By ZACH WORDEN
Special to Alberta Dugout Stories
When the players, coaches and assorted baseball observers assembled for scout day at the Canadian Futures Showcase, Nathan Flewelling hit perhaps the longest home run of the outing.
It was a hard-struck ball that smacked off the face of Schneider’s Porch in the 200 level of Rogers Centre.
That was just the beginning of Flewelling’s long-ball exploits this week in Toronto.
Selected for Saturday’s Home Run Derby, the Innisfail, Alberta native cracked 11 total dingers over two rounds to secure the event’s championship belt.
“It feels great. Obviously, I’m kind of in shock right now,” the 17-year-old said in the aftermath of his victory.
“I’m sure it’ll soak in in a couple of hours, probably in the evening. But right now, life doesn’t feel right now … I don’t know if I’ll even remember this or if it’ll be blacked out. It’s an incredible honour and I’m just happy to get the opportunity.”
A Gonzaga University commit, Flewelling put in work during the rest of the showcase as well.
While representing Team New Blue, the Red Deer Braves’ backstop helped his club to a 3-0-1 record, earning a spot in Saturday’s ‘Prospect Game.’
“It means everything to me too be honoured, to be part of the 175 top players in Canada,” Flewelling said.
“It’s one of those moments the game gives you that makes you realize why you love the game and why you keep playing every day.”
Flewelling was the first batter to step into the box Saturday and immediately set the tone with five homers deep to right field.
That performance helped him finish third in the opening round and move on to the final, where he turned it up. He blasted six balls over the fence in his second round to put the pressure on the final two competitors.
While Trois-Rivieres’ Esteban Dessureault launched five dingers as the final contestant in the derby, when the clock struck zero on his round it was Flewelling who was crowned as the champ.
Earlier in the summer, Flewelling caught up with Alberta Dugout Stories: The Podcast to talk about coming to the Futures Showcase and how he was approaching the week.
“Just go there and keep progressing every day … but when I get there, I don’t worry about it too much. Just play my game. Just go out there and have fun because that’s all it is,” he said.
“You don’t have to change anything, you don’t have to play any different. Just play your own game and be yourself and the rest will take care of itself.”
In preparation for the week in Toronto, Flewelling did his homework and came into the tournament with a load of background knowledge for what to expect.
“I always try to ask as many people as I can about what it’s going to be like,” he said.
“People who have been there before, it always seems to help out more, asking those people in your life.”
Coming off a busy summer that saw him suit up with the Western Canadian Baseball League’s Sylvan Lake Gulls, Flewelling is starting to realize exactly how far he’s come in the game of baseball.
Whether it be playing for Team Alberta at the Canada Cup or in the WCBL, Flewelling has blossomed into one of the top young catchers north of the border.
“You sometimes have to stop and take it all in and realize where [you’re] at and be like, ‘Okay, I’m playing against some of the best players in the country.’ I just gotta be thankful and just go out there and prove to myself that I can play with the best players in the country,” he said.
As he moves forward, with the Futures Showcase under his belt, Flewelling hopes to join the likes of the numerous tournament alumni who have gone on to be selected in the MLB Draft.
“Just seeing the guys year after year go there and do well and then eventually get picked high in the draft. The end goal is to be selected in the draft,” he told ADS: The Podcast.
“It’s a place I can go, soak it all in, and take advantage of the program and coaches so I can elevate my game.”
He certainly did a lot of elevating this week at Rogers Centre, capping it off with a championship belt over his shoulder.