Comparisons in sports are always a dangerous route to travel, bringing expectations into play every time the athlete steps onto the field or court.
But Langley Blaze head coach Jamie Bodaly didn’t hesitate when the topic of infielder Tyler O’Neill came up before Saturday’s B.C. Premier Baseball League doubleheader against the Victoria Eagles at Lambrick Park.
“He’s the best hitter in the country. He’s a special kid. Works real hard,” Bodaly said before offering up the real gem. “He’s probably the best hitter we’ve ever had, better than Brett at the same age.”
Brett would be Brett Lawrie, the current Toronto Blue Jays third baseman and a Blaze grad who was selected in the first round of the Major League Baseball Draft back in 2008, taken 16th overall by the Milwaukee Brewers.
“Power wise, Brett was a better athlete, but for strength and his actual bat, Tyler is a better hitter,” offered Bodaly. “Maybe I shouldn’t say better than Brett, but at the same age, Brett was maybe a better athlete with great hand-eye co-ordination. Tyler has better power. They’re different hitters, I guess, if that makes sense.”
Perfect sense and likely very clear with prospective scouts as they prepare for the 2013 MLB draft on June 6.
O’Neill is now rated 69th overall among North American prospects by Baseball America and Bodaly believes he will go in the second round.
“He’ll be making some money here in the next couple of weeks,” the coach said of his 17-year-old prospect, who stands at six feet and weighs 205 pounds.
A Canadian national junior team member, O’Neill has been ripping it up in the BCPBL and already has scholarships to Oregon State (Division I) and Central Arizona Junior College.
“Signing with a couple of colleges is exciting for me and my family, but right now I’m just trying to focus on the now, not the future,” O’Neill said before going a staggering 4-for-5 with two home runs and two triples for 10 runs batted in during a 15-2 win over the Eagles in Game 1 on Saturday. “You don’t have a future unless you’re producing in the present.”
But he obviously has the upcoming draft in mind.
“It’s exciting, 20-some days away now, under a month, so it’s coming down to crunch time. We’ve got one more trip down to the Dominican [Republic] with Team Canada before that. Hopefully I can do some damage there and maybe boost my stock up there,” said O’Neill, who was hitting a remarkable .556 coming into the day.
“It’s been expected of me, so I have to be at my best, whether people [scouts] are watching or not. I have to do my best,” he said.
O’Neill and the rest of the first-place Blaze — now 16-3 and on a 14-game win streak after a 3-2 victory over the Eagles in Game 2 — will continue their weekend venture to the Island with a doubleheader today vs. the Victoria Mariners beginning at 12 p.m. at Henderson Park.
The Mariners split against the North Shore Twins on Saturday with a 3-1 win and 6-2 loss.
The Twins will face the Eagles today in a doubleheader starting at 11 a.m. at Lambrick.