Former Langley Blaze ball player Tyler O’Neill is gearing up to play with Team Canada again next week.
The 21-year-old outfielder, who hails from Maple Ridge but rose to B.C. Premier League stardom with the Langley Blaze, will be representing Canada during the World Baseball Classic, March 6 to 22 in Los Angeles. Canada isn’t expected to take the field for their first game until March 9.
“There’s nothing better than playing for Team Canada,” O’Neill said.
“It’s an honour,” he said. “It’s the best feeling a baseball player could have, to represent their country in an international tournament, and it’s an honour that I have the opportunity to do that.”
It won’t be his first time playing for the Maple Leaf – O’Neill was part of the Canadian team that grabbed the gold medal at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto.
Excelling at every level of minor league baseball, O’Neill was drafted in the third round in 2013, making his debut with the Arizona League Mariners in 2014, playing with the Bakersfield Blaze in 2015 after apparently breaking bones in his hand after punching the dugout wall.
In 2015, he played with Team Canada at the Pan Am and WBSC Premier 12, then spent last season with the Jackson Generals.
This year, he’s been moved up in the ranks, after tearing up the Southern League for the Jackson Generals, posting a .293 average, 24 home runs and 102 RBIs, despite being three years younger than the average position player in that league, according to baseball-reference.com.
Now, wearing the #70 jersey, he’ll be introduced as one of the Seattle team’s newest rookies. It’s expected he’ll begin this season at triple-A level in Tacoma.
“I’m going to go to triple-A and make the most of it,” O’Neill shared last month.
“I’m really excited to be in the northwest this season and be close to home and experience weather patterns that I had to play with growing up. I’m very optimistic. I’m excited to see what I’m going to do this year.”