Trevor Brigden (1)

Bowling Green Hot Rods relief pitcher Trevor Brigden pitched for Team Canada in May during qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics.

It’s been a magical year on the baseball diamond for Bowling Green Hot Rods reliever Trevor Brigden.

This time last year, Brigden was at home in North York, Ontario – just outside Toronto – working construction and waiting to see when minor league baseball would resume.

Now Brigden is in the Bowling Green bullpen in his first full season of professional ball, just two months removed from the experience of a lifetime – getting a chance to represent Team Canada during Olympic qualifying in May.

It was an experience that Bridgen said has already paid dividends in his quest to get to the majors.

“It was a very cool experience,” Brigden said. “You are representing your country. It was cool because I ran into players I played that I hadn’t played with or seen for 10 years. There were some guys I played with or against when I was younger playing baseball in the Toronto area.”

Brigden had just begun his season with the Tampa Bay Rays’ Low-A affiliate the Charleston RiverDogs when he got the call from Greg Hamilton with Team Canada to ask if he wanted to play. Bridgen immediately said yes, beginning the process to get the OK from Tampa Bay to play for Team Canada.

Within a day or two, Tampa Bay said yes, a decision Brigden said he was grateful for.

“I know there were some other players who were offered the opportunity and their organizations didn’t let them play,” Brigden said. “For the Rays allowing me to play, it was awesome.”

When Brigden joined Team Canada, he became part of a team with a major veteran presence in the locker room. The roster included former major league pitchers Scott Richmond, John Axford and Scott Mathieson – who pitched in Japan from 2012-19.

Brigden said it was a great opportunity to pick their brains and watch them pitch.

“(I had) all sorts of questions, whether it was arm health or throwing programs – strength and conditioning things,” Brigden said. “I was trying to ask questions and get as much information out of them as possible.”

He admitted it was pretty cool to be on the same team with someone like Axford, who he watched pitch growing up.

“John Axford is one of the players that I actually went to the Rogers Center and watched him pitch,” Brigden said. “It was kind of surreal. We were in the same locker room, so it was a great opportunity – just watching him work and watching him pitch.”

There was a connection with the coaching staff as well. Pitching coach Paul Quantrill was Bridgen’s pitching coach during his high school years – when he played on the same team with Paul’s son Cal Quantrill, now a member of the Cleveland Indians.

“To go to Team Canada and have Paul as my pitching coach again, it was a seamless transition for me,” Brigden said. “He already knew what I was like as a pitcher. He knew what to expect when I got there and I knew what I was going to get out of Paul Quantrill.”

Canada did not qualify for the Olympics after finishing 1-4. Bridgen made one appearance against Venezuela – striking out two, including former Bowling Green Hot Rods infielder Juniel Querecuto, in 1⅓ innings.

“It was a great experience, just being able to wear the Canadian jersey,” Bridgen said. “There is a lot of pride, so just being able to do that was an incredible experience.”

Brigden returned to Charleston on May 29. Two weeks later he joined the Hot Rods, where he has made 10 appearances out of the bullpen, striking out 17 batters in 15 innings of work.

He said the experience with Team Canada was very helpful, showing him what he needs to work on to continue his professional growth.

“A lot of them weren’t as high-powered as they used to be because they are getting a little older, but their off-speed was phenomenal,” Brigden said. “They could use their breaking pitch in any count and that seemed to be the dividing factor between them and myself. That is something I am taking with me and trying to work towards and get better at doing.”

Bridgen said he is still in touch with his Canada teammates, part of a text chain where they all discuss baseball.

“It’s a great brotherhood to be a part of – the Team Canada atmosphere,” Bridgen said.

And that Team Canada experience, along with his continued journey through the Rays system, is why Bridgen said he will never forget his 2021 season.

“I think this year has been so special,” Brigden said. “After 2020, not doing a whole lot, and then this year getting the opportunity to play baseball with Team Canada, in Charleston, and now with the Hot Rods, it has been a great baseball year for myself.”{&end}

– Follow Hot Rods reporter Micheal Compton on Twitter @mcompton428 or visit bgdailynews.com.

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