One budding baseball star could be the North Shore’s best pitch for sending an athlete to the Major League.
North Vancouver’s Adam Maier was drafted by the Atlanta Braves organization in July, with a hefty $1.2-million signing bonus despite throwing in only three games this season for the University of Oregon, due to an elbow injury.
Scouts have noted the 20-year-old right hander’s pitches as some of the best among his college peers, and had previously stumped many hitters in the BC Premier Baseball League, where he was crowned MVP in 2019.
Playing for the North Shore Twins, coach Brooks McNiven recalls Maier standing out at 11 years old when he was putting together a little league travel team, but it also took Maier time to really take off.
“He didn’t have a really good Grade 11 year,” McNiven said. “And I don’t know if that motivated him to work harder over the winter, but he came back that next year and was by far the best player in the league.”
But what impressed McNiven the most is Maier’s mental game. “He was never an arrogant guy. But he knew he was good, he was the best, and everything was exactly what you would be looking for in an elite-level athlete.”
During the pandemic, Maier continued to put the work in, playing for UBC in the 2020-2021 season and in the Cape Cod Baseball League alongside other high-level college players last summer.
Especially over the past year, McNiven said Maier started throwing crazy balls, at speeds he hadn’t seen before. Maier is known for his slider – a pitch where the ball tails laterally and down through the batter’s hitting zone – which “almost disappears.”
Now, he’s heading down to Florida to join the Braves organization, but he probably won’t play much as he recovers from elbow surgery – which is common among professional baseball players.
Spring training will start next March, and Maier will have to earn a spot on one of the Braves’ five minor league teams, from A to AA to AAA. He’ll be competing with all those guys for 25 spots on the big league team.
McNiven said Maier could fast-track it there in a couple years if all goes well.
“I don’t think any of us would be shocked,” he said.
In 2021, coach McNiven was inducted into the UBC Sports Hall of Fame. He pitched for the San Francisco Giants organization for seven seasons, and represented Canada at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.