PHOENIX – Drew Spencer, the manager for the British World Baseball Classic team, looks at the Great Britain baseball program in terms of generations, and describes advancing to the WBC out of the qualifying tournament in Regensburg, Germany last fall as the first chapter.
The stunning second chapter came Monday afternoon at Chase Field when his team shook off an 18-8, mercy-rule drubbing by Canada the previous day to rally past Colombia 7-5. Toronto Blue Jays prospect Jaden Rudd, just 20, delivered a go-ahead two-run double in the fifth inning after one of the club’s former prospects, Chavez Young, tied the game 3-3 with a two-run single the inning before.
Another former Blue Jays farmhand, Graham Spraker, picked up the win with 2.2 shutout innings after taking over in the fourth inning, and the Brits survived a nervous ninth for a victory that has a chance to resonate across the Atlantic.
“There will be people who can use this moment as inspiration to come out and play the game and to believe that someone with this name on the front of their chest (pointing to Great Britain on his jersey) can be successful, not only in competitions like this, but they can achieve all their aspirations,” Spencer said afterwards.
“It’s possible to go and play college baseball. It’s possible to go play in international leagues, to play in the best professional leagues around the country. And soon we’ll see somebody in the major leagues because of this moment, in my opinion.”
The key hits by Young and Chavez were complemented by Seattle Mariners prospect Harry Ford’s solo shot in the two-run seventh that opened up a 7-3 cushion, a margin needed for when Colombia put up a pair in the ninth.
Young, who swiped home as part of a delayed double steal against Canada, added his fourth stolen base of the tournament against Colombia while playing right field with the infectious joy that has become one of his trademarks.
The speedy, switch-hitting 25-year-old has been a catalyst at leadoff while the tenacious Rudd, who in Regensburg hit a game-tying homer in the ninth inning against Spain that set up the winning rally in extra innings that got the Brits here, has been impressive in left field.
“Chavez Young is an absolute leader,” said Spencer. “You saw it. I think the whole right side of that stadium is in the Chavez Young fan club just because of the way he plays and his energy and the way he engages everyone around him. He’s absolutely been the spark plug. …
“And Jaden, that kid can absolutely play. He already hit the most important home run in British baseball history, or what we thought was, until today. But my favourite part about Jaden Rudd, he’s the kind of guy, like, a true pro, who lets you know when he’d like you to have confidence in him. He said to me, just before that at-bat (in the fifth), ‘You know I can hit lefties, coach? You know I can?’ And I said, ‘I know, and you’re going to get the opportunity to.’ So he took it. And I’m really proud of him.”
Rudd played in the Florida Complex League last year after being picked in the seventh round of the 2021 draft, while Young was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the off-season for depth righty Zach Thompson.
Spraker, a 31st-round pick in the 2017 draft, reached triple-A Buffalo with the Blue Jays but signed a minor-league deal with the Tampa Bay Rays this off-season. He allowed a Dayan Frias RBI single in the fourth after inheriting a mess from starter Tyler Viza before locking things down.
“There was definitely some trouble, and I didn’t get out of that first at-bat, but luckily next two came through,” said Spraker. “And then after that, once I got a clean inning, I was out there to cruise, stay ahead, get as many guys out as I could. I knew we needed it. …
“All I can say to all the people in Great Britain, thanks for watching. If you weren’t, I hope you are now.”