California native Chase De Jong is hoping to make the Lansing Lugnuts starting line up this year.

Jays’ pitching prospect seeks cooler challenges

DUNEDIN, Fla. – Toronto Blue Jays pitching prospect Chase De Jong has enjoyed his time being a part of Canada’s baseball team.

After first finishing last season with the Bluefield Blue Jays, the California native was called up to join the Blue Jays A team, the Vancouver Canadians, during their playoff-winning run and was very enthusiastic about his time there.

“The first trip to Canada, that was different, it was really cool, loved the city of Vancouver,” he said.

“It was an amazing experience to be able to be up there at the stadium and just kind of experience the ‘tenth man’ that they have there. That crowd is unbelievable to play in front of. It was amazing to be there and take in the environment.”

Last year with the Bluefield Jays, De Jong made 13 appearances, 10 starts and finished the year with a 3.05 ERA.

His goal in spring training in Dunedin this year is to make the Single A Lansing Lugnuts starting rotation. De Jong said he’s excited about playing in a climate he’s not used to.

“It will be interesting to pitch in the cold weather,” he said. “Being from Southern California I’ve never really had to pitch in sub-50 degree [Fahrenheit] weather.

“Supposedly it’s going to be in the 20s and 30s. It’ll be an experience but, hey, I’ve got sleeve’s and leggings so bring it on.”

De Jong, whose cousin Jordan De Jong pitched in six games for the Blue Jays in 2007, compared seeing fans support for the Blue Jays to his time playing for American National Team at the Pan American Games.

“Just to see the loyalty of the fan base, it’s all of Canada,” he said.

“It’s weird because I don’t get to experience that from Los Angeles. Because we have the Angels and the Dodgers, the Ducks the and the Kings, the Lakers and the Clippers, we don’t have that sense of loyalty to one team.

“The entire country of Canada roots for the Blue Jays, it’s the team. Just to see that there is a fan base nationwide, that was something cool for me to experience.”

He was impressed with the lengths management makes to make their players feel welcomed, he said.

“I met Alex (Anthopolous) a few times,” De Jong said. “I’m not going to lie, I was honoured that when he came to Bluefield he knew my name before I shook his hand.

“To be able to have somebody of that much authority in an organization to know my name. It’s just really cool.”