A pair of Brandonites are building their summers around one of Canada’s biggest baseball tournaments.
Marshal Burgess and Mitch Lyall have both earned spots on Manitoba’s youth team, which will compete in the Baseball Canada Cup, set for Aug. 6-11 in Saskatoon. Aaron Pugh of Boissevain and Brody Burnett of Binscarth have also made the team.
“It’s really exciting,” said Lyall, a 17-year-old pitcher and first baseman. “It’s always nice to make every team, but especially a team as big as this. I’ve got my other buddy from Brandon making it with me and it makes it even better. It should be a fun summer.”
Burgess and Lyall have already won a couple of titles together this season, claiming provincial championship and Prairie West high school crowns with the Vincent Massey Vikings. They’ve got some past big-game experience as well, from playing in Canadian and western Canadian championships with the Brandon Knights, to Manitoba’s provincial team programs. Lyall played for the Manitoba prospects team last summer, while Burgess and Burnett played in the Canada Summer Games, helping Team Toba finish in seventh place.
Burgess believes that kind of experience will be invaluable in Saskatoon.
“Being there before, you kind of get a feeling of what the atmosphere is like,” the 16-year-old pitcher and outfielder said. “It’s a different feeling when you’re playing at a provincial level than when you’re just playing in AAA, so it’s always good to have the experience, not just for yourself but to spread it around to the rest of the team.”
The Canada Cup is also a prime event for players looking to advance to a higher level to be seen by scouts. Two Manitobans who have played in the championship, Ben Onyshko and Chris Shaw, were chosen in last week’s Major League Baseball draft, and the Canada Cup will also be teeming with university and college scouts. Burgess has high aspirations himself, with plans to head to a baseball academy in Alberta in January to pursue a scholarship, and he said seeing Manitoba success stories is inspiring.
“I’ve known Ben for a while and … to see him get drafted is really exciting and makes you have a little more optimism about the game,” said Burgess, who played with Onyshko last year at the Canada Games. “It’s a very tough shot to get drafted, but seeing guys like him get drafted it’s a great feeling.”
Those long-term goals have been pushed to the background for now as the players prepare for a busy summer in front of them.
Team Manitoba practises in Winnipeg most weekends and has tournaments coming up in Fargo, N.D., and Minneapolis, on top of the players’ local ball commitments.
“It was going to be a lot of baseball either way,” Lyall said. “We’ve got lots of midget stuff going on, but now it’s a little bit extra. It should be pretty packed.”