By IAN WILSON
After 20 rounds and hundreds of prospect selections, the 2023 Major League Baseball (MLB) Draft is in the books.
This edition of the draft included a call to nine Canadians from MLB teams, down from the 15 Canucks that were taken last year.
Among the choices were a few with ties to Alberta baseball. Here’s a look at those familiar selections:
LUIS MARTINEZ-GOMEZ, 10th Round, 296th Overall, Chicago Cubs
Martinez-Gomez, who heard his name called by the Cubs on the second day of the draft, was an excellent pitcher for the Fort McMurray Giants in the Western Canadian Baseball League (WCBL) in 2022.
The righthander from California appeared in 15 games for Fort Mac, including one playoff game. In the regular season, the San Bernardino Valley College graduate went 3-2 with a 2.25 earned run average (ERA) and 76 strikeouts during his 56 innings pitched. He made five starts and also worked out of the bullpen and performed well enough to be named a WCBL All-Star on the West Division roster.
In the postseason, Martinez-Gomez got a start against the Sylvan Lake Gulls. He logged 6.2 innings in a no decision, struck out nine batters and allowed just one earned run in the 3-2 loss.
MATT WILKINSON, 10th Round, 308th Overall, Cleveland Guardians
Wilkinson was one of the most electric pitchers to take the mound for the Okotoks Dawgs in recent years, both at the academy level and in the WCBL.
The 6-foot-1 southpaw helped the Dawgs win a WCBL title in 2019 by going 1-1 with a 4.26 earned run average (ERA) in three regular season games. Through 12.2 innings, he struck out 16 batters. Wilkinson made his WCBL postseason debut that year, as well.
He returned for a pandemic-altered season with the Dawgs in 2021 and tossed 27 innings over six games, registering 56 Ks, a 1-1 record and a 2.66 ERA along the way.
The hard-throwing lefty was back again with the Dawgs in 2022 and was a key member of their championship ballclub. Through 11 regular-season contests, Wilkinson went 3-1 with an impressive 1.68 ERA and 55 strikeouts over 26.2 innings. He was unbeatable out of the bullpen in the postseason, allowing no hits or runs in four appearances and five innings of work. Wilkinson picked up two saves, including the final out in a title-clinching victory over the Moose Jaw Miller Express.
He went from throwing the last pitch of the 2022 WCBL season to tossing the first pitch of the summer for the Okotoks Dawgs in 2023 after being announced as the Opening Day starter. A short stint in the Cape Cod League followed and then the Guardians took him on board on the second day of the draft.
CHASE-ING THE PROS
Another former Fort McMurray Giants product landed himself a free agent contract mere days after the MLB Draft.
Chase Adkison spent three summers in WCBL, totalling 101 games between 2017 and 2019. He hit .305 with 19 doubles, six home runs and 53 RBI while stealing ten bases.
The Culver City, California native has since spent time with Boise State before spending the last two college seasons with Oklahoma State University, where he .314 with seven dingers and 44 RBI in 56 games for the Cowboys this spring.
The San Diego Padres made Homer Bush Jr. the 128th overall pick in the fourth round. That came 32 years after the Padres drafted his father into the organization.
The elder Homer Bush had a distinguished playing career that included several seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees. He won a World Series title with the Yanks in 1998.
Bush Sr. has remained active in baseball, taking on work as a manager most recently with the Staten Island FerryHawks of the Atlantic League.
Alberta baseball fans might recognize him from his appearance at the Okotoks Dawgs annual banquet in 2014, or his work around the province with Blue Jays Academy baseball camps for kids a few years back.
Meanwhile, the Baltimore Orioles used an 18th round pick on right-handed pitching prospect Tanner Witt. His father, Kevin Witt, was a first-round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays in 1994 and he got his pro start with the Medicine Hat Blue Jays that year. The shortstop played in 60 games for the Baby Jays and hit .255 with seven homers, 36 RBI and 37 runs. He later went on to have a five-year MLB career with Toronto, the Padres, the Detroit Tigers and Tampa Bay Rays. In total, he played in 146 MLB games. The elder Witt also worked as a minor-league hitting coach in the Miami Marlins organization.