Standout '15 SS Royce Ando Breaks Down Trips to Big 10 and ACC Programs



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By Alexis Brudnicki

PBR Ontario Lead Writer

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ORLANDO, Fla. – The one thing that Royce Ando is looking forward to most over the next several months is something he’s done a few times before.

The Japanese-Canadian middle infielder has made it his mission to get back to Japan, a country he’s visited every couple of years to see family and friends in the past, but this time he wants to do it as a member of the Canadian Junior National Team when the squad heads to the world championships in Koshien at the end of next season.

“Every time I go to sleep I think about it,” the 17-year-old said. “Koshien Stadium, the fans, and everything. I’ve seen it on the Internet but I haven’t seen it in person. I can’t wait for that. Obviously I’m going to have to work hard to stay on the team, to stay on the roster, but that’s definitely my most important goal right now, staying on the roster to go to Japan.”

Ando knows exactly what it takes to earn the privilege of representing the country north of the border, having been on a handful of trips with Team Canada already. He has also had to get his game to the next level after being taken off the roster for the squad’s trips to Cuba, Houston and to the world junior qualifier in Mexico this year.

“After Dominican I didn’t make the team for Cuba and that brought a lot of fuel into me,” the Mississauga native said. “I’ve been working hard all my life but I guess having that goal to get back on the team and work my [butt] off, it’s a different feel; a different type of motivation.

“You get up in the morning and you think about it right away. You want to be on this team so you’ve got to get your work done for the day.”

His experiences with the national team are ones Ando will cherish forever, and he is looking forward to doing whatever it takes to continue with the program for the remainder of his time as a junior player.

“You have to take a moment of gratitude and thank everybody who has helped you get here,” Ando said of Team Canada. “Coaches, family, friends, teammates – they all have something that they pitched in, and they sacrificed to get you here. It’s crazy. It’s a different feeling, a special feeling.”

Currently on the squad’s fall trip to face instructional league competition in Orlando, Ando is surrounded by many new faces with more than half the roster donning the red-and-white uniforms for the first time. Seeing his new teammates react to the opportunity gave the young shortstop a feeling of nostalgia.

“I remember my first trip just looking in the locker and thinking wow, this is what it’s like,” Ando said. “I was trying everything on. You can’t wait to put on the batting gloves and the hats. You always see the other players wear it but you never get a chance to wear it yourself. So it’s definitely a special feeling.”

During his time away from the national team, Ando continued to play for the Ontario Blue Jays and work on bettering his skillset at home.

“I like to master my strengths,” he said. “My fielding, I take a lot of pride in that, and I’m working a lot on my running. I’ve been working with a track coach from Etobicoke, Trevor Da Silva, and he’s a great guy. We’ve been working pretty hard between that break after Dominican and he lowered my [60-yard dash] time by three-tenths of a second [to 6.7].”

The high schooler understands where his on-field assets lie and where he needs to do the most work to continue his progression.

“Defence for sure comes easiest,” Ando said. “It’s been a big part of my game for a while, being able to play shortstop. My favourite thing is turning double plays. I just love the feeling of a runner coming at me and having to turn it. It’s an adrenaline rush…

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“My hitting approach has improved the most. Really buying into that I’m going to be that guy to move runners over or bunt for a base hit, hit solid line drives and grind out at-bats.” 

In his final year at John Fraser Secondary School, Ando has yet to commit to a post-secondary institution, something he is looking forward to doing after visiting a few more schools and weighing out his options carefully to find a place that best suits him.

“With the OBJ trip I visited Michigan State,” Ando said. “It’s a really nice facility and the basketball stadium is huge…I talked to [former Team Canada and OBJ teammate Lucas] Zilli at Michigan State because we faced him, and he’s really liking it. It’s a good atmosphere for him and the diamond is beautiful there too.

“I’ve only been to Michigan State and then I visited North Carolina State. But I’ve been talking to some other schools like the University of Arkansas, Cal State Northridge, Liberty University, and some others…I want to take kinesiology, get a degree in that and then hopefully get a [doctorate] in exercise science.”

Ando is excited for what his future holds and will take everything that’s gotten him this far and use it to continue to propel him forward.

“Definitely just having fun with the game [has gotten me here],” Ando said. “Being in flow with the game and not thinking about what you can’t control has helped.

“Being comfortable in uncomfortable situations too, because when there’s a lot of pressure and you start to feel uncomfortable that’s when your mind starts going 100 miles per hour. So being comfortable and enjoying it is how I’ve made it here…the same thing will take me the rest of the way.”