Former Blue Jays pick Eliopoulos dead at 21

Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, spring training home of the Toronto Blue Jays.

TORONTO – Jake Eliopoulos, a talented left-handed pitcher drafted in the second round by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2009, has died. He was 21.

Christopher Paine, a friend of Eliopoulos, confirmed that the Twitter account @goatbanger belongs to Zoe Eliopolous, Jake’s sister.

A cause of death wasn’t immediately known. The family announced the passing on a memorial page, requesting donations may be made to the Canadian Mental Health Association-York Region Branch(CMHA).

“Jake was a kind, sweet, genuine soul who leaves behind parents Jim and Lea, siblings Derek and Zoe and his best friends Max, Grant and Colin,” the notice read. “Jake found much of his joy in the game of baseball and his high school experience at Sacred Heart CHS in Newmarket.

“Numerous aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents will miss the light that Jake brought to their lives. Jake, rest in peace, you are now pain free.”

Paine looked back fondly on time spent with his friend.

“Jake was always a positive person,” Paine, who first met Eliopoulos when both were in Grade 9, wrote via e-mail. “He kept everyone smiling. His smile was contagious. All through high school we would always come to Jays games together. That’s one thing we will always have. He told me a year before his draft, ‘I’m going to play for them one day, you know.’

“Jake was the type of person who was persistent and wouldn’t give up, even if the odds weren’t in his favour.”

A former member of the junior national team born in Ukraine and raised in Newmarket, Ont., Eliopoulos was chosen by the Blue Jays 68th overall in 2009 but failed to reach agreement on a signing bonus and ended up going back into the draft.

After attending Chipola Junior College, the Los Angeles Dodgers selected him in the 15th round in 2010 but once again he remained unsigned. The Blue Jays selected him again in 2011, this time in the 43rd round, but again couldn’t settle on terms.

According to Paine, Eliopoulos had stopped playing baseball and had enrolled in school.

Funeral arrangements were still pending.

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