Nelson pitcher Austin Tambellini has been selected to play for Team Canada’s U-18 squad at the 2014 Latin American Baseball Classic in the Dominican Republic, and he may have Youtube to thank for it.
On April 24, the 16-year-old left-hander posted a 76-second video of his pitching during practice. He stands several feet from the camera in a nondescript gymnasium and hurls one ball after another offscreen, wrenching his body along with each new throw.
There’s no musical accompaniment and no words onscreen, only the distant chattering of high school conversation and a soundtrack consisting of the repetitive thwack of ball against wall.
Shortly after the video went live, Tambellini received a phone call inviting him to join Team Canada.
“They gave me a call, they said they saw the video of me online. I guess they liked my delivery and what they saw mechanics-wise,” said Tambellini.
He said he was thrilled by the news and is looking forward to traversing the globe to compete.
“It’s going to be really cool to play against people from other countries.”
Tambellini will be joining a team consisting primarily of youth from BC and Alberta. While in the Dominican Republic, he will play teams from all over the world, including Team USA and Team Mexico.
Tambellini’s coach, Kyle Mace, said there will be plenty of scouts present during the tournament, and he wants his charge to capitalize on the exposure.
“They sign Latin Americans at 16,” he said. “This is going to be lot of exposure for him, for sure. Being from around the Kootenay area, there’s isn’t too much high-level baseball. Being able to travel and play against some of the best in the world, it will make his game better,” Mace said.
“He’s very raw, skill-wise,” said Mace. “You gotta play a lot of catch-up as a Canadian. The Americans, they play 12 months of the year. But he’s working really hard. His velocity has increased. He’s been working out.”
Tambellini’s favourite pitchers are Matt Moore and David Price from the Tampa Bay Rays.
“He admires pretty much everything about them,” said Mace.
Tambellini trains with coaches Kyle Paulson and Chris Kissock, a former professional pitcher with the Philadelphia Phillies organization.
Mace said Tambellini’s career trajectory is clear.
“He’s a 6”2 left-handed pitcher. The goal is to play college ball. He’s already been getting some interest from colleges and he’s definitely headed in the right direction,” he said. Mace said Tambellini is a hard worker on and off the field, and has excelled so far in academics.
“If the whole baseball thing doesn’t work out, it’ll be engineering,” he said, with a laugh.
Currently Tambellini is leading both the LVR Bombers and the Trail AA Orioles in wins and strikeouts. But it was only recently, in Grade 10, that he started to focus on his pitching exclusively.
“He’s a pretty low key guy outside but when he gets on the field it’s like a switch flips and he’s really aggressive,” said Mace. “He has the demeanour for a pitcher.”
He said even if Tambellini’s team ends up being out-matched, the experience will be a positive one.
“If the team goes down there and get thumped, they’ll come back and say ‘okay, that was the best in the world. If we want to be the best in the world, that’s what we gotta do’,” he said.