Back in the classroom at Ladysmith Secondary and swapping stories about the summer with his friends, James Joyce’s last two months playing baseball with the Team BC jersey on his back has been nothing short of unforgettable.
“This was the first time I’d played as part of a provincial team so it was a great experience,” said Joyce after returning back from the most recent tournament in New Jersey.
The 15-year-old rising star played last season for the Cowichan Valley Mustangs Bantam AAA team, who finished third in the league.
It was after a game against Delta that the opposing team’s coaches pulled Joyce aside and asked him to consider attending the second tryout in Vancouver for the Team BC squad.
As it would turn out, Joyce and a Mustangs teammate from Salt Spring Island, Matt Schure, were the only two boys from off the mainland to make the team, which traveled to the Windy City for the Great Lakes Wood Bat Classic in early July.
In Chicago, they attended a Cubs game on the Fourth of July where a huge U.S. flag was brought out onto the field. The BC team also made the 1.5 hour drive to see a Milwaukee Brewers game where the first 20,000 fans received a free Robin Yount 1970s replica jersey.
Joyce said it was a “rush” for him to play such high level of ball south of the border.
“It was a lot more nerve-wracking and a lot tougher because the pitching was a lot stronger,” he said.
Another adjustment was going from a 54’80’ field that he was use to in Canada to the MLB distance of 60’90’.
“Throwing it was a bit longer from short but it’s also better because no one is going to outrun you,” he said.
Team BC was the only Canadian squad to attend the invite-only tourney in Chicago and walked away with their heads held high after going 1-3 in humid conditions.
The American pitchers were throwing high 70 mph to low 80s but Joyce was patient earning two walks during three at bats.
He spent the majority of the time playing at shortstop with one trip to the mound.
“I played pretty well at short and played a game at third in Chicago and didn’t make any errors,” he said.
Returning home, he pulled on another jersey, this time as part of one of the two Zone 6 (Vancouver Island) teams in the BC Summer Games.
Playing closer to home and meeting new people were among the highlights of the Games.
“I went to the opening ceremonies and they had dances and a festival. It was a lot of fun,” he said. “We got to stay in the dorms and it was fun meeting new people and players from the Island.”
But just when Joyce thought he was about to spend August at home, he was picked to join the West Coast Cardinals team that formed Team BC after winning this year’s provincials.
“It was exciting because I thought my baseball was over for this summer and then I get to go to another tournament so it was a lot of fun,” he said. “I had to get to know them all. We bonded a lot and my roommates were really fun and easy to get along with.”
In New Jersey he was selected to close out two games and spent the rest of the time playing shortstop.
He also made no errors in New Jersey as Team BC went 3-1 at the tourney from Aug. 25-26 and won their pool.
“In New Jersey I hit hard balls but it was right to the same person every time,” he added.
Joyce and teammates also had a bus tour that took them into New York City to see the Statue of Liberty, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, followed by a New York Mets games.
“There’s the fun side and obviously the competitive side but the touring was great,” he added.
Joyce will now turn his attention to the hockey season as a centre for the North Island Silvertips until next spring.
The minor midget team based out of Nanaimo will be traveling to Arizona and Merritt as part of a busy schedule and is considered good preparation for the step up to Jr. A and potentially even the Western Hockey League.
Joyce said he likes splitting the year between the two sports for now.
“I like playing hockey a bit more because of the physicality of it but at this point I’m a bit better at baseball so it’s really whatever opportunity I get and we’ll just see how it goes,” he said.