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Tournaments : : Story
Slugger Morgan powers Jays
Jeff Dahn        
Published: Friday, October 26, 2012

JUPITER, Fla. -- Top Canadian outfield prospect Gareth Morgan is still enjoying his junior year at North Toronto (Ont.) High School but he's a young man that has also been given the opportunity to experience the world.

Morgan, a 6-foot-4, 210-pounder with big-time power from the right side of the plate, in the last year alone has played ball not only in his native Canada and points north and south across the eastern part of the United States, but also in the Dominican Republic and Seoul, South Korea.

This week Morgan is here with his Ontario Blue Jays teammates and head coach Dan Bleiwas for his first experience at the PG WWBA World Championship. The event that got off to a late start Friday thanks to rain and tropical storm-force winds provided courtesy of Hurricane Sandy, which sat offshore in the Atlantic Ocean.

Morgan and his 30-plus Blue Jays teammates have been riding a Travel Canada bus for a couple of weeks making their way down to this event, and it's been quite an adventure.

"Riding the bus can get a little annoying, but I guess it's fun traveling through all the states," Morgan said Friday afternoon after the Blue Jays beat the loaded Texas Scout Team Yankees, 5-2, in their tournament opener. "There's a lot of time on the bus, and we travel (many hours straight) sometimes, so there's a lot of time to talk and fool around and do whatever.

"It's great and I can't complain about being here in Florida," he added. "There are a lot of people here that can watch me."

The PG WWBA World Championship's appeal is its unmatched ability to bring hundreds of MLB scouts and college coaches to the Roger Dean Sports Complex to observe and evaluate many of the top high school-aged prospects in North America. Morgan is one of dozens of Canadian prospects playing on three teams from Ontario and British Columbia, including the Blue Jays. There were more than 50 golf carts filled with at least 100 scouts and coaches watching the Blue Jays-Texas Scout Team Yankees game.

"We're really pleased with the squad we brought down here," Bleiwas said Friday afternoon. "We have depth all over the place, starting on the mound, and our lineup top to bottom we're really pleased with because we have guys that can contribute all over the place."

The Blue Jays already played games against Division I college teams like Florida State, Troy State, Florida Gulf Coast and Florida International, among others, before arriving here on Wednesday.

The team travels with an academic advisor and tutors so the players don't fall behind in their class work, and the game the Blue Jays played Friday morning against the Texas Scout Team Yankees was their 51st of the fall.

"It was slow-going the first week, to be honest with you,  but we started to see some progress about a month ago," Bleiwas said. "We've been headed in the right direction every since."

The weather conditions put a strain on everyone involved with the tournament, from players, parents, umpires and the scouting and college coaching communities to Perfect Game staff members charged with recreating what was a meticulously designed schedule. With everyone working together, games were played Friday against just about all odds.

Bleiwas thinks by having his team all together on the same bus and in the same hotel helped lighten their load.

"It's challenging, but I think we're well-equipped to do that with the kids all staying together and not having to rely on parents to get them where they need to be," he said.

Morgan, ranked the No. 7 overall prospect in the class of 2014, was one of eight Ontario Blue Jays that were members of the Canadian National Junior Team that earned the silver medal (second to the United States) at the IBAF 18U World Baseball Championship played in Seoul in September.

The other Blue Jays -- all from Ontario -- that played on that team and are also here this week include outfielder Josh Naylor, catcher Owen Spiwak, middle-infielder Daniel Pinero and right-hander Christian Botnick. Naylor is a 2015 and was the youngest player from any country to play at the World event. Pinero, a 2013, recently committed to the University of Virginia.

Morgan is a special talent. He is ranked the 18th overall (high school, junior college, college) prospect in the 2014 draft class and the No. 7 high school prospect in that draft. This is his first experience at a Perfect Game event and he certainly chose the one that would get him the most exposure.

"There's still a lot of time for him (to get the necessary exposure) in that he's young; he's still a 2014," Bleiwas said. "This isn't a great day for him to hit, obviously, so I don't know what he can show today. But he's done an exceptional job all fall against college pitching and competition with our National Team. Just the adjustments he's made and the progress he's making going from being an athlete to becoming a true hitter. We're excited about that.

"He hasn't suffered from any lack of exposure," Bleiwas continued. "He's a little precocious; people have been seeing him since he was 14 years old and he's 16 now, so people have been seeing him for a couple of years (but) it's always significant to play in an event like this."

Morgan said the 50 mph wind gusts and intermittent rain only bothered him while he was patrolling right field.

"I didn't have to make any adjustments at the plate, just out in the field," he said. "When the ball goes out you have to know which way the wind's blowing so you don't make a mistake and over-run the ball."

It has been quite a ride for Morgan (and his Blue Jays teammates), both literally and figuratively. He first earned a spot on the Canadian National Junior Team as a 14-year-old, and when named to the team in March of 2011, Greg Hamilton, Baseball Canada's director of national teams, told Shi Davidi from sportsnet.ca that Morgan "has a chance to be a very special player."

"(With his size) he looks like Jesse Barfield ... (and) he projects to have plus power, plus arm and runs well for a big man," Hamilton said.

Morgan, for his part, has always enjoyed being the boy among men.

"I enjoy playing against guys older than me who are already in college," Morgan said. "I feel like it helps me get better and better every day (and) I feel like I've come a long ways since last year."



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