Don't mess with Vancouver catcher Riley Adams at the plate -- or anywhere else for that matter.
One of the Northwest League's premier sluggers, and the starting catcher in Tuesday's Northwest/Pioneer League All-Star Game, Adams' first successful athletic endeavor wasn't on the diamond.
It was in the dojo.
Adams, the Blue Jays' No. 16 prospect, is a second-degree black belt in karate, something he began when he was three years old. Before he started playing other sports in high school, he reached black-belt level prior to entering middle school.
"It's interesting looking back at it, and I really learned a lot from karate that I can apply to baseball," Adams said. "It was such a great decision by my parents to get me into it. I know when I'm a father some day, I'd definitely like to get my kids into it."
Going into Thursday's game, the 21-year-old was fourth in the league in hitting at .315, tied for second with 12 doubles and eighth in OPS at .844.
The Blue Jays' third-round pick in June's Draft said a lot of his success can be attributed to many of the values karate taught him.
"Obedience is a big thing in karate, and that is just focusing on what the master was saying," Adams said. "It's just like listening to a coach, and you try to absorb all the information and apply those skills."
As one of the youngest black belts in his class, Adams said there was a little pressure that went along with it. He was looked up to by people both older and younger than him because of his accelerated advancement.
Dealing with that taught him how to conduct himself as a leader -- much like a catcher does on the diamond.
"I'm not that much of a rah-rah-type guy, but I like to lead by example," Adams said. "Moving up in the ranks in karate teaches you how to do that, and being a catcher is a leadership role in itself."
Adams was the West Coast Conference Player of the Year last season as a junior at the University of San Diego. He was also a semifinalist the past two seasons for the Johnny Bench Award, given to college baseball's most outstanding catcher.
Along with being the starting catcher for the NWL in the upcoming All-Star Game, Adams helped the Canadians capture the North Division first-half title with a 21-17 record.
"It's a little different format than what I'm used to, but it feels nice to lock up a playoff spot now," he said. "It doesn't mean we're not going to play hard in the second half, but we can work on some things and guys can stay loose and play free."
Adams started the season hot and led the league in multiple offensive categories for a stretch in the first half, serving as a catalyst in Vancouver's nine-game winning streak to help vault the club to the North Division lead. He capped the big first half with an All-Star selection.
"Getting to know everybody in the organization has been great," Adams said. "Making the adjustment from college has been exciting, and there's a ton of a talent in this league and I'm just happy to be named among those players."
First half winners: Along with the Canadians, the Hillsboro Hops captured a playoff spot early by winning the South Division with the league's best record at 22-16. The Hops finished the last 10 games of the season 7-3, best in the league, and had the best road winning percentage at .600 (12-8). There are seven Hops on the Northwest League All-Star team this year, the most of any team, led by the league's leading hitter, Pavin Smith (.360 going into Thursday's play).
Woods sawing hitters off: Salem-Keizer's Stetson Woods, an NWL All-Star selection, has been tremendous this season. In eight starts and 45 2/3 innings pitched, Woods has an ERA of 1.97, best in the league, and a 0.96 WHIP, good for third in the league. He's the bright spot in the Volcanoes staff, who collectively has the league's highest ERA at 5.14. Eugene leads the NWL in team ERA at 2.93.
Offensive threats: At the dish, Hillsboro leads the league in average at .269, and plenty of that has come from their league-leading 83 doubles. Everett and Spokane both have 79 two-baggers. On the bases, it seems like Salem-Keizer tries to run every time somebody reaches base. They have a league-leading 81 steals but have also been caught a league-leading 51 times for a .614 success rate. Three Volcanoes are in the top-10 in steals: Malique Ziegler is third with 17, Manuel Geraldo is fourth with 14 and Bryce Johnson is sixth with 12. Not surprisingly, Vancouver leads the league in stolen-base percentage at .757, 56 steals in 74 attempts.