Like many other Canadian kids growing up in South Windsor, Ontario, Detroit Tigers prospect Jake Robson once had NHL dreams of wearing the Winged-Wheel sweater of his favorite team from across the river, the Detroit Red Wings.
Robson, a standout defenseman in one of the top feeder leagues to the Ontario Hockey League when he was playing minor midget triple-A hockey for the Windsor Jr. Spitfires in the Alliance Hockey Minor Midget Provincial League where he had the opportunity to play in showcase tournaments featuring some of the best 15 year old hockey players in the world.
“I played house league until I was seven, then when I was 7 years old we had a team called select-sevens,” Robson said. “From there on, I played triple-A until my draft year in the OHL, that was when I quit, around tenth grade.”
Geographically located so close to Detroit, the Jr. Spitfires had the luxury of competing against the best American teams as well as the elite hockey teams from across Ontario.
“In Detroit we played Little Caesars, Honeybaked, Compuware, Belle Tire,” continued Robson. “We mostly played around southwest Ontario in Sarnia, London, Chatham, and obviously we'd go up to the GTA (greater Toronto area) in Cambridge, Oakville, Burlington, and Brampton, teams like that and we'd also go to Toronto as well.”
With a busy schedule in his first full season of single-A minor league baseball with the West Michigan Whitecaps after being drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the eighth round of the 2016 MLB draft, Robson had to rely on updates from family and friends when hearing the news of his hometown Windsor Spitfires winning the 99th annual Memorial Cup last week.
Although he didn't get a chance to see the game, the pride for his city and passion for his first sport were evident when talking about the Spitfires' unprecedented Memorial Cup run, which was right in his old backyard.
“I honestly didn't get a chance to watch it, but I heard about it from my family and friends,” Robson admitted. “I think it's great for the city of Windsor, you know, we have a great program and I think it's big for the city. I'm proud to be from Windsor, I'm proud to be from Ontario, so I think it's a big deal for us. I lived about fifteen minutes from the WFCU Centre, so it's pretty cool having that little connection.”
At some point in his first couple years of high school at Vincent Massey Secondary School, Robson's focus would shift from hockey to baseball and he would go on to earn a scholarship to play NCAA division-1 college baseball at Mississippi State University.
He hit .324 with an 804 OPS in his Junior year in 2015 at Mississippi State and .321 with an 827 OPS in his Senior year last season, which led to the Tigers drafting him in the 2016 MLB draft.
Robson, who looks to be on his way to the MWL all star game at Dow Diamond in a couple weeks, currently leads the Whitecaps with a .337 batting average, while leading the MWL with 65 singles and in third place in MWL batting average this season.
Last night, he led the Tigers' single-A affiliate West Michigan Whitecaps to a 3-2 win over the Great Lakes Loons at Dow Diamond, going 2 for 4 with 2-runs scored.
If the one-time hockey player from South Windsor, Ontario continues to put up big numbers in the minor leagues, I think it's a safe bet that baseball fans on the other side of the Detroit river will be content seeing Robson wearing an Old English D as opposed to a Winged-Wheel on his chest.