DUNEDIN, Fla. – You won’t come across a baseball diamond at St. Michael’s College.
But you might come across one of their baseball players, including Marcus Knecht, who has made the journey from relative high-school obscurity to the bright lights of pro ball.
Knecht, the 21-year-old North York native, was selected 113th overall by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2010. He didn’t shy away from sharing how his Alma mater is more of a hockey haven than a holding for baseball talent.
“Were not known for being a baseball school,” Knecht said, on Monday at the Bobby Mattick Centre in Dunedin. “The competition we faced was not good. There were a couple good players, but in the United States there really is no comparison.”
In his second year with the Blue Jays, Knecht has been rising through the ranks of the farm system, even so far as being labelled the best power hitter prospect in the entire organization by Baseball America.
With the class A Lansing Lugnuts, the outfielder swatted 16 home runs and drove in 86 runners. He is expected to join the Class A-Advanced Dunedin Blue Jays for the 2012 season because of his accomplishments.
“I guess I had a pretty good season in their books [Lansing Lugnuts] last year,” Knecht proudly pointed out. “I’m looking to go up a level each year but you know it’s not up to me.
“I just gotta keep playing baseball”.
However, Knecht’s road to the big leagues wasn’t as effortless as his transition through the Blue Jays’ farm system.
While enrolled at Oklahoma State University, the right-handed hitter only had 12 at-bats – despite the fact that he hit two home runs and posted a 1.000 OPS.
Knecht eventually made the transfer to Connors State College, in large part owing to the advice given by former Ontario Blue Jays coach Dan Bleiwas. There the talents manifested, leading to a third round selection by his beloved team.
“It was hard coming into a Division-1 school in the Big 12 as a freshman and I wasn’t ready to ride the bench because I wanted to reach professional baseball,” said Knecht. “I took Dan’s advice to switch out of school and it turned out well.”
The homegrown talent is now in the realm of the surreal, playing for the organization he adored in his youth. And Knecht’s not tied down by the stream of expectations that go with playing for the local heroes – quite frankly he is apathetic.
“I feel like not a lot of people know my name,” Knecht referred to his 702 followers on Twitter. “I have expectations for myself and I just try and play the game every day”.