Lewis Foster is a 17-year-old pitcher and first baseman for the East York Bulldogs, with aspirations to be recruited to play collegiate baseball.
The Monarch Park Collegiate student had already been honing his skills as a player but decided to take his training to the next level. So, he started a program with National Recruiters for Sports (NRS), a developmental centre for young baseball players, located in East York.
“I already had pretty decent tools before I went there,” Foster said. “But they really honed in [on] what it takes to be a legitimate ball player. And that’s getting your work done everyday with the intent of making yourself the best possible ball player you can be.”
The developmental centre is giving student athletes the chance to train with experienced high-level players while learning from their professional insight into what it takes to reach the next level.
“The baseline they’ve given me to get my work done goes beyond what I can do on the field, but it attributes to the work ethic myself and many other teammates have developed,” Foster said.
And, NRS offers one particular advantage for athletes: protection from the elements.
The cold and snowy conditions in Canada prevent baseball from running during the winter, where areas south of the border aren’t affected. NRS’ indoor facility allows players to continue their development and build momentum leading into the new season.
“The biggest thing is consistency,” Foster said. “It’s cold half the year and there aren’t many places like NRS in my area.”
Canada isn’t just a hockey nation now
NRS was established in 2020 to provide better opportunities for high school players to improve their skills and overall health, while getting the proper exposure to scouts involved in recruitment for colleges in the U.S.
“Our services are fully NCAA compliant, and cover an athlete’s recruitment journey thoroughly; offering quality advice and specific individual planning for collegiate recruitment, elite player development, academic guidance and proper exposure,” NRS said in their website.
Canada, long known for producing hockey talent, is becoming very strong in many different sports, including baseball. However, Canadians with aspirations to play at the collegiate level don’t get the same opportunities as those south of the border.
The NRS staff are current and former professional baseball players with collegiate-level playing experience, who are giving back to the community they got their start in.
Greg Carrington played for the Intercounty Baseball League’s Toronto Maple Leafs for five years before joining NRS as a strength and conditioning coach. He also holds a Masters in Sports and Performance Psychology from the University of Western States in Portland, Or.
“We’ve all had our experiences with baseball that these kids would benefit from,” Carrington said. “Our knowledge comes from all different places and all different levels.”
The rest of the player development staff include established baseball players Jesse Hodges, Chris Procopio, Adam Marra, Mateos Kekatos and Brendon Dadson. Each coach specializes in different components of the sport, including pitching, hitting, fielding and strength training.
“We have our instructors work so hard with each individual kid,” Carrington said. “Even if we have 16 kids in there, we know exactly what each kid needs to work on.”
Performance-based technology is used throughout trainings to measure a player’s progression while spotting areas of potential improvement. Professional and collegiate baseball players also rely on the technology to improve their game.
Students in the facility also benefit from participating in clinics run by current professional coaches and former major league players, including Blue Jays Hitting Coach Guillermo Martinez and Team Canada Outfielder Jacob Robson.
Putting players on the map in Florida
NRS athletes attended Prep Baseball Report Canada’s first Spring Training camp at Cocoa Beach, Fl. in March. The eight-day trip gave students the chance to present their skills and compete against other teams and academies from Canada and the U.S.
Scouts from PBR attended the camp to evaluate player performances and document metrics for colleges to use in their recruitment process.
“By going there, they put themselves on the map and can showcase what they can do,” Carrington said.
Foster was among the standouts at the camp. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound right-hander impressed scouts with a high velocity fastball, generating tons of swing and miss.
Clarke Needles, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound student from Malvern Collegiate, flashed a strong, accurate arm from the mound and the outfield. The right-hander also impressed with the bat, hitting a triple to left field.
The East York Baseball Association holds winter trainings at the NRS facility for their elite and rep teams during the off-season.
“We’ve been looking for a home to place a lot of our teams as a centre of excellence to continue their improvement,” said Andrew Green, baseball executive and coach at East York Baseball Association, in a video shared by NRS.