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Barrie athlete in the zone, named top pitcher in two leagues

William Fleming finished season with 5-0 record and sparkling 1.07 ERA, not to mention recently topping 70 mph on the radar gun
William Fleming’s on-field performance has turned some heads not only with the Barrie Minor Baseball Association, but also the York Simcoe Baseball Association. The young lefty was recently named 13-and-under pitcher of the year by both organizations.

Whatever sport William Fleming plays, he’s pretty good at it.

“Honestly, William is one of those guys who is good at all sports,” Barrie resident Virginia Fleming says of her 12-year-old son. “He kind of plays everything.”

From recreational hockey and soccer to school volleyball, Williams holds his own.

But when the soon-to-be teenager takes the pitching mound on a baseball diamond, he takes it to a whole other level.

“Baseball is No. 1, and he takes it most seriously,” Virginia tells BarrieToday.

Unfortunately, that’s not good news for opposing hitters. They weren’t the only ones who noticed Fleming’s dominance on the pitching mound this summer.

Fleming’s performance on the field not only caught the attention of the Barrie Minor Baseball Association, but also that of the York Simcoe Baseball Association.

Both recently named the lefty hurler their respective 13-and-under pitcher of the year.

“It was so cool,” Virginia says of her son earning both awards. “We were just taken back. Not only does he get one reward, he got two. We’re just so proud of him.

"He’s so modest. I say to him, ‘Will, you know what this means’ and he’s kind of, you know, he doesn’t make a big deal about it. If I were to win something like that I’d be bragging," she says.

William was honoured to win the awards and be recognized, but the youngster is already focused on getting ready for next season.

“It felt good, but I didn’t really know how many people I beat (out),” he says, drawing laughter from his parents.

Ask him what he loves about pitching and he doesn’t hesitate.

“Everything,” says William, who throws with his left hand, but writes with his right hand.

That’s just William, says his father, Jeff Fleming.

“He enjoys it,” says William's dad. “It comes naturally to him, and I think that’s why he’s so modest about it. He’s putting the effort in right now. I think something about getting the awards, this year he realizes he’s turning 13 in December that the next stage, under-14, under-15, he’s going to have to build muscle, strength. Build up his secondary pitches for accuracy in order to compete.

“He took a big jump this year because he went from single ‘A’ to triple ‘A'."

His numbers on the mound speak for themselves. This season he finished with a 5-0 record, while posting a sparkling 1.07 ERA. Of the 105 batters he faced in 26 innings, he struck out 53 of them.

One of his outings included a complete-game, seven-inning shutout in a 10-0 win over the Aurora Blue Jays. William gave up a mere two hits and struck out 12.

The local boy, who lists Anaheim Angels two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani as his favourite player, comes at hitters with an arsenal that includes a two-seam and four-seam fastball, along with a slider.

“Last year, I got better accuracy, so when I get up there on the mound I just know where I can throw the ball,” said William, who likes to use his slider to get hitters out when he gets ahead in the count.

William started playing house league baseball at the age of nine as an outfielder and first baseman before working his way up to rep baseball.

His success on the mound, say his parents, took off when he took part in the 24-week Max Velocity Pitching Program at The Kage Barrie in the city's south end.

“Two years ago, my husband put him in the program at The Kage and it just spiralled from there,” says Virginia. “He really took to it and that’s when his pitching started to take off.”

Working under coach Dave Maxamenko, William could see the difference in his game.

“It helped me a lot with my accuracy and my speed,” says William, who throws over 60 miles per hour. “(The program) helped me because I needed more muscle and then (Dave) taught me how to stay on balance for pitching."

Jeff knows his son wouldn’t be the pitcher he is without the program.

“Their program, without it, I can tell you he probably wouldn’t have gotten the awards,” he says. “He was a decent pitcher, but his accuracy was nowhere close to being pitcher of the year for York Simcoe or Barrie Baseball.

“Dave’s done a really good job developing the kids, honing them, talking to them and communicating. That’s why we put him back in the program this year. They really do have a premier program," Jeff adds.

William will take to the field next season with the Barrie Baycats under-14 AAA team coached by former Team Canada player Andrew Warden.

He currently spends at least five days a week training at either The Kage or the Barrie Baseball warehouse, doing whatever is necessary to improve his game.

“It’s funny, he just went to The Kage the other day and I picked him up and he looked at me and said, ‘Mom, I threw 70 mph,’” says Virginia. “He’s always challenging himself. He’s always hitting new targets. I know he’s trying to hit 72 mph as his next goal, so I think he’s just kind of competitive within himself, setting goals for himself and he’s killing it.”

As well as his pitching, the William also works on his defence at first base and in the outfield, where he is good at tracking down fly balls.

Jeff says the path for his son over the next couple of years will be playing in the Barrie Baycats organization up to under-16. He’ll aim for the high-performance team next year and then look to play with Team Ontario or the Canadian Premiere Baseball League after he turns 16.

“He really wants to work on a secondary pitch,” Jeff says of William. “He talked to coach Dave about this. He wants to make sure his slider is as consistent as his two- and four-seam. That’s the big thing. The other two things he’s worked on this year with (Warden) and (Maxamenko) is really clearing his hips to create the velocity he needs for next year in AAA and then have a little bit more power on his hitting.

“His hitting was good this year. He was probably close to a .300 batting average, but at the end of the day just getting a little more power behind his hits.”

The game has provided William with more than just wins and strikeout. A quiet kid growing up in big part because of hearing issues that have since been corrected, taking the diamond has helped him break out of his shell.

“Now he’s part of a group,” says Jeff. “I've got to be honest, being in Barrie (baseball is) a close-knit community. Kids that he’s played with since he was nine years old are the same kids he’s played against or played with today, and the camaraderie is huge.

“I see him right now with this group taking more of a leadership role and build that communication, which is really nice. This is kind of transitioning to other sports like volleyball at school where he’s kind of the lead," he adds.

Be it baseball, volleyball or whatever other sports or activities William takes interest in, Jeff and Virginia just want to support their son.

“One hundred per cent,” says Jeff. “We’re just giving him the tools and if he wants to take it to the next level, then obviously we’ll support him on that.”

For William, the awards were nice, but he just liked competing and hanging out with his friends.

“Being with the team and throwing a lot of good pitches” is what William says he loved most about last season.

And while she’s proud of her son’s accomplishments in baseball, Virginia is most proud of the young man he's growing up to be.

“William all-around, off and on the field, he’s a really good kid,” she says. “All we hear from coaches and other family members is how polite he is on the bench and off the bench. He just has great character all the way around and we’re really so proud of him and who he is, and is becoming, and where he’s going.

“Whether that continues to be baseball or not, we’re just really proud of him.”

It was a season William says he will long remember, ending with two special awards.

How can he top it next year?

“Do it again, I guess,” says William, whose response makes his parents burst out in laughter.

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Gene Pereira

About the Author: Gene Pereira

An award-winning journalist, Gene is former sports editor of the Barrie Examiner and his byline has appeared in several newspapers. He is also the longtime colour analyst of the OHL Barrie Colts on Rogers TV
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