LANSING, Mich. via TORONTO, Ont. - Lansing Lugnuts righty Will McAffer has moved around, a lot.
Born and raised in North Vancouver, British Columbia, he went to South Dakota State for his freshman year, traveled to Central Arizona College for his sophomore year, and played out his junior year at Tulane University in New Orleans before getting drafted by the Blue Jays in 2018.
"I got used to it, bouncing around from place to place," said McAffer. "I guess it's a little tough, but it helped acclimatize me to [professional] baseball."
At Central Arizona, he pitched to a record of 6-3 in 62.1 innings, earning himself a Summit League Championship Tournament All-Star in his sophomore season. The Central Arizona program has notably churned out such names as Rich Harden, Scott Hairston and, more recently, four-time MLB All-Star Ian Kinsler.
In his junior year at Tulane, he appeared in 23 games, all but one as a reliever. In 28 2/3 innings overall, he racked up 26 strikeouts and tossed an immaculate inning against the University of South Florida.
As if all of that wasn't enough, McAffer also represented Canada as a member of the Junior National Team (JNT) in 2015, which included a trip to Osaka, Japan.
"I was in the shower at six in the morning when I got the call [from the JNT]," he recalled. "I came out of the bathroom to my phone buzzing like crazy. It always catches you off guard, because there's no tryout, so you never know if it'll happen, how it'll happen, or anything. It was definitely a big honour."
The team's exhibition against the split-squad Blue Jays ihas become an annual spring training tradition. McAffer, in particular, cherished the chance to pitch against Canada's Major League team. "It was just a great experience," he said. "I threw against a couple of big leaguers. It was crazy to see and be able to play down in [Dunedin Stadium]. People were asking us for autographs even though we were just a bunch of high schoolers from Canada."
Three years later, following his year at Tulane, he was drafted by the Blue Jays in the 25th round. Though he walked 26 and pitched to a subpar 6.91 ERA with the Green Wave, his ability had caught the team's eye. To his delight, he was assigned to the Short Season-A Vancouver Canadians, who play just 10 miles away from his high school. Funnily enough, the fans at Nat Bailey Stadium didn't recognize him as a local kid immediately, but eventually caught on.
"No one really knew who I was until it came up on the scoreboard," he said with a laugh. "After everyone realized, I'd get some claps and cheers, which was really nice."
On the mound, McAffer impressed with the Canadians, pitching to an ERA of 3.68 in 29.1 frames, striking out a whopping 37 and walking 17. In 21 appearances, he notched seven wins and averaged 11.4 strikeouts per nine innings pitched.
This year with the Lugnuts, he's continued that stretch of dominance, tossing 7.2 frames so far without allowing a run. With one win already under his belt, he's allowed but five hits and has struck out 12 batters and walked only five.
Mechanically, he feels good, but still wants to improve certain aspects of his game. Most notably, he hopes to elongate his stride during his delivery with the goal of getting farther down the mound to get more velocity and improve his command.
"I'm really excited," McAffer said about starting the season in Lansing. "I'm really fortunate that the Blue Jays are giving me an opportunity to prove myself."
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.