ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Joey Votto, Justin Morneau, Brett Lawrie.
These are the names that come to mind when talking about the upper echelon Canadian baseball stars. Gareth Morgan could soon be adding his name to that exclusive list.
Dealing with great expectations is something that Toronto native has become accustomed to. The 15-year-old, Grade 10 student is entering his second season with the Canadian national junior team.
Canadian manager Greg Hamilton stunned many pundits when he invited Morgan to camp last summer as a 14-year-old, making him one of the youngest players to ever suit up for the Canada’s team.
It didn’t take long for the six-foot-four centre fielder to fit right in.
“There is no pressure to be superman,” said Hamilton, who preaches patience with the young power hitter. “It’s ok to be 15 when he is here with us.”
Playing with older players is an obstacle that Morgan has always had to overcome, and even finds humour when asked about the relationship with his teammates.
“They tease me a bit about not being old enough to drive,” Morgan said with a smirk.
Back home, Morgan led the Toronto Mets under-16 squad to a championship as a14-year-old two seasons ago, and now finds himself batting cleanup for the under-18 team.
When asked about Morgan’s potential, Mets coach Ryan McBride summed it up with just one word – “unlimited.”
“The ball just sounds different when it comes off of his bat,” said McBride. “He is a very unique talent, the sky is the limit for Gareth. He can take this as far as he wants.”
The Mets have produced a number of big league prospects over the years, but GM John Jepson didn’t shy away from proclaiming Morgan the cream of the crop.
“He is the best major league prospect to ever come out of the Mets program,” said Jepson.
Morgan garnered international praise after turning heads at the 2011 Under Armor All-American Showcase at Wrigley Field, along with national teammate Ryan Kellogg.
“It was great, I was really nervous, all the guys were older and the best guys across North America, it was a great experience,” he said.
Morgan is currently ranked third among high school prospects for the 2014 major league draft, something the young slugger said he is “proud of, but doesn’t like to think about much,” for fear of complacency.
Morgan is excited to take on all challenges presented to him, and wants to keep learning the game. While opposing pitchers keep getting better, his ability to adapt to the increased level of competition will be crucial.
However, if Morgan can keep up his rate of development, he has a terrific chance to join Canadian stars Votto, Morneau and Lawrie in the major leagues.