Nothing lasts forever, especially not a stint on the roster of Canada’s junior national baseball team.
But although Ryan Kellogg’s tenure on the 18U squad may be over, he’s leaving with a tangible token of the hard work he’s put into the team over the past two years.
Having won silver at the IBAF 18U World Championship in Seoul, South Korea on Saturday, the left-handed pitching prospect begins the next step of his baseball journey with that accomplishment fresh in his mind.
“It means a lot to me to have been part of that team and part of that whole experience,” the 18-year-old said after returning from a chemistry class at his new school, Arizona State University, on Monday.
“My time with the junior national team is over, and ending it with a silver medal at the Worlds is a great way to cap off two years.”
While in Seoul, the Whitby native pitched in some of the biggest games of his life so far.
First there was the tournament’s opener against Japan where Kellogg went 6.2 innings allowing two earned runs (and three unearned) in Canada’s come-from-behind 6-5 victory.
Then there was the 1-0 win over the United States in the second round of the tournament that saw the Blue Jays’ 12th round pick in this year’s draft strike out five and give up only two hits in 8.2 innings.
“It was a great feeling to take the mound on that stage, knowing that everything you were doing was not just for yourself or your team but for your country,” he said of his experience pitching in the tournament.
“Every game mattered so that made the pressure and the experience much more exciting.”
No game meant more than the one played for gold, however.
Though Kellogg didn’t start against the talented American squad, he came in to pitch the seventh and eighth innings, giving up two runs in the 6-2 loss.
“It was terrible to watch the U.S. team celebrate,” he said, recalling the bittersweet moment he and his team won the silver medal. “We were all upset at losing but having to sit on the bench and watch them was not something we wanted to see.”
Slowly but surely, the feeling of disappointment turned into pride.
“It took different amounts of time for each player to realize that what we did was a huge accomplishment not only for ourselves but also for baseball in Canada,” Kellogg said.
“Once the feeling hit, you knew you had represented your country well.
“I realized it later that night in the hotel when I went around getting all my teammates to sign the program that they had given us. It hit me then that we had accomplished something, not lost it.”
The silver marked Canada’s best showing at the junior World Championship since 1991 when the team took gold on home soil in Brandon, Man.
Greg Hamilton, the manager of the 18U team and Director of National Teams with Baseball Canada is quite content with the way his team played.
“I’m very proud of our group,” he told Sportsnet 590 the Fan on Monday. “The guys competed really well.”
And when it came to the play of his star southpaw, Hamilton was especially pleased.
“Ryan Kellogg is outstanding,” he said. “He did a great job, has a lot of composure, and tremendous command.”
Kellogg is part of a growing number of highly touted Canadian prospects hoping to make it to the big leagues in the coming years, a phenomenon that Hamilton contributes partly to Baseball Canada’s connection with past major leaguers.
“A lot of players are coming back and getting involved in the system at the grass roots level and contributing as coaches,” he said. “The Chris Reitsmas, the Paul Quantrils, the Adam Sterns and all of those players are getting involved now … It’s really starting to have an effect.”
Having experienced the coaching of these men firsthand, Kellogg can attest to the value they’ve added to Canada’s baseball program.
“Being around Reitsma was great,” he said of the 18U pitching coach. “He’s very down to earth and knows how to get his point across to help … I would love to work with him again.”
With his sights now focused on school and college baseball, Kellogg is preoccupied with his future. The shiny, silver medallion now in his possession, however, will forever remind him of his past.
“Seeing [the medal] makes me think of my teammates and the memories we made,” he said. “It makes me think of how far we have come from my first trip, the players who have come and gone and the progression of our team.
“[We] bonded into a family by being put in this situation.
“We didn’t play for ourselves; we played for each other and our country. We played together to accomplish something collectively. Seeing that medal makes me think that we did something special.”
Follow Melissa on Twitter: @ThrowinSmoke