Greg Mercer, Record staff
KITCHENER – Cambridge’s Jordell James knows that his years playing elite baseball in Ontario weren’t free.
His mother remortgaged her house and leaned on lines of credit to help finance his dreams of making it to the pros as a pitcher, at a cost of about $80,000. Those dreams never came true, and instead, left her with a pile of debt.
Now James, a former Intercounty Baseball League pitcher who had a brief role as a reliever with the Kitchener Panthers, hopes to help other families avoid a similar fate. And he’s enlisted a fellow Ontario Blue Jays alumni — Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Dalton Pompey — to help him spread the word, and to help families better manage their finances.
James is bringing Pompey, who he’s signed to an endorsement deal with MorCanWest.ca, to a talk geared toward young elite baseball players and their families. That ticketed event, free for kids under 11 ($10 for 12 to 17-year-olds and $15 for parents), will go November 18 at the PlayBall Academy in Kitchener.
Both of James and Pompey played on elite teams while growing up in Mississauga. But while Pompey made it to professional baseball, James didn’t.
Today James is a mortgage agent and says he wants to help parents better navigate the high costs of keeping their kids in elite, travelling baseball programs – which can run $15,000 a year or more.
“I know what parents are going through. My mother spent an arm and a leg putting me through ball for five years,” he said, adding she eventually had to declare bankruptcy. “We can’t blame it all on baseball, but it’s a huge financial drain.”
James, who came from a family of eight kids, says he blew his own shot at a professional contract when he was a teenager growing up in Mississauga. He was sent home by his coach after he was caught drinking the night before an Ontario Blue Jays game in Florida, in which he was supposed to pitch in front of scouts.
He said the Milwaukee Brewers were interested in him, too, but were scared off by his lack of discipline when he was a teen. Now he wants to share his experience with teenagers chasing their own big-league dreams — and hopes he can talk to parents about how they can better pay for those aspirations.
“If I had the right mindset at that age, I would have increased my chances because I wouldn’t have done that stupid stuff,” he said. “There’s a lot of stuff I’ve learned that would have been useful when I was 15 to 19. I realize these things now.”
Registration for the Nov. 18 event can be done in person at PlayBall Academy or at MorCanWest.ca.