It’s like everything and nothing has changed for Owen Caissie.
When the Padres made him the first Canadian selected in this year’s Draft as their second-round pick, there was plenty of excitement for and from the young slugger. But with no Minor League ranks to join and much of the world on hold to try to combat a global pandemic, the question of what was next arose.
Almost two weeks after becoming the 45th overall selection in the Draft, Caissie and his parents made their way from Burlington, Ont., to San Diego, where he put pen to paper with the Padres. He also got to meet some of the organization’s staff and players, tour the stadium and had a glimpse of the landscape. Quarantining for 14 days when he returned, as is Canada’s mandate for anyone coming into the country, “was definitely worth it,” Caissie said.
At first, the young outfielder had difficulty coming to terms with the fact that his Draft year would be unlike no other, unable to get into action as a professional right away and likely anytime soon. But over the last couple of months, as Ontario has progressed through a couple of re-opening stages and set the stage for Caissie to return safely to training and continue his own development, the 18-year-old has found himself doing much of the same as ever, though with an advanced understanding of its importance.
“It hasn’t really changed from what I’ve been doing for the last five years because I’ve just been by myself for the last couple years but I’m taking everything more seriously,” he said. “My diet, my rest, and obviously my off-days because you can make a lot of gains when you’re not doing anything, when you’re resting your body; when you’re fuelling properly. But the same as before -- tee work, hitting, maybe some more high-speed batting practice, but that’s pretty much it.”
Caissie has added elements to his routine that include advanced footwork, strength and conditioning, and weight training. He heads to the Sports Specific Training facility in nearby Oakville, Ont., four times a week while also taking swings off a tee and from a batting practice thrower when he can find one, as often as possible -- usually up to six days a week.
“When talent is paired with hard work, good things happen,” San Diego's No. 16 prospect said. “I really believe in that.”
The hard work for Caissie extends off the field and away from the gym and cages as well. While he names his biggest strengths as his power and hit tools, his knowledge of the game might also be considered a separator. He also spends countless hours at home breaking down big leaguers and growing his awareness of the game by watching them.
“I do a lot of research,” he said. “I look at elite players, and elite players do elite things. For example, Aaron Judge has a really good spine angle and Carlos Correa has a really good front arm, like an elbow block. I look at Charlie Blackmon -- really still head. And Barry Bonds -- really, really good rotational power for a bigger guy and I’m kind of a bigger guy, so I should probably work on more rotational linear. So I look at elite things that elite players do.
“They can all mash. And I think that I can hit pretty well, so I try to not emulate them, but I want to try to formulate my game after them. I want to be able to hit for average, power, OPS, all that stuff.”
Caissie knows the work will continue, and he believes he understands what he needs to do -- at least in the interim before he can join his organization -- in order to keep the progress going.
“I’ve got to get a lot stronger and I’ve got to add some muscle,” he said. “Also maturity and ‘man strength,’ as they call it. When you get a little bit older you know your body a little bit more, but just adding muscle and adding strength. … I was always strong but I’ve gotten a lot stronger over the time I’ve been training that way so I will continue to do that [and] deadlifting and squatting have helped me a lot with my power capability and my arm strength.”
While Caissie has his work-from-home routine under control, the one aspect of his game that will be the most difficult to improve until he can see some game action again is also the tool he feels needs the most work -- his defense.
“Fielding, I just need to power shag, because I’m indoors most of the year and I never see pro fly balls,” Caissie said. “The only time I’ve ever seen a pro fly ball was with Team Canada, and that was only on one trip, so it wasn’t that much exposure. But when I go down to the AZL or wherever I go down to, I’ll be able to power shag and work on it every single day. That’s when I feel like I’ll improve the most is because these American kids are outside every day and I’m inside for eight months a year.”
Despite feeling a need to catch up to his counterparts from other countries, Caissie is also excited to give them a glimpse of what Canadians are capable of. He and Angels’ third-round pick David Calabrese were the only two high schoolers selected from north of the border in this year’s shortened Draft, but he knows they have what it takes to open up some minds.
“Being Canadian, being overlooked for a lot of stuff, me and Calabrese are showing that we can play, and the guys before us too obviously,” Caissie said. “But we can play, and I just want to show the world that Canadians are good at baseball, they’re not just hockey players.”