By ZACH WORDEN
Special to Alberta Dugout Stories
Among the top Canadian baseball prospects, Simon Baker stood out above them all this week.
The Webber Academy outfielder put on a clinic at this year’s Canadian Futures Showcase and was named the tournament’s most valuable player before Saturday’s ‘Prospect Game.’
While he was forced to leave the game after being hit just below the ribs by an 85.8 miles-per-hour fastball in the top of the first inning, Baker had already left a lasting impression on those in attendance.
The 17-year-old hit .500 on the week with a 1.283 OPS, providing a constant force in Team Royal’s lineup as they went 2-1-1. He also collected three runs batted in (RBI), a triple and three stolen bases on his way to earning the MVP title belt.
“I came in just looking to do some damage,” Baker said following the tournament. “No goals in particular. Just play my game, be aggressive and hit baseballs hard.”
The Cochrane, Alberta native has emerged as one of the top uncommitted players in the class of 2024 over the past calendar year. He has played for the Webber Academy Wildcats, Team Alberta and the Canadian Junior National Team (JNT).
“After being here last year and getting the lay of the land and understanding the level of player that’s going to be here and the kind of work it was going to take him to get to this point, he hit another gear in how he went about his work,” said Webber hitting coordinator and Team Navy coach Cole Armstrong.
“He had a nice year with the Junior National Team. That was a big step for him, being able to see quality pitching on a regular basis.
“He kind of took off from there. The cool thing about it is that it’s been a gradual ascent for him. He’s learning as he goes, and having the success this week is huge for his confidence, and it’s exciting for everybody.”
Standing at six-foot-four, 195 pounds, Baker returned to the Futures Showcase — after attending the 2022 event in Ottawa — and got the full Major League Baseball (MLB) experience this time around.
“It was my first time playing in an MLB stadium, and it hit me hard,” he said. “Just imagining the stadium packed with fans is surreal.”
All of Baker’s tools were on display throughout the week. Every time he was at the plate, it seemed that he was driving the ball hard to some part of the Rogers Centre outfield turf. Of course, each time he reached base, he was a threat to swipe an extra bag or two as well.
“At the end of the day, the thing that stands out about him is his athleticism. His athletic acumen is crazy,” Armstrong said.
“He can adjust, and he knows how to put the work in. He can take a game where it didn’t go all that well and go in and know what to work on.”
Winning the tournament MVP certainly represents a major achievement for Baker, but his favourite part of the week was performing on the field.
“It means a lot. Even if I didn’t win MVP, I’ve had a great weekend,” he said.
“The MVP’s nice to have, but it doesn’t feel as good as hitting the ball over people’s heads.”
Going forward, Baker will return to the Wildcats and the Junior National Team, looking to build on the momentum that continues to surge at each stop he makes.
“I feel like I played my best version of baseball [this week] and I’m going to continue to try to play this way going forward,” he said.