Hard work paying off for Polancic

Langley Blaze pitcher one of seven local players to earn invitation to prestigious Toronto tournament next week

Langley Blaze’s Jake Polancic is one of seven players from the Premier League program off to Toronto next week for the prestigious Tournament 12, which is organized by the Blue Jays Baseball Academy.

As a pitcher, Jake Polancic is used to having the game in his hands. So it is only fitting that when it comes to his baseball future, the 17-year-old again took control.

“When I was younger, I was a decent baseball player, but I always wanted to be better,” he admitted.

“I was always left off (Selects) teams and as I got older, I didn’t want to look back and say ‘what if I was a little skinnier, what if I was a little stronger, would I have made that team?’

“I didn’t want to think about it, I didn’t want to be told that I am not good enough to do something.”

So three years ago, Polancic dedicated himself to working with a personal trainer, running every morning before school and vigorously hitting the gym. He also changed his diet.

He went from being six-foot and 240 pounds at the start of Grade 10 to now: six-foot-three and 205 pounds.

Even still, Polancic wasn’t a lock to make it even on the Langley Junior Blaze Premier team.

Blaze coach Jamie Bodaly admits that he thought Polancic had no chance of making the Langley program, one of the top programs in Canada.

“I lobbied for him to make the Junior Blaze in Grade 10,” Bodaly said.

“He would have been an easy kid to cut because no one knew about him.”

Bodaly had worked with Polancic at the Yale Baseball Academy as the Walnut Grove teen was commuting every day to attend the Abbotsford school.

“Honestly, I didn’t think I would make it myself when I tried out,” Polancic admitted.

In his Grade 10 year with the Junior (U16) Blaze, Polancic — a right-handed pitcher — took advantage of his opportunity to post an 11-2 record in 14 games. He was third in the B.C. Junior Premier Baseball League with 61 strikeouts and sixth with a 1.67 earned run average.

“He threw high 70s (miles per hour), which isn’t great by any means, but he just pitched,” Bodaly said.

Even still, there was no guarantee Polancic would make the Premier (U18) Blaze team this past season. He made the team and finished a respectable 3-3 in nine starts, with an ERA of 2.77 and 49 strikeouts in 48 innings.

He also gained some velocity on his fastball, topping out at 87 miles per hour.

Others are beginning to take notice.

Last month, Polancic made the B.C. team for the Canada Cup, helping them win gold.

And the latest feather in his cap is being selected to the prestigious Tournament 12, an invitation-only event at Toronto’s Rogers Centre for the top high school aged players from across Canada. It runs this weekend.

Polancic is one of seven players from the Blaze program — and one of four from Langley — selected to participate.

“If you had asked me last year, I never thought I would have made it,” Polancic said.

“Gaining the velocity really helped. If I hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have made (Tournament 12), Canada Cup, I probably wouldn’t be playing for the Blaze right now.”

“Not a chance (did I see this coming),” Bodaly said. “But all credit to Jake, through hard work he has turned himself into something.

“He just keeps his mouth shut and doesn’t complain; he just goes about his business.

“Jake is an incredibly hard worker; I can’t say that enough.”

For his part, Polancic has no problem putting in the extra hours of training.

“I see people I know getting all these invites and college offers. I want to be there too,” he said about his motivation.

“I didn’t want to be left out of getting to go to college to play baseball at a high level. I changed my everyday routine, I changed my diet, I pretty much changed everything.

“It is tiring, but for how much I have progressed in a year, it is totally worth it.”

Polancic, who is in Grade 12, has one year left at the Premier level and he is eying a college scholarship as heads into his Major League Baseball draft year.

Bodaly said that with a bit more velocity on his fastball, Polancic has the potential to hear his name called in June’s Major League Baseball amateur draft. If not, he definitely has the ability to be a good college pitcher.

Either way, baseball is the goal.

“I just love the game; this is something I want to do for the rest of my life,” Polancic said.

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