As an underager making his debut at a higher level of baseball, Sudbury Voyageurs pitcher Callum Baron was simply focused on getting comfortable and confident this summer.
But four starts into his Premier Baseball League of Ontario (PBLO) 18U schedule, it’s clearly opposing hitters who are a long way from finding themselves at ease in the batter’s box when facing the 6-3 Lockerby Composite senior.
Throwing four innings of no-hit ball in his season opener at the beginning of May, Baron logged basically the same stretch the following weekend, allowing just two hits, striking out nine and posting nothing but zeros on the scoreboard.
Playing at home for the first time last weekend, Baron did surrender three runs against the Kingston Jr Ponies, though none were earned. And just for good measure, the 16-year-old also leads his team in hits and RBIs and sits second in batting with a .393 average.
“We have a core of kids who are younger, eligible for 16U but up for 18U, who feel like we have to step it up and really put in the work,” said Baron, a veteran of the Voyageurs program for the past four years or so now. “This year especially, I was trying to be super prepared for the season.
‘Four or five days a week, during the off-season, we would be lifting and practicing at the (Baseball) Academy.”
It’s all paying off for the young man who suited up for a couple of years of AAA hockey as he entered his teens, only to realize that his competitive passion might lie elsewhere.
“When I started with the Voyageurs, I started enjoying baseball more than hockey,” said Baron, youngest of two children in the Baron family. “It kind of took over my sports and athletics a little bit more.”
Like most who wander into the summer youth baseball scene in Sudbury, this multifaceted athlete was more than willing to give it a shot at a whole variety of positions before he found a home on the mound.
“When I was super young, we moved around a lot on the field,” he said. “I definitely enjoyed pitching and feel that I became pretty good at it, so I started pitching more and in more serious situations.”
Baron knows that beyond the basic physical requirements needed to make a baseball dance and foil the batter looking to knock the cover off the sphere, there is a whole mental side that is quite a bit different than pretty much every other positional player on the diamond.
“Pitching is a little bit more on yourself; there’s just you out there on the mound,” Baron said. “You have to be quite precise and accurate. I think I have progressed really well at becoming really precise and developing my pitches.”
Along with a whole bunch of teammates who performed extremely well on PBLO playoff weekend last July, Baron’s development in 2022 would be part of the reason that crew would walk off as league champions despite recording a regular season mark that consistently hovered around the .500 level.
Nothing like a little extra success to set the stage for better things to come.
“It (the championship) definitely motivated the younger core of kids to get ready for the upcoming season,” Baron said.
Thankfully, through the work of Jean-Gilles Larocque, Steve Donahue, Ethan Jodouin, Joey Moher and a host of others with the Baseball Academy, young lads such as Baron have the means at their disposal to pursue their dreams in the sport.
“The (Voyageurs) program has really progressed,” said Baron. “When you’re talking about weights, it’s certain muscle groups that you have to work on to become stronger so that it can correlate to the mound, helping you progress and throw harder. It’s been many small adjustments to help upgrade your game.”
Throw in the confidence that comes with the ability to execute a game plan the moment the ball is in your hands and you have the makings of a pitcher who is making waves right across the province.
“I like attacking hitters with my fastball,” Baron said. “My fastball has felt really good this year. If they start hitting the fastball, then I mix in the off-speed, my changeups. And I find that I feel really confident as a pitcher when I have good defense around me.”
“I really feel confident with my teammates, knowing that if the other team puts the ball in play, they will be able to back me up and support me.”
With sights set on adding a curveball or slider to the mix, one perfected to the point where it can really disrupt the hitter’s timing, Baron is hoping that the months of June, July and August bring more of the same, both on a personal level as well as for an 18U team that is in something of a rebuild phase, having graduated an impressive core of talent last fall.
“Baseball is a super tough sport and I want to see how good I can become,” Baron said. “I definitely want to focus on pitching. That’s where I feel most comfortable and most confident.” Likely more comfortable and confident than the young lad wielding the bat some 90 feet from Baron’s blistering fastball.
Randy Pascal is a sportswriter in Greater Sudbury. Pursuit is made possible by our Community Leaders Program.