Armstrong looking to make impression
Catcher prospect amid rare trek from Canada to big leagues
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- As a youngster, Cole Armstrong says his friends in Canada tried to pull him away from baseball and toward the sport of choice in Canada. That sport would be hockey, not baseball.Armstrong did play hockey, though. And what position did the young White Sox catcher play? He was a goalie, of course. "I wasn't a fast enough skater to play anywhere else," he said. But Armstrong, 24, never fell in love with hockey the way many Canadians do. He's always called baseball his sport, even though it might be difficult to play in the frigid springs and falls in Surrey, British Columbia, where he grew up. The baseball season there runs from March through August, he said. But the rainouts [or snowouts] in the first few months forced club teams -- Canada has no high school baseball programs -- to pack in games once the warm weather came. Still, he's learned the game and learned it well. He's in Major League camp, trying to make an impression that will keep him on people's radar. But Armstrong knows his timing might not be the best -- not this season. He's a realist about his situation in that regard.
For he can look at the 40-man roster for the White Sox and see two veterans [A.J. Pierzynski and Toby Hall] with firm holds on the catching jobs."I don't see myself getting a whole lot of a shot up there with guys like A.J. and Toby, two proven catchers that are real good," said Armstrong, who took the long bus ride on Tuesday from Tucson, Ariz., for the ballgame in Surprise. "Maybe in a couple years. We'll see." Don't dare think Armstrong doesn't believe in his ability. He does. His play in Spring Training keeps moving him up the depth chart. If he continues to work hard, he'll ensure that he'll land a roster spot in the big leagues someday. That's why he's never let the bad weather in Canada stop him from working at the craft. Besides, he's found plenty of alternatives there that can benefit his development -- snow, rain or whatever notwithstanding. "A lot of time in the cage," said Armstrong, who split time last season between Class A Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham. "There are a lot of indoor facilities up there, and that's kinda what you have to do. "You just get in there and take as many swings in the case as you can."
Justice B. Hill is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.