer. He has all the tools to make it and I think I can speak on behalf of the Alberta baseball community that we are all rooting for him to make it.”
Macko’s father, Vladimir, is also pleased to see him return to Canada.
“Baseball is a business and we’re happy to see him in Blue Jays colours,” said Vladimir, adding the trade could reunite his son with Damiano Palmegiani, a Blue Jay prospect who also graduated from Vauxhall Academy.
“I’m excited to see them play together.”
Palmegiani played 62 games this year for the Vancouver Canadians, a Class-A affiliate in the Northwest League. He launched 13 homers and produced 46 runs batted in (RBI).
Another Vauxhall teammate, Maddux Mateychuk, recalled watching an incredibly driven athlete in Macko.
“His work ethic was insane. Just how he came to work every day was really fun to watch,” Mateychuk told Alberta Dugout Stories.
“The difference in his mindset compared to most others is crazy. He wants to be the best all the time and he will outwork anyone who challenges him.”
If Macko does end up pitching for the Toronto Blue Jays, it won’t be the first time he’s set foot on the mound at Rogers Centre. He took part in the Canadian Futures Showcase (previously known as Tournament 12 or T12) on two occasions when he was a teenager.
Ross Atkins, general manager of the Blue Jays, told reporter Ben Nicholson-Smith that the team has had it’s eye on Macko since his draft year.
“We’re very fortunate he was available,” said Atkins.
Sportsnet columnist Shi Davidi called Macko “an intriguing, young prospect” and “an interesting piece for the future.”
Justin Hollander, the general manager of the Mariners, discussed sending Swanson and Macko to the Blue Jays on the Brock & Salk show on Seattle Sports 710 AM.
“Really tough, personally and professionally … first trade for me as the GM and I trade one of our favourite relievers that I have personally and probably my favourite sleeper prospect that we have in the system since we drafted him, but that’s what you have to do in these situations. You have to put emotion to the side and do what you think is the right thing for the club and the organization,” said Hollander.
“When they asked for Macko and we ultimately settled on that, it was probably the tenth time that they’ve asked us for Adam Macko over the years since we drafted him … that they had asked about Macko so many times didn’t surprise me that they circled back to him. One, he’s good and, two, I think they always have a soft spot for the Canadian kids.”
DAWG DEALT AGAIN
Macko wasn’t the only former Alberta player on the move.
Tristan Peters, who played for the Okotoks Dawgs in the Western Canadian Baseball League (WCBL), was traded from the San Francisco Giants to the Tampa Bay Rays for infielder Brett Wisely.
It was the second time Peters was dealt this year. He was moved earlier from the Milwaukee Brewers to the Giants for reliever Trevor Rosenthal.
Peters, the 2019 WCBL Rookie of the Year and Playoff MVP, split time between High-A and Double-A in 2022. In 34 games with the Richmond Flying Squirrels of the Eastern League, the 22-year-old registered 17 RBI, 16 runs, five stolen bases and a home run.