Strike-throwing Saint John native joins Blue Jays for spring training

After fighting his way through minor leagues in the United States, 25-year-old Andrew Case began spring training with the Toronto Blue Jays last week in Florida.

After excelling in the minor leagues in 2017, Andrew Case is ready to take on big league hitters

Saint John native Andrew Case, said he’s not concerned who’s behind the plate. He’ll do his best to get them out no matter what. (submitted)

Andrew Case is getting his first big chance at making it in the big leagues.

After fighting his way through three minor league levels last season, the Saint John man joined the Toronto Blue Jays big league camp in Florida last week.

"It's every kid's dream. And to finally see it and be a part of it, it's a pretty surreal feeling," the relief pitcher said. "It's an amazing experience. I'm really grateful for the opportunity and blessed to be part of the Blue Jays."

Every day at training, which begins on the field at 6:30 a.m., he's feeling increasingly confident.

He has come to know players like shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and pitchers Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez.

"You're shooting stuff with them. They're good storytellers, let me tell you."

"[Manager] John Gibbons actually called me a bulldog yesterday," he said. "That's kind of the background to where I am now. I'm not too scared of who's in the box at any time."

Keeping an eye on the ball

It's a long shot for Case to make the team right out of training camp, but if he performs well this spring, he could be called up if other team members are injured or perform poorly.

He's trying not to get his hopes up too high.

"Best case scenario, I'll break for the team. But I'll never be upset if that doesn't happen. 

"As I said, I'm grateful for the Blue Jays for the opportunity. I want to build off it every day. I want to get better every day."

Still, Case is keeping his eyes on the ball, looking for his chance to slide onto the big stage.

"I'm never, ever going to hope someone gets injured — that's for sure — but if the opportunity arises, I'm definitely going to jump on it."

Family passes on love of sport

Born and raised in Saint John, the 25-year-old left in his Grade 11 year at St. Malachy's High School to move out west.

Much of his extended family still lives in Eastern Canada, however, including his uncle, Peter Case, who is curling in the Brier for New Brunswick in March.

Andrew Case began spring training with the Blue Jays last week. Blue Jays manager John "Gibby" Gibbons stands in the background. (submitted)

Andrew said his family's sports culture pushed him toward athletics.

"That's the one guy who showed me the roots," said Case, who is also an amateur curler. "Uncle Pete. He'd take me down every Sunday and I'd spare with him every Tuesday."

But it was baseball that ultimately captured the young man's heart.

Case wasn't drafted but signed with the Blue Jays in 2013 after recording a no-hitter in the the national amateur baseball tournament, T12, hosted each September in Toronto.

His promotion to the big league camp follows a strong 2017 season at Double A New Hampshire Fisher Cats, which got the relief pitcher a placement in the Arizona Fall league where, once again, he excelled.

Consistency key to success

If there's a theme woven throughout his career that's led to success, it might be consistency and the ability to handle high-pressure situations.

He says he's not concerned who's facing him at the plate. His advice for younger players is similar.

"Just don't give up. Just maintain it. The most important pitch in baseball is the next one."

The relief pitcher is known for throwing strikes, enticing hitters to hit ground balls and keeping walks to a minimum.

The six-foot-two, 230-pounder primarily throws a sinking fastball, a slider and a change-up.

His philosophy on the mound is simple:

"Strike one no matter what. Three pitches or less. Hit a bat. That's all you got to look forward to," he says. 

"If you get behind it, if you're overthinking, that's when you're in trouble. Hit a bat. Three pitches or less. And make sure you pound it home to make sure you get strike one.

About the Author

Joseph Tunney

Joseph Tunney is a casual reporter for CBC News in Saint John. He can be reached at joe.tunney@cbc.ca