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5 B.C. baseball prospects selected in 2015 MLB draft

06/15/2015 08:14 EDT | Updated 06/15/2016 05:59 EDT
The 2015 Major League Baseball draft wrapped up last week and among the 30 Canadians drafted, five were from British Columbia - Jeff Degano, Devon Stewart, Tristan Graham, Will McCaffer and Alex Webb.

"We vary up and down from year to year based on talent...but that's a good number for us," said Ted Hotzak, President of the B.C Premier Baseball League, where many elite prospects have played as youngsters.

Hotzak says the creation of the league in 1995 allowed young talent to remain in the province and develop their skills locally. 

"The whole intent of the league was to provide 90 to 110 games for our athletes that wanted to play at a real competitive level, with the idea of being able to compete with the U.S products to go both to college and try to make it in the major leagues," said Hotzak.

In recent years, B.C. has produced some high quality ball players such as Langley's Brett Lawrie, New Westminster's Justin Morneau and North Delta's Jeff Francis. 

Hotzak says players are also aided by B.C.'s mild climate, which enables them to practise, condition and play throughout the year.

"We can work outside from February, March, not consistently, but you can get out and work on the field...that's a big plus for us."

'Everybody wants to be a hockey player'

While there has been great success with their current talent, Hotzak says it can be difficult to attract new athletes given the popularity of hockey and soccer.

"It is much easier to play soccer, it's much cheaper, you don't need a lot of equipment. Hockey, because it is the Canadian sport, everybody wants to be a hockey player."

Hotzak says to maintain B.C.'s level of success in baseball, it is essential to expose kids to the sport at a young age, especially the province's rising multicultural population.

"A lot of the ethnic groups are very good athletes, but baseball is foreign to them," said Hotzak.

"We have to work at the grassroots level to encourage everybody that's an athlete, that baseball is an option. Pretty much every graduate of our league can go on to play college ball if they are academically eligible."

To hear the full interview, listen to the audio labelled B.C. baseball prospects.

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