For years, Sheldon Taerk took his grandson to the ballpark to watch the Toronto Blue Jays practise, play and, if things went well, maybe get a few autographs.
It may have been more of a treat for Taerk than the youngster, who like most his age, had dreams of playing on the field with the big boys.
Things have changed since those regular trips to the SkyDome. That grandson, Maxx Tissenbaum, is all grown up and is now a professional player in the San Diego Padres’ organization.
A 22-year-old second baseman from North York, Tissenbaum signed a pro contract with the Padres not long after the team selected him in the 11th round (345th overall) of this year’s Major League draft.
“I will always cherish those days of going to the ballpark with my grandfather – something really special,” said Tissenbaum. “And we can still do it, but there could very well be more cheering for San Diego.”
The Blue Jays initially drafted Tissenbaum, but that was several years back when he was picked in the 43rd round – so far down the ladder that Toronto scout Kevin Briand suggested the youngster would be wise to pursue a university education.
Tissenbaum did just that at Stony Brook University in Long Island, N.Y., where he was scouted by many teams, including the Padres.
Maybe the Padres were attracted by Tissenbaum’s three exceptional years at Stony Brook, or their scouting staff clued in to Tissenbaum’s performance with Canada’s national junior team.
Playing for one of the best college teams in the United States, Tissenbaum showed he has power and a high baseball IQ. He was Stony Brook’s cleanup hitter and had some impressive stats: he hit .390 with 12 home runs.
But Stony Brook, a team that went 52-15 this past season and made it to the NCAA Division 1’s College World Series in Omaha, Neb., really benefited from his defensive skills. To no one’s surprise, Tissenbaum’s fielding was also something the Padres noticed about the three-time All-American, who boasted a slick .970 fielding average.
“It all sounds glamorous, along with the pretty stuff on TV,” said Tissenbaum. “But baseball is a game of failure. If you haven’t gone 0-30 at the plate, you haven’t played enough. There are hours and hours of practising, learning from coaches and even when things go sour for awhile, it’s comforting to think about what got me to where I am now.”
While Tissenbaum can look to other Canadians making it big as major leaguers, he has a favourite. He likes to model himself after his hero, New York Yankees future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter. And some observers think Tissenbaum, a great contact hitter and defensively sound, just might have the makings of a very young Derek Jeter.
“I’m flattered to have my name in the same sentence as Jeter. He’s a phenomenal player,” said Tissenbaum.