Who's faster? Speedy prospects race, train

August 24th, 2020

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. -- It’s no secret that competition can be a driver of excellence, innovation, improvements and so much more. But without any Minor League baseball on the slate this season, many young players have sought out ways to continue their development without the added benefit of games.

For two young Canadians, the way to do that is to compete against one another. Dasan Brown was the third-round pick of his home-country Blue Jays last year, as a center fielder with plenty of potential across the board, highlighted by an 80-grade run tool on the 20-to-80 scouting scale. David Calabrese was drafted by the Angels in June, also an outfielder with top-of-the-line speed and plenty of room for growth. Per MLB Pipeline, Brown ranks No. 19 on Toronto's top prospects list and Calabrese is the No. 15 prospect in the Angels’ system.

After being confined to their homes and finding creative ways to stay active while following the guidelines set out by the Canadian government to battle the coronavirus pandemic, over the last several weeks the pair has been able to work together to start taking strides in their development. They’ve done exactly that, figuratively and quite literally, taking to the track regularly to show off their wheels as they work to get even faster.

It originally started with me and [Vanderbilt outfielder and Mississauga native] Cooper Davis, we came out here, we were working, doing some sprints, just to get back in shape,” Brown said. “[Then] we started to gain traction … and it’s been really good because we have a good group of kids. They like working, we’re all competing, we’re all working against each other and we’re all getting better. Honestly, it’s making me better. David was able to come out as well and since then it’s been great. It’s been a really good working environment.”

Really good, and very competitive. From battling in the cage during tee work over who can hit more barrels, to trash talking as they play simulated games during batting practice -- the winner dictating a number of pushups to the one who falls short -- to racing on the track, no competition is too small to ignite a fire.

“Me, all day,” Calabrese said of who’s faster. “I know he begs to differ, but I know in my head that I’m faster than him.”

Added Brown: “Let the tape show. I don’t even need to say anything. The tape will let them know.”

Brown and Calabrese share an agent, they were both drafted as members of the Canadian Junior National Team and graduates of the Ontario Blue Jays program, they share an affinity for running, they almost share a birthday -- born one day and one year apart -- and now they share top prospect status. They also played their last game before the shutdown against one another, when the Blue Jays took on Team Canada just before Spring Training came to its early end.

Brown is the elder statesman at 18 years old, with 14 games of professional experience under his belt and Calabrese’s pro debut on hold, and he’s always willing to share what he’s learned with his running partner.

“He’s given me tons of great advice,” Calabrese said. “I can’t put into words how ready he’s made me for pro ball, whenever that might be. He’s gone through that first year of pro ball, what it’s like, the lifestyle, he’s given me a lot of great tips. … [To have] a guy like that who was in my shoes this time last year, it’s been great. And being able to compete with him on a daily basis and work with him, it’s really fun. He’s someone I can learn a lot from really every day.”

Both young pros have become examples for the growing group of athletes committed to joining them on the track multiple times each week. The duo has embraced its leadership role, which in turn has made each of them better in numerous ways.

“It forces me to know what I’m talking about,” Brown said. “Because if I don’t know what I’m talking about, then they’re not going to listen to me. So it makes me brush up on my baseball knowledge or just everything when it comes to working out, so I’m able to help these guys with their game. … They’re pushing me as well, so it’s really good just because obviously you’re competing with yourself all the time but when you have that guy who’s right there beside you it always pushes you to get better.”

Added Calabrese: “As someone who exemplifies himself as a leader on the field, it’s good to take that off the field as well. Leading with guys like Dasan, who can teach these other kids things that we’ve gone through, it’s important for them as well. We’re here to make each other better, and the strides we’ve taken these last few weeks have been extraordinary. It’s really cool seeing how much better everyone’s gotten.”