Big Time Power Hitting '15 Josh Naylor Breaks Down Past, Present and Future


By Alexis Brudnicki

PBR Ontario Lead Writer

ORLANDO, Fla. – Josh Naylor has played baseball in so many different locations over the course of this season that he can’t even remember them all.

Josh NaylorSure, if you ask Canada’s top power hitter heading into next year’s draft where he’s traveled with the Canadian Junior National Team, he can rhyme off each of those trips. But once you factor in some of the other showcases he’s been invited to, including but not limited to the Area Code Games, the Perfect Game All-American matchup, the Under Armour All-America Game and Major League Baseball’s Junior Home Run Derby, the details start to become a little fuzzy.

Of course there is an enjoyable dynamic to getting to travel the world and showcase his skills among the best high school baseball players, and Naylor is quick to talk about the moments he’s relished. But all in all, the first baseman from Mississauga estimates that the number of days he’s spent at home this summer might be in the single digits, and that can take a toll.

“Obviously it’s fun staying in high-class hotels and hanging out with everybody, but you miss home a lot,” the 17-year-old said. “I really miss my brothers a lot and my parents [Jenice and Chris]. We always communicate and we FaceTime once in a while and I’m able to virtually see them, but it’s hard at times. But you’ve just got to keep going with baseball if you want to be successful.”

Naylor has two younger siblings hoping to someday follow in his footsteps, 14-year-old Noah and nine-year-old Myles, both impressive ballplayers at their respective levels. The oldest Naylor brother knows they’re always watching and tries to pass on what he’s learned along the way.

“I tell them just to have fun,” he said. “There are obviously going to be ups and downs, and things aren’t always going to go your way, but you’ve got to have fun with it and just enjoy the moment that you’re in. If you’re in a big game against Mexico in Mexico with ten thousand [fans] there it’s kind of hard not to be excited.”

Naylor did get a little bit excited in the matchup he referenced, when Team Canada took on host Mexico at the Pan Am Games in September. After hitting a big fly ball to bring in three runs in a blowout for the Canadians, he took a little extra time getting around the bases, riling up the hometown crowd – and his father at home in Mississauga.  

“They were watching that game,” Naylor said. “They saw [the home run trot] and my dad almost drove off the road…But it was exciting. My adrenaline just took over.”

The high-school hitter practices what he preaches to his brothers, always enjoying his time on the field, and not just in that particular instance.

“Absolutely I’ve had fun,” Naylor said. “Obviously when you have Canada across your chest it’s kind of hard not to have fun…There hasn’t really been a time when I haven’t. I try to take advantage of every opportunity and wherever I am, I try to have the best time there.”

He’s also enjoyed the times when he’s been able to represent the country north of the border on his own, though Naylor feels some added pressure when he’s by himself trying to make an impression in do-or-die showcases between tournaments with the national squad and the Ontario Blue Jays.

“It’s obviously a little harder,” he said. “Because if you don’t do as well as you can you get disappointed and angry with yourself, but it’s absolutely a great time when you’re there. You get to meet new people around the US and compete with the best players all around the US and that’s an honour. You obviously have to take advantage of that opportunity.”

The Naylor family doesn’t often get to see Josh play at the highest level. Chris will travel with his oldest son when Josh is without his teams, but other than that they aren’t usually afforded the chance. It makes it that much more special when they are around.  

“Last year my whole family came down [to Orlando] in April and I think my mom and dad are going to [the worlds in] Japan next year,” Naylor said. “My brothers don’t really get a chance to [see him play college or professional competition] so it’s unbelievable when they get to.

“If they come to watch me down here they’re always excited and they’re into the game even though they’re not in the game. They always want the best for me and I love them. I can’t wait to see them.”

Canadian Junior National Team Experience and The Next Level

In Orlando, surrounded by many first-timers on the Canadian Junior National Team to face fall instructional league competition, Naylor vividly recalled his first experience wearing the red-and-white uniform.

Josh Naylor“I went 1-for-5 with four punchouts and a triple,” he said. “I was really upset that day because I really wanted to make the roster for [the world championships in] South Korea. Greg [Hamilton, head coach] and I had a conversation and I just took off from there.

“I started doing really well and I had a lot of confidence going into it. For these guys here it’s really now about finding your role on the team and having fun with it and not getting too discouraged when you don’t do as well as you could. They might be the big guys in their towns but now they’ve got to find their spots on this team.”

A veteran player on the junior team now, Naylor feels a sense of responsibility to take on a leadership role among his peers.

“Absolutely,” he said. “In the clubhouse I try to talk to everybody and see how they’re doing and kind of figure them out. Obviously I don’t know the [new players] so I’ve got to talk to them and see how they’re doing and if they need help with something I’ll do it.”

With some of the younger players intimidated by his power-hitting prowess and his presence, Naylor goes the extra mile to make sure he is approachable.

“I always put a smile on my face,” he said. “I [get along] with everybody and I don’t want to be this big guy who nobody really talks to. I try to have fun around the ball diamond and in the clubhouse and in the locker room. I just try to be a really outgoing person.”

After a couple years’ worth of Team Canada travels, to the other side of the world and back, the best part for Naylor is still just the feeling of being among the country’s elite.

“Wearing Canada across my chest is probably my favourite part,” Naylor said. “I still get nervous whenever I put it on; I kind of get chills sometimes. I remember my first day and how important it was to me and…it’s always an honour to be here. I always thank Greg every time I see him, thank him that I’m here again. I’m just really happy to wear the Canada [jersey].”

With so many new players on the roster, Naylor has seen a lot of friends and teammates go, some to post-secondary institutions and others entering the realm of professional baseball. He believes their experiences have helped to give him a better understanding of what his future might hold.

“It’s pretty cool to see how far they’ve gone,” Naylor said. “Obviously Gareth [Morgan signed with the Mariners in June] and then I have a lot of buddies in junior college and university right now. We still keep in contact and I always talk to them.

“They say they’re having the greatest time of their lives right now. Maybe in pro ball it’s a little bit of a grind but they’re at the baseball diamond every day and the people that are at school are in class and then they play baseball after it’s done. They’re all having a great time.”

Naylor, uncommitted to a school, is still weighing his options.

“I think about both school and the draft to be honest,” he said. “And I obviously want to beat whatever my average was last year and do completely better than last year to show people that I’ve upped my game a bit. Then I still think about school and the draft and signing at a good school…I’m going to visit Kentucky, Texas Tech and Arizona State right now.”

When all is said and done and the next year is behind him, Naylor hopes that he has left a positive impact and a sense of pride with the people who have helped him along the way.

“I want to make my parents proud of me,” he said. “I want to do as best as I can this year so they don’t have to work another day in their lives. I just want to do my family well and represent the Ontario Blue Jays and Team Canada well in the draft, find a good school, and hope everyone is proud of me and make sure they are.”

Photography also courtesy of the author. Follow Alexis Brudnicki on Twitter @baseballexis.

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