The men’s Varsity Blues baseball will start their season by playing against Laurentian on September 10. The Varsity Blues baseball team often puts on a show during their games. Their athletes also do much of the hard work behind the scenes, like the grueling practices and drills, the nerve-wracking months of recovering from an injury, and the battle it takes just to get a spot on the starting roster.
The Varsity Blues men’s baseball team is one of the most accomplished sports teams at U of T, and their four championship wins in the last 12 years are a testament to that fact. Last season, they finished 16–0 and beat the McMaster Marauders to claim their sixth Ontario University Athletics title in program history. Through their success, they have been able to attract some of the best athletes in Canada and abroad. However, every athlete knows that the better a team is, the harder it is for someone to get a spot on the starting roster; someone has to keep the bench warm. When it comes to the shortstop position, this year, eight athletes are dying to stay as far away from the bench as possible. The Varsity interviewed U of T men’s baseball Coach Michael Didier on the subject.
“Shortstops are typically viewed as the best athletes in the field,” Didier noted. “You got to have range, you got to have that fast-twitch muscle fibre, [and] you got to have great agility [and] amazing communication.”
In baseball, the shortstops are positioned between the second and third base, and typically run the infield. Last season, Jakob Cellupica acted as the Blues’ de-facto shortstop. His teammates and coaches call him “Chewy” and he’s held in high esteem by both those groups. Didier in particular sung his praises: “Great athlete, great mind for the game, tons of skill, [and] just an awesome guy.”
Following, in no particular order, is Samuel Castro Rojano — also a second-year player — who didn’t win the position last year but has “come back hungry.” Didier raved over Rojano’s work ethic: “He’s getting stronger every year and he puts time in at the gym, and he’s just an awesome dude.” Rojano is a versatile all-around player due to his above par hitting ability and athleticism. This versatility is a key asset because it means that he will be able to change positions and still be effective.
Third in line is William Yang. Hailing from BC, Yang has played for the baseball team on the infield for two years. He broke out into the shortstop position in his second year. Didier described Yang as a good hitter who’s working on increasing his power. Yang was the incumbent shortstop for the 2021 season before Cellupica took the spot and, according to Didier, Cellupica’s ascendance “lit a bit of a fire under Will… [it] showed him that he can’t be taking things for granted.”
Spenser Ross from Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin is another candidate for the shortstop position. Ross has four years of collegiate baseball experience. Last season, he averaged 40 putouts in 37 games, seven doubles, and a .231 batting average. He is touted to be a stalwart shortstop throughout his career, and the Academic All-Midwest Conference Team honored him with an excellence award for his GPA of 3.3 or higher for the 2021-2022 school year.
The last of the returning players is Niko Kekatos. Hailing from Toronto, the second-year player played both as an infielder and a shortstop in his first year. Kekatos put up 48 putouts and five assists last year, and had a batting average of .468. Kekatos also previously won the league’s top hitter award and played first base for the team last season.
Aaron Kreithen, Carter Hercun, and Sam Aslanowicz are also potential picks for the shortstop position.
While the competition between shortstops — and within the squad as a whole — is there, so is their sportsmanship. Didier noted that while every player above is gunning for the shortstop position, they are all willing to help the team out in any way they can if they don’t get it.
“Nobody’s too comfortable… if they’re not the guy, they’re going to be rooting for the guy who’s out there,” said Didier. “I think it builds character not to be promised anything, you know, and to work for everything.”