Kingston pitcher Brash showcases skills
By Patrick Kennedy, The Whig-Standard
Tuesday, May 17, 2016 5:12:00 EDT PM
Kingston Thunder pitcher Matt Brash, 18, is eligible for the Major League Baseball amateur draft on June 9. (Elliot Ferguson/Whig-Standard file photo)
If the bird dogs of big-league baseball get wind of Matt Brash’s outing in Monday’s high school game at Megaffin Park, there might be more than the usual ‘family and friends’ watching the teenager’s next start. His staggering pitching line: four frames, no hits, no walks, 13 strikeouts — a baker’s dozen K’s courtesy of a dropped third strike that allowed one extra whiff victim to reach base.
We jest, of course. As impactful as that performance was, the competition was, shall we say, less than level, more akin to Tyson vs. Trudeau in the ring, Venus against your great-aunt Millie on the tennis court, Churchill in a debate with The Donald.
Not that it matters, anyway. Baseball scouts are already plenty aware of the lanky, lean righthander. In fact, with the 2016 major-league amateur draft less than three weeks away, Brash just might become the second-ever local player selected; the other being ex-Kingston Ponies pitcher Jonnie Mazzeo, who was the 41st-round pick of the Montreal Expos in 1999.
“Matt definitely has a chance,” noted Chris Kemlo, Toronto Mets field manager and Ontario scouting director for the Toronto-based Prep Baseball Report [PBR].
“It’s the most unpredictable draft among any sport,” Kemlo cautioned. “I’ve seen players draw interest from 20 teams, then get taken by a team that until that point showed no interest at all.
“Having said that, it only takes one person to like you and convince his bosses in the ‘war’ room.”
Brash, 18, has been a busy boy this spring, travelling to and from various auditions, showcasing his skill, cocking the odd eyebrow with a fastball that flies towards the plate at 90 miles per hour.
Last month at University of Toronto’s Dan Lang Field, he threw for scouts from three big-league clubs. On May 4, at an invite-only camp at the same venue, he worked out before 30 scouts representing a score of MLB teams. On each occasion, he bettered 90 m.p.h. on the radar gun.
Last week in London, in a bullpen session for the Oakland A’s, Brash periodically pumped 90 m.p.h. gas.
“Two years ago Matt was at 82-83 [m.p.h.],” said Kemlo. “Last year at the MLB outdoor camp in Etobicoke, he was 84-85, and at the recent May 4 workout, he was 88-89 all day and touched 91.”
The increase in speed, in gradual increments, is the result of “steady progression,” said Brash, who’ll leave Bayridge Secondary with a high-80s grade average, enrol in Niagara University in the fall and pitch for the Purple Eagles of Division I NCAA.
“After pitching with the [Toronto] Mets and playing in the Canada Cup last year, I felt I was ready to take the next step,” he said.
That step entailed adhering to an off-season workout regimen provided by Scott Robinson, who coached the teen with the Ontario youth team at last summer’s Canada Cup in Saskatoon.
The result was improved strength and durability and additional pop on his fastball.
“The program is designed to increase the efficiency of his arm action, to ensure the arm path is cleaner on release,” Robinson explained on the phone. “In Matt’s delivery, when his front foot hit the ground he’d get a bit long in his release. We tried to tighten that up a little.”
Brash also worked out with weighted balls ranging in size from three ounces to nine ounces. [A regulation baseball weighs five ounces.]
“The big thing was that Matt put in the work,” noted Robinson, “and it’s paid off.”
The proof is in the pudding, or rather in the pitches.
“At the [Ontario] youth camp last summer, he was 84-85 [m.p.h.],” Robinson pointed out. “Now he’s around 90, and in fact at the Ajax training facility in April, he ticked 94.
“The next uptick will come at school once he starts hitting the weight room on a regular basis.”
Throughout the winter conditioning program Brash could feel his arm getting stronger, his fastball faster, his stamina stretched out.
“In every off-season before that, I worked out but never on my arm,” the pitcher said. “With Scott’s program, I strengthened my arm. I knew my velocity was going up, I mean the numbers showed that, but I could actually feel my velocity improving.”
As for that aforementioned ‘next uptick’ and the need to pack on pounds and muscle, Brash, an all-around athlete, concurred. He stands 6-1 and weighs a buck fifty-five stepping out of the shower.
“I’ll fill out,” he vowed, “and stay in the low 90s [m.p.h.].” He reconsidered that last statement. “Then again, velocity plays a big part.”
His coach-to-be at Niagara, Rob McCoy, raved about the lad’s “potential and drive” and summed him up this way:
“Good kid, good grades, good attitude, good work ethic, good athlete. With those kinds of kids there’s usually a good upside.”
Calm, cool, coachable, composed, collected, pleasant, polite, respectful, grounded, level-headed: Adjectives that best describe the youngest of Sandra and Jamie Brash’s two children who will toe the rubber for a Kingston Thunder team this summer and also join the Mets for a U18 tournament in Indianapolis. The latter two traits, in particular, will help guide modest Matt come MLB draft day [June 9].
“Just another day,” noted the unflappable flamethrower. “Whatever happens, happens. If I don’t get drafted, I’ll be just as happy to go to university. If I do, I’ll make a decision then.”