LONDON, Ontario – Not even two years have passed since Eric Cerantola was selected in the eighth round of the Ontario Hockey League draft process, and the 17-year-old right-hander is just a few months away from another potential draft experience, in an entirely different sport.
Cerantola has been a multi-sport athlete for the majority of his young life – also playing volleyball at school in addition to his time on the ice and the mound – but really began to gravitate toward a future on the diamond over the last few years, and especially since joining the Great Lake Canadians program.
Just after being selected by the OHL’s Owen Sound Attack as a 16-year-old hockey player two Aprils ago, the 6-foot-5, 195-pound righty began making waves with Great Lake during the months that followed. Cerantola impressed enough to earn his place at the Toronto Blue Jays-hosted Tournament 12 – an annual event showcasing Canada’s top amateur talent – where his performance then warranted him a spot on the Canadian Junior National Team.
“A couple of years ago it was the OHL draft that was on my mind and I was mainly focused on hockey,” he said. “It wasn’t until I got to GLC, and the development I’ve had here, that’s when I kind of started to see myself being a ballplayer.
“And then meeting up with [Baseball Canada’s director of national teams] Greg Hamilton at T12, and hearing him tell me that I got a spot on the team, that’s pretty much where baseball took over. Then making the commitment to [Mississippi State University], that’s where it really sealed the deal.”
Cerantola secured his future in baseball with his commitment to the Bulldogs, making his decision official in the middle of last summer.
“The [coaches from MSU] first saw me at Tournament 12, and then they came to watch me pitch at one of our games in St. Pete’s during the Florida trip with the Junior National Team,” the native of Oakville said. “Then we kept in touch from there, and I went down for my visit in July, and a couple weeks later, I made the decision official.”
Heading to the school’s campus and seeing everything Hail State had to offer, athletically and academically – where he hopes to major in business management – and speaking to the coaching staff, Cerantola became increasingly sure of his choice throughout his visit.
“It was really convenient for the baseball players there, with the dorms and everything being on centre campus,” he said. “And the baseball field was being rebuilt, but they showed us what the final project would look like.
“The coaching staff was probably the thing that separated them the most, with [assistant coach Gary] Henderson working with pitchers – he was very good, and gave us a plan that he would use with me when I got there, and that was something we liked – and then [head coach] Andy Cannizaro, it was his first year last year but he’s very excited about the future, and he wants to take this program to a national championship this year, and it’s exciting.”
Cerantola carefully considered his options before committing to the Bulldogs program, and his early encounters with the staff at Mississippi State really helped him take the decision-making process in a direction he felt comfortable with.
“It wasn’t an easy decision,” the right-hander said. “I was deciding between two schools, and they’re both schools in the SEC, but it was just the feel that I had on campus, and the coaching staff, and how comfortable I felt there and with them. Overall, it was the coaching staff, and where they are right now, and where they see themselves in a couple years. They’re really keen on being in a national championship, and I want to be a part of that, and help them out.”
GLC pitching coordinator Adam Arnold has worked with Cerantola throughout the entirety of his tenure with the program. Arnold has been impressed by the improvements the hurler has been able to make in his relatively short time on the mound, and looks forward to what more he might be able to do as he keeps moving forward.
“Eric has made some impressive strides within his development since first joining the program,” Arnold said. “He has taken his frame, athleticism, and arm strength to build himself into one of the top arms in the country.
“Each year he has added a little more polish to his delivery, giving himself a better understanding of what he needs to do to be successful each day he picks up the baseball. What stands out more for me with how Eric has evolved is his better understanding of how to pitch to hitters, and how he dissects his outings.”
Cerantola knows that he has come a long way since starting his journey on the hill, and though he is sticking to baseball now, the righty still believes his hockey mentality helps him out on the mound.
“I’ve evolved as a baseball player since then, and I’m just getting older so I’m physically maturing,” Cerantola said. “And then the biggest thing is the mental side as a pitcher – you’ve got to be able to just get right back at it, even if you have a bad pitch or if you walk a guy, you’ve got to get right back and get after the next guy, and I’ve learned that and I’m still working on that…
“I think I bring the hockey mentality to when I pitch, so that being said I go out there and I compete, and I give it all I’ve got.”
Heading into his final season with Great Lake, and as a member of the Junior National Team, both the entire Canadians organization and the young pitcher are looking forward to what’s next to come.
“Outside of Eric’s ability, being a 6-foot-5 right-handed pitcher with two potential plus pitches, he’s going to show up to compete with a solid work ethic and drive, to maximize his opportunities at the next level,” Arnold said. “He knows that those opportunities will equally offer him just as much as he puts into them. He’s looking to tackle the challenges that lay ahead for him this spring, to prepare him for what’s next.”
With another draft approaching, and a roster spot waiting for him at Mississippi State, Cerantola is excited about where this summer might take him.
“It’s unbelievable, just having the opportunity to be part of one of the top programs in the best conference in college baseball is amazing,” he said. “It’s kind of surreal at this point, but I can’t wait.”