TORONTO — The Toronto Blue Jays wanted to pick another Halladay at this year’s MLB draft, even if they knew their chances of signing him to a professional contract would be pretty slim.
Toronto selected pitcher Braden Halladay, the son of Roy Halladay, in the 32nd round of the 40-round draft on Wednesday.
The young Halladay is committed to Penn State University and announced on Twitter shortly after being chosen that he would forego a professional career to play in the NCAA. Halladay can re-enter the MLB draft in three years as a college junior.
Blue Jays director of amateur scouting Steve Sanders said Toronto’s area scout and crosschecker in Florida spoke to the Halladay family to let them know they’d be using their 32nd-round pick — chosen symbolically for Roy Halladay’s jersey number — on the 17-year-old Braden.
“It was really a group thing, something we had talked about doing to really just signal to them and acknowledge them as part of the Blue Jay family and specifically Braden,” Sanders said.
“We’re certainly excited to watch him go play in college and hopefully be in the same situation a few years from now.”
Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins also acknowledged the symbolism of the pick.
“We obviously know the family well, we know him well, we spent time with him,” Atkins said. “He’s headed to Penn State and we’re glad to have drafted him.”
The Blue Jays drafted Roy Halladay in the first round, 17th overall, in 1995.
The former ace, who died in a plane crash at age 40 in November 2017, spent 12 of his 16 seasons in the majors in Toronto, winning an American League Cy Young Award as a Blue Jay in 2003. Toronto retired his No. 32 jersey on opening day in 2018 and he was posthumously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame earlier this year.
Braden Halladay, who was born in Toronto while his father pitched for the Blue Jay, spent a one-week stint with Canada’s national junior team last year.
“Thank you ↕BlueJays for drafting me in the 32nd round today! It’s a great honor!,” Halladay tweeted. “It’s with mutual understanding that I’ll still be honoring my commitment to Penn State! I look forward to college and bettering myself as a player and person, thank you to all who have supported me!”
Halladay, a six-foot-three, 150-pound right-hander, spent his high school career with Calvary Christian High School in Clearwater, Fla.
Sanders described Halladay as “a good player,” who he sees improving over the next few years as he fills into his tall body.
“He’s got a good delivery. We saw him pitch last year down in Dunedin against the Jays (with the junior team),” Sanders said. “He competes really well and as he grows into his frame and grows into his stuff he’s certainly set up to have a lot of success at Penn State.”
Toronto also selected Canadians Dasan Brown (third round), Jean-Christophe Masson (26th), Owen Diodati (29th) and Noah Myers (30th) over the three-day selection process.
Brown, a centre-fielder and high school senior from Oakville, Ont., was the top Canadian picked in the draft, going on Tuesday. Atkins called the 17-year-old, who also played on the junior national team, a “plus athlete.”
“(He has) a chance to be an above-average defender, a chance to be really a — dare I say — five-tool player and that’s really exciting for us,” Atkins said. “Players like Dasan that are competing at 17 with 21-year-olds in professional baseball atmospheres is a very good indicator of future success and certainly it’s an indicator of a lot of development opportunities.”
Diodati is a 17-year-old catcher from Niagara Falls, Ont., while Myers, 19, is a junior college outfielder from Wyoming, Ont., who spent the last two seasons at Wabash Valley College in Illinois.
Masson is a 16-year-old outfielder and high school senior at Cardinal Roy Secondary School in Quebec City.
“Four Canadian players, very different backgrounds but really excited to have the opportunity to take those guys,” Sanders said. “And I think there’s certainly a special meaning, not only for us but hopefully for them to be selected by the Blue Jays.”
A total of 25 Canadians were selected at this year’s draft overall — up from 19 last year — including 20 on the third day.
The record for most Canadian picks in a draft is 48 in 2002.