B.C. southpaw takes the long way to Florida

In the world of young baseball players there are those who are committed and then there’s Clayton Isherwood.

The native of Van Anda, B.C., a small town of around 300 on the coast of scenic Texada Island, is a pitcher currently plying his trade in St. Petersburg, Fl., with the Canadian National Junior Baseball team.

But the Florida sun is a world away from his usual commute to Parksville, B.C., where Isherwood faces a daunting daily battle to pitch for the Parksville Royals.

“I have to take two ferries to get to where I play and then drive an hour and a half,” he said. “I don’t get to go to practices during the week, it’s only on the weekend because I can’t get out of school in time and make the practice. It’s like a four or five hour trip.”

At six-foot, and 185 pounds, the soon-to-be 18 year old does not seek to overpower hitters with his fastball. Instead, he is the classic left-handed hurler who changes speeds and uses superb command to get batters out.

His former manager Dave Wallace of the Parksville Royals of the elite development-level British Columbia Premier Baseball League spoke glowingly of the mild-mannered prodigy.

“He’s a lot like (Kansas City Royal and British Columbian) Jeff Francis,” Wallace said. “He has a tremendous change-up, as good as any high school-aged player I’ve seen, and that makes his fastball better.

“He knows how to set up hitters and he understands the game better than most kids his age.”

In eight regular season starts for the Royals last season, Clayton went 6-0 with four shutouts. His ratio of 68 strikeouts to nine walks in 53 innings earned him team rookie of the year honours for the 2011 season.

In 2011 he represented B.C. in the Canada Cup, striking out 12 in 9.2 innings pitched, to lead the team to a fourth-place finish while exerting and demonstrating his dominance over the best under-18 hitters in the country.

“It was pretty special (to represent the province),” Isherwood said. “I was the only returning player from the team before so I was a senior on the team. It was a lot of fun except for the fact that we didn’t do as well as we were expected to.”

By now Clayton is a veteran of Baseball Canada and has represented the nation at the Americas World Junior Qualification Tournament in Colombia in November of 2011, and in exhibition action last March against Toronto Blue Jays and Atlanta Braves split-squad teams.

According to coach Wallace, and despite his soft-spoken and unassuming demeanour, nothing fazes the tiny-town teenager.

“He is never intimidated,” Wallace said. “He has travelled all over the world playing games and it doesn’t matter to him where he is. He just competes, he knows how to get people out.”

His old coach from Parksville also suggested that the southpaw’s biggest drawback is that his development has been stunted due to a lack of playing time as a result of where he is from. Yet Isherwood, who recently committed to San Jacinto College in Texas, made no complaints about his situation.

“I do miss a bit,” Isherwood said. “But it’s easier being a pitcher because I can play catch with my dad (a former college-level pitcher) to make up for it at home.”

Clayton Isherwood looks to be taken in the 2013 MLB Amateur Draft, and said that over 10 teams have expressed interest in his services.