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Tournament 12 participants represent well in Draft

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This year's First-Year-Player Draft is less than two weeks into the rearview mirror, but it can already be chalked up as a success for the inaugural Tournament 12, with eight players selected after appearing in the event.

Hosted by the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre in September, the tournament brought together the top Draft-eligible talent from around Canada for the first competition of its kind. Players received big league treatment every step of the way, and they performed in front of the watchful eyes of 28 pro scouts from 24 organizations, as well as 25 college recruiters.

Eight Canadian high schoolers were chosen during this month's Draft selection process, and each one of them was a part of the first Tournament 12, which is named for Hall of Fame second baseman Roberto Alomar.

"I feel like it helped me a lot," Austen Swift said. "It helped, both in the aspect of [knowing] where I was as a Canadian player, and it always helps to have scouts look at you so you can start getting used to the pressure of having them there. … I actually got a couple college offers from [recruiters] seeing me at the tournament."

Swift was selected in the 35th round by the Oakland Athletics. Committed to Blinn College in Texas, he's garnered plenty of attention of late playing for the Ontario Blue Jays -- performing in tournaments in Arizona with the Langley Blaze, and putting on a standout performance at the Power Showcase in Miami this year -- but Tournament 12 definitely lent a helping hand.

"Every trip has helped me in a different way," the 18-year-old outfielder said. "Tournament 12 was really to see how I compared within Canadian baseball. … And at that point, I had never experienced anything like that."

Swift has a better idea of how he stands up north of the border now, being one of just 16 Canadians chosen in the Draft, an honour in itself no matter the outcome.

"It's crazy," he said. "I'm still trying to take it in, even multiple days after the Draft. It's just a surreal thought to think that from where I came from, I am where I am today, one of eight players out of high school in this year's Draft."

Canada's top high schooler chosen in the Draft was Toronto native Gareth Morgan, who donned the Ontario Green uniform with Swift at Tournament 12. The power-hitting outfielder was selected in the supplemental second round by the Seattle Mariners, signing for a $2 million bonus quickly, and he will soon head to the organization's Arizona League affiliate.

Joining Swift and Morgan on Ontario Green's roster in September was Zach Pop, who was taken by his hometown Toronto Blue Jays in the 23rd round. The University of Kentucky commit also got his first look from the Wildcats at the tournament.

"He's had a lot of offers over the last nine months since September," said Zach's dad, Sheldon Pop. "Things really dominoed with the summer games, and then Tournament 12 and everything else. That's when he started getting opportunities and scholarships."

The lone Draft pick from Ontario Maroon's squad was Etobicoke's Robert Byckowski. After leaving hockey to take a serious run at baseball less than a year ago, the third baseman opened many eyes for the first time during the five-day event -- including those of Greg Hamilton, Baseball Canada's director of national teams.

Taken by the Cincinnati Reds in the 22nd round, Byckowski was added to Team Canada just after the tournament, and he went on three trips with the Junior National Team prior to the selection process.

"I'm really proud of him, too, because in the last 10 months, he's accomplished an awful lot of things, from making the Junior National Team and getting a scholarship [to Florida Gulf Coast University to] being drafted," Robert's father Bill said. "It's been a busy 10 months."

Two members of the BC Orange team were selected this year, with Mitch Robinson drafted by the Miami Marlins in the 22nd round and Kurtis Horne taken by the Mets in the 31st round. Cloverdale's Robinson is also committed to Florida International University. Horne, a Sooke native, has announced his signing with New York.

LP Pelletier and Ben Onyshko were the lone representatives of their respective provinces selected during the Draft. Pelletier, from Montreal, Quebec, was drafted by the Padres in the 38th round. Winnipeg, Manitoba's Onyshko, committed to Stetson University and was taken by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 16th round.

With the upcoming tournament already slated for September, the hope is that many future Draft selections will take the field at Rogers Centre this fall.

"The tournament is a great thing," one National League evaluator said. "It offers scouts an opportunity to see many players one last time before the offseason, on a big stage. … It helps us see the kids in high-pressure games and players can really raise their Draft stock going into the offseason."

Alexis Brudnicki is a contributor to

Toronto Blue Jays