Grimsby teenager makes Canada Summer Games team as reliever
When Aiden Taggart isn’t on the mound pitching Team Ontario or in the bullpen warming up, he has one of the best spots to take in the baseball competition that’s unfolding. for the 2022 Canada Summer Games in Niagara.
Right in the canoe. Close to the action, even closer to a big jug of Gatorade. No chance of being thirsty or hungry for banter on the bench.
But the 15-year-old from Grimsby is anything but a fan when he sits on the bench. As a relief pitcher, Taggart must be ready to enter the game, ideally with an idea of the opponent’s strengths and weaknesses.
Pitchers entering a game with runners on base, possibly in scoring position, can never have too much information. In Taggart’s craft, knowledge can be as powerful as a sinking fastball at the last possible second.
“I think it’s important to get a sense of what all the other teams are like,” said the Grade 11 student from Grimsby High School.
The 6-foot-3, 185-pound right-hander didn’t take the diamond in Ontario’s 5-4 loss to Saskatchewan on Tuesday morning at Oakes Park in Niagara Falls, but he was ‘in the game’ nonetheless. keeping track of the action.
“I help the coaches with their bookkeeping,” he said. “It’s good because I can keep in mind the guys I need to watch out for, especially if they excel in a certain area.”
Taggart, who started playing baseball at age five, is in his first season focused primarily on pitching for the Fieldhouse Pirates, an elite team based in Burlington. He starts for the Pirates but was selected to pitch out of the bullpen for Team Ontario at the quadrennial event which takes place at venues across the Niagara region.
“I like it. It gives everyone a chance to play and perform well,” he said. “I like being there in the big moments.”
The pressure to inherit runners as a reliever, rather than put it first as a starter, is unique to the son of Matt and Leslie Taggart.
“I’m not used to it, but I still think I’m fighting regardless.”
He ranks control and a good change as his strengths as a pitcher.
“I throw a lot of strikes,” he said. “I don’t walk a lot of guys.”
Since Taggart began focusing exclusively on baseball about three years ago, he’s come to understand that becoming preoccupied with a bad pitch doesn’t do anything to help himself or his team.
“It’s important to be able to forget a bad throw and be ready to throw the best you can next time.”
He made Team Ontario after a tryout in Kitchener where he performed well enough to be invited to the 40-man camp in Vaughan.
“It’s great to perform on such a big stage and in a competition that means so much to so many people.”
Each of the 10 teams at the Games are all-star teams made up of some of the best under-17 players from their respective provinces. It didn’t take long for Taggart to feel part of Team Ontario.
“I think the first practice we had as a team was when everyone gelled. A lot of those guys are in the same age group and playing against each other, so they really bonded quickly,” said Taggart, who pitched an inning against BC on Sunday.
Playing with some of the best players in Ontario and against some of the best in Canada can help elevate Taggart’s game
“I learned some things from my teammates and other players.”
Taggart finds the competition to be “top tier.”
“The best from every province are here and it’s an incredible caliber. Everyone is good.”
Fieldhouse Pirates is a baseball development program for players who want to get on the path to receiving a scholarship to play at a post-secondary institution in the United States or earning a contract to turn pro. Taggart hopes to use baseball as a way to further his education.
” That’s the point. Baseball has always been my favorite sport,” he said. “I liked basketball and other sports like that, but baseball is the one I was really good at.”
Taggart thinks he caught the “baseball bug” from his grandfather and uncle.
“I remember being little and watching them watching the Blue Jays on TV. This is probably where it all started.
In addition to showing off their skills in front of scouts and scouts, baseball players who compete in the Canada Summer Games also audition for a spot on the national team.
Taggart feels no added pressure knowing this.
“No I don’t think so. I’m one of the youngest here so I don’t feel the need to be better than everyone else,” he said. and if someone, like the junior national team people, notices me, that’s just a bonus.