DUNEDIN, Fla. — One of the hardest challenges for an aspiring professional baseball player is getting drafted by the majors.
Don’t bother telling this to Marcus Knecht.
The 21 year-old, 6-1 left fielder from Toronto, Ontario has already been drafted twice, first by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2008, then the Toronto Blue Jays in 2010.
“I loved getting drafted twice. But, I mean, I knew I really wasn’t going to sign out of high school so it wasn’t too big of a deal,” he said, behind Diamond 1 at the minor league facility. “I knew I wanted to go to college and I knew I wanted to get better.”
In high school, Knecht was being scouted early and often for his excellent power.
He was a 2008 World Junior, was voted Canadian Baseball Network player of the year in 2010, and was named the top power hitter in the Blue Jays minor league organization by Baseball America just prior to the 2011 season.
Growing up in the North York area of Toronto, Knecht took an interest in baseball from a very early age.
“Where I played, the ballpark was close to my house so my Dad was free to throw balls to me and help me out.”
In his high school career, he destroyed the competition, hitting .356 for the Oshawa Dodgers in 35 games. Then he declined the draft by the Brewers and went to two U.S. universities before entering the draft again.
This past season, with full-A Lansing Lugnutts, Knecht continued to flash power, hitting 16 home runs and driving in 83 runs in 439 at-bats.
Coaches continue to marvel at his intangibles.
“The kid has raw bat speed, and that’s something you can’t teach,” said hitting coach John Schneider, on Tuesday, adding Knecht should start the season on the Dunedin Blue Jays as a left-fielder.
Cracking balls to all parts of the field taking batting practice, including some tape-measure home runs, he looked every bit the star the Blue Jays envisioned.
“He’s got some of those raw tools that you just love to see in baseball … the power, speed and athleticism that you can’t really teach and that you can just kind of build on,” said Schneider.
So where did such tremendous bat speed come from?
“Something like that is talent that you’re born with,” the coach believes.
Whether it’s innate or not, Knecht has proven to be a likely future major leaguer. But for now, he will just continue to work hard.
“You can never project that kind of stuff,” he said. “Whether it takes two years, or six years, if you get there, you’re there. It’s not up to me, so I’m not gonna worry about it.”
While the Torontonian won’t let himself get caught up in the hoopla, dedication and hard work are something that he says are a given in his family. So much so, he has them tattooed on his left bicep.
“No food without blood and sweat,” he reads, while displaying an elaborate, but beautifully designed tattoo.
“If you aren’t going to work hard, you’re not getting anywhere.”