MLB

Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins says MLB teams must increase workplace diversity

Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins says Major League Baseball teams, including his own, need to work towards more diversity within their organizations.

'We need to open our minds more. We need to listen more and we need to push for more change'

Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said Thursday MLB must work to increase diversity across all of its organizations. (Matt York/The Canadian Press/AP)

Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins says Major League Baseball teams, including his own, need to work towards more diversity within their organizations.

Executives from all 30 teams working remotely held up signs that read "Black Lives Matter. United For Change" before the first round of the MLB draft Wednesday.

"As we talk about the lack of diversity on our baseball operations teams, we have worked very hard on trying to correct for that," Atkins said Thursday during a conference call.

"Major League Baseball has a great fellowship program that has helped, but it has clearly not been enough."

Baseball is heeding a call to action and using its platform to bring about change, the Jays' GM said.

"We have to do more," Atkins said. "That was what I think resonated amongst the GMs. What we're doing is not enough.

"We need to open our minds more. We need to listen more and we need to push for more change.

"I think about what can I do to help and I feel to not acknowledge baseball as a platform for me to help would be disingenuous.

"I feel like that's the best way for me to potentially make change and create change."

Jays pick up college pitcher

This year's draft shortened to five rounds from the usual 40 in a cost-cutting move because of the pandemic continued Thursday.

A day after selecting college utility player Austin Martin with the fifth overall pick, Toronto went with three pitchers and an outfielder on Day 2 of the draft.

Toronto chose Florida State pitcher C.J. Van Eyk in the second round, 42nd overall, right-handed pitcher Trent Palmer from Jacksonville at No. 77, righty Nick Frasso from Loyola Marymount University 106th and outfielder Zach Britton of Louisville at No. 136.

Martin, a 2019 College World Series champion with the Vanderbilt Commodores, was Baseball America's No. 2 prospect.

The Jays snapped Martin up when the 21-year-old was still available at No. 5.

"We do think it's realistic to talk about him playing with Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, Vladdy Guerrero and Lourdes Gurriel," Atkins said.

"We do feel Austin, if we're fortunate enough to reach a deal with him, he will complement us very well and in talking about that young corps, that's alluding to a relatively fast transition."

Martin batted .368 over three seasons at Vanderbilt.

His 2020 season was cut short by the pandemic, but his batting average was .392 in 2019 when he had 105 hits, 10 home runs and 46 RBIs.

The versatile Martin was announced at the draft as a shortstop. The six-foot, 185-pounder played various positions for Vanderbilt including third base and centre field.

The Jays have yet to determine what position will be Martin's best fit.

"The most important thing for us is partnering with the player on that," Atkins said.

"Initially we'll just focus on what makes the smoothest transition and as quick as possible too to get him to our major-league environment."

Van Eyk, a right-handed pitcher, went 18-5 and carried an ERA of .321 over three seasons at Florida State.

MLB and the players' association have been exchanging proposals regarding a potential return to play but nothing has been finalized.

Owen Caissie top Canadian selected

Outfielder Owen Caissie was the first Canadian to be selected when the San Diego Padres took him in the second round, 45th overall.

The 17-year-old Caissie, from Burlington, Ont., played for Notre Dame High School in his hometown as well as the Canadian junior national team. He's currently committed to the University of Michigan in the fall.

The left-handed hitting Caissie, six-foot-four, 190-pounds, is known for his power at the plate and showed it off in March when he homered against the Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin, Fla., in a spring training game, taking 26-year-old Connor Overton deep at TD Ballpark.

That trip to Florida was the last time Canada's junior squad played before the global pandemic shutdown baseball.

Caissie was the 75th-ranked prospect according to MLB.com.

Meanwhile, Toronto-born shortstop Trei Cruz was taken 73rd by the Detroit Tigers.

He's the son of former MLB player Jose Cruz Jr., and looks to become a third-generation big leaguer.

The 21-year-old was originally drafted out of high school in 2017 by the Houston Astros in the 35th round and again in 2019 by the Washington Nationals in the 37th round. He turned down both, though, to attend at Rice University.

Also, outfielder David Calabrese of Maple, Ont., was taken No. 82 by the L.A. Angels.

The 17-year-old played for St. Elizabeth Catholic School and is a teammate with Caissie on the Canadian junior team. Calabrese is committed to the University of Arkansas.

And Ottawa-born outfielder Jordan Nwogu went to the Chicago Cubs with the 88th pick.

The 21-year-old Nwogu was 15 games into his third year at the University of Michigan before the pandemic halted his NCAA season.

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