Vancouver Canadian #17 Mike Reeves watches from the dugout, June 19th, during action against the Spokane Indians at Vancouver's Nat Bailey Stadium.
Photograph by: Ward Perrin, PNG
VANCOUVER -- Catchers are often the scrappiest players on a baseball diamond and it has to start somewhere. For Vancouver Canadians receiver Mike Reeves, it began with brother Jeff back in their hometown of Peterborough, Ont.
Mike is 10 years younger than Jeff and when Jeff, a pitcher, needed someone to catch him, he gave Mike a mitt and told him to get his butt into the catcher's crouch. Only one problem: Mike was just four at the time.
“So Mike is, like, 14 and I'm four and I'm going to catch bullpen for him,” Reeves said Wednesday, smiling as he tells the story. “He throws and I miss the ball and it knocks out my four front teeth, two on the top, two on the bottom. So I have my teeth in my hand and I go in and tell my mom: 'Look, Jeff knocked my teeth out!' And she goes: 'Well, you should have caught the ball.'
“So after that, I decided to start catching. I thank my brother now but, at the time, I wasn't thinking that.”
Being from Peterborough, Reeves also played hockey. The Petes are a junior institution in Peterborough and have sent Steve Yzerman, Bob Gainey, Chris Pronger and the Staal brothers, Eric and Jordan, to the NHL, among numerous others.
Reeves dad, Greg, played NCAA hockey for the University of Pennsylvania. One of Mike's older sisters married a goalie, Mike D'Alessandro, who stopped pucks for the Guelph Storm, Barrie Colts and CIS Western Mustangs.
“I played left wing and centre and grew up on the ice,” said the 22-year-old Reeves. “We'd always build a rink across the street from our house and now we have a pond out back. That's my favourite time, going back on the pond. I played Double A hockey until I was in Grade 9 and then I had to choose.”
Reeves wisely chose baseball. He was good enough to play for Ontario Blue Jays travelling team while in high school and was drafted by the parent Toronto Blue Jays in 2009. He didn't sign and instead went to Florida Gulf Coast University, put in four seasons there and was drafted by the Blue Jays a second time, in the 21st round this year.
“When the Jays drafted me the first time, they told me to go to school so it was more of a draft-and-follow thing,” explained Reeves. “So I went to school and I guess they followed me. I had a bunch of teams in the mix this year but I was praying for the Jays because they're my team. I couldn't be happier.
“I've always had a picture in my room of Kelly Gruber so I love Kelly Gruber and, obviously, the fan favourite Gregg Zaun. He's a different type of catcher than I am but I loved watching him play because he's a 'balls-to-the-walls' guy who worked his butt off.”
Reeves has caught two of the C's six games this season as he shares the position with returnee Dan Klein and newcomer Matt Hitt. The latter started Wednesday as the Canadians thumped the Spokane Indians 8-3at Nat Bailey Stadium to improve to 3-3 on the young Northwest League season.
Reeves is 3-for-6 at the plate with a walk and has impressed Canadians manager Clayton McCullough, who was a catcher in his playing days.
“Mike looks great,” McCullough said. “Defensively he's been very solid, which can be tough sometimes if you've never seen some of the pitchers. To be a catcher, there is a whole lot more on your plate and Mike has really handled himself nicely the couple of times he's been back there. He's also swinging the bat well.”
Eric Brown, the former UBC Thunderbird, went six and two-thirds innings Wednesday for the C's to improve his record to 2-0. He allowed five hits and one earned run while striking out five. Right fielder Brenden Kalfus led Vancouver offensively, going 3-for-4 with two stolen bases and two runs scored.
C-NOTES: Attendance Wednesday for the first 'Nooner at The Nat' was 4,242, bringing the average to 4,435 for the season-opening homestand... The C's hit the road Thursday for eight games – five in Salem-Keizer and three in Spokane – before returning home June 28 to face the Tri-City Dust Devils.
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