TORONTO -- The Blue Jays Baseball Academy's annual Tournament 12 baseball showcase, which exposes college-eligible Canadian-born players to professional scouts and university recruiters, will return for its second installment at Rogers Centre from Sept. 16-20.
The tournament includes eight teams from across Canada that will represent their region and play at least five games on the big league diamond. A champion will be crowned at the end of the week, but these games are more about getting exposure for some of the country's top athletes.
"The idea for a tournament of the best of the best had been discussed in baseball circles for a while," Blue Jays senior vice president of business operations Stephen Brooks said. "We, the Blue Jays, came to the conclusion that we were in a position to make it happen and to make it happen relatively quickly.
"We were in a position where we could gather information from multiple sources, players, coaches, scouts and MLB, and then make an objective decision about who were the best players, regardless of team affiliation, association affiliation or any other association or relationship."
The tournament made its debut in 2013, and it was considered an overwhelming success. Scouts from more than 20 universities in the United States attended the event, and right-hander Andrew Case left the tournament with a contract to join the Blue Jays organization.
Case was relatively unknown until he jumped to the forefront with an impressive week at Rogers Centre. He threw a no-hitter during the semifinals to lead the Maritimes into the championship game. Case featured a 90-mph fastball with a mid-70s slider that he threw for strikes.
It was a heartwarming story for the native of Saint John, New Brunswick, and while most of the players will be competing for the attention of college scouts and not necessarily professional teams, it's still a perfect example of what a tournament like this can do for exposure of athletes.
"I have to say that I was personally very moved by the story of Andrew Case," Brooks said. "The story of him and his father waiting by the phone and then to hear that he had been signed to a Major League organization was very satisfying for all involved in the tournament. I'm a dad of two young boys, so I can understand the emotion of that moment for a proud father.
"If one Canadian kid gets the chance that they otherwise would not have received to further their education or to play professional baseball, then this tournament has achieved its goal. The encouraging part is that other kids have also received opportunities, invites to other showcases and second looks from scouts as well."
Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar is set to return as the tournament commissioner and has joined forces with JaysCare to help provide funding for the teams that will be traveling from outside of Ontario. A financial contribution of $100,000 will be made to assist with the costs of travel and also to provide accommodations for the duration of the tournament.
In addition to Alomar, there will be several other big names lending their support. Sandy Alomar Sr., Paul Quantrill, Duane Ward, Lloyd Moseby, Devon White and Jesse Barfield have already signed on, while Baseball Canada will continue to be at the forefront.
The first 10 roster spots for each team will be announced on May 28. Seven additional spots will then be named on Aug. 15, with the final tournament rosters being declared on Aug. 29. All players will be selected by the Blue Jays Baseball Academy with assistance from the club's scouting department, Baseball Canada and the Major League scouting bureau.
"We have an opportunity to give back to the city and the country a game that has given us so much," Brooks said. "The roots of baseball in this country go back to the early 1800s. Frankly, much of the game of baseball we know today originated in this country. There are more Major Leaguers from Canada than ever before, the national-team programs are very strong and the grassroots game is strong.
"Everyone who participates in baseball in this country, in whatever way, is to some degree a steward of the game in Canada. As the only MLB team in this country, our profile in the game is obviously significant; therefore, how we give back to the game should be significant as well."
Eligible players will be evaluated throughout the 2014 season at MLB Scouting Bureau tryouts, major tournaments, the Canada Cup and provincial roster selection camps. There will also be a series of invitational final evaluation camps in July and August. Exact dates and times will be available at BlueJays.com/t12.
As for the future of the tournament, it appears as though the Blue Jays are in this for the long haul and the event will only get bigger with each passing year.
"I would say the most likely next step is to add an element of foreign competition to the tournament to allow the Canadian best to prove themselves against either the best in the United States, or the best in Latin America, or the Caribbean," Brooks said. "That would add an interesting element to the tournament and gain even more interest from scouts. We have to balance that of course with our goal, which is to get exposure for our best Canadian kids. These are all things that we are discussing."