Jays From the Couch gets ready for the debut of the Toronto Blue Jays’ top pitching prospect, Nate Pearson!
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During the Toronto Blue Jays “home opener” in Washington Wednesday night, another monumental moment in Canadian history will launch from the right arm of 23 year-old Nate Pearson. The fact that the “home opener” will be played in Washington D.C. would normally raise a few questions; COVID-19, MLB experiments and governmental missteps have rendered any questions moot. But there can be no questioning the fact that Nate Pearson’s debut may prove as important to Canadian pride as the institution of the Maple Leaf flag and universal health care by the namesake of Toronto’s airport.
The incremental introduction of Vladimir Guerrero, Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio during the 2019 season signaled Blue Jays watchers that future, sustained success was within their sights. But after that, the date on the calendar most team supporters always sought to circle was the date their 6’6″ national treasure-in-waiting would stand tall from the Rogers Centre mound. Charlie Montoyo announced the date would be July 29th, and Blue Jays fans are already shouting “The Future is NOW!” As redeeming as the back-to-back championships of 1992-93 and thrilling as the Joey Bats playoff bat flips were, the beginning of the Great Nate North era in Toronto may prove as the defining moment in Toronto baseball history.
It isn’t like the Jays haven’t had homegrown stud pitchers make their debuts before. Dave Stieb, Jimmy Key and Roy Halladay all lived up to the hype Toronto player development officials churned out with pride and urgency. If Blue Jay fans are honest with themselves, the organization also has a history of over-hyping their future stars (remember Nigel Wilson?). The Pat Gillick front office seemingly dueled with the Atlanta’s brain trust in the late 80’s and 90’s to see who could plunder the richest returns for prospects they knew in their hearts would never make the grade.
During the gloomy days of the Gord Ash and J.P. Ricciardi reigns, such hype was thrown out there to see if it would stick in the minds of the masses that were calling for their jobs. But by all accounts, Nate Pearson is the Real Deal. Hitting 102 mph on the radar guns at The Junior College of Central Florida in 2017, Pearson was selected in the first round (28th overall) by Toronto and continued to dazzle scouts and fans during his first forays into professional baseball. While a 100+mph fastball is obviously the best among Blue Jays pitchers, a 90 mph slider with late movement also ranks as top in the system.
Economics (not pandemics) delayed Pearson’s placement on the 30-man/28-man/26-man roster to start 2020, but dynamics will place him in the staff ace role for many seasons to come.
Nate Pearson is not Roy Hobbs-he will not lead a young, but inconsistent Toronto team to the World Series, even in an abbreviated 60-game sprint to the pennant. As electrifying and drool-inspiring as his stuff is, Pearson will experience the self-inflicted growing pains Stieb, Key and Halladay did. But the Future IS now, once Pearson unleashes his first pitch at Nationals Park. He will be the Opening Day starter for the forseeable future, even if his first assignment to start a home opener is in a visiting ballpark. Blue Jay fans have had this date circled on their calendars for the better part of two summers now, even if some erasing was required.
Lester Pearson won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957 for his role in negotiating a peaceful solution to the Suez Crisis. Nate Pearson just might win multiple Cy Young Awards for his heroics from a pitching mound-and maybe even hoist a Commissioner’s Trophy or two before he retires as a national hero.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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