On Tuesday night, the Toronto Blue Jays and their fans were treated to a spectacularly exciting game of baseball. It wasn’t so much that the game was so exciting – the contest ended in an 11-4 blowout in favor of the visiting Atlanta Braves – but the context in which it was played.
Atlanta marched into town sporting not only a first-place record but a young Canadian hurler who seems poised to turn a hot start into a solid rookie season. His name – Mike Soroka.
Soroka, born and raised in Calgary, Alberta, was drafted 28th overall by the Braves in the 2015 draft, a round that also included teammate Dansby Swanson, Andrew Benintendi, Alex Bregman and Ian Happ. After a stellar couple of seasons in the Braves’ minor league system, Soroka got the call to the bigs on May 1st.
Through five starts at the highest level, Soroka has done nothing but impress, pitching to a 3.51 ERA in 25.2 innings, striking out 21 and walking just seven. He took a no-hitter into the seventh on one occasion and has a record of 2-1, as of this writing.
As many of my fellow colleagues on this site have alluded to in the past, this is an exciting era of Canadian baseball, and Mike Soroka can easily be pointed to as a prime mover in making a name for this country as a legitimate baseball power. Canada isn’t there yet, but it’s sure getting close.
With that being said, it came as no surprise that a crowd 32,466 was in attendance to see the young Soroka take on the team he grew up watching. While he didn’t exactly dominate – 4.2 IP, 4 ER, 2 BB, 8 H – he showed flashes of brilliance, striking out two and throwing 62.3% of his pitches for strikes.
Even better is the fact that his father, Gary, was in attendance, watching with bated breath as his son took on Canada’s team. It was obvious that the elder Soroka had trouble watching the treacherous fifth inning that knocked the youngster out of the ballgame, but he stood up and applauded his effort nonetheless.
Calgary native Mike Soroka starts for the @Braves in Toronto tonight, becoming the first Albertan to ever make a road start for a team visiting a Canadian ball club.
Only one other Canadian pitcher has started in Canada this season – James Paxton’s no-hitter on May 8.#ChopOn pic.twitter.com/vdSHG7K9LP
— Stats By STATS (@StatsBySTATS) June 19, 2018
It was a feel-good time. For hardcore fans, it was a chance to see a true Canadian prospect in his earliest days in the major leagues. For casual supporters, it was a chance to see a great ballgame, until the Braves broke it wide open.
When it’s all said and done, I think it’s safe to say that Canadian baseball, especially in the state of Georgia, is in good hands. With up-and-coming phenoms like Soroka leading the way and veterans like the self-proclaimed Canuck Freddie Freeman waving the maple leaf with pride, Atlanta seems like a hub of sorts for Canadian baseball. Oh yeah, and there’s that general manager of theirs too – I think he made a trade or two at the deadline a few years back?
Perhaps it’s the child in me, but I have no other words to describe it then, cool. I mean, who knew that the Atlanta Braves would have two Canadian-born players regularly contributing to their success atop the National League East? No one predicted it, but everyone loves it.
With the Jays falling fast in the standings, there’s another team in the mirroring division that looks like it could grab the hearts of many baseball fans all across this great country.
(Top Photo: Getty Images)