Prior to joining the Great Lake Canadians as a roving pitching instructor, Jon Fitzsimmons experienced baseball at the Division-I college level, through the minor leagues with three different organizations, and had a successful stint in independent baseball, learning plenty along the way that he hopes to bring to the program.
A native of London, Fitzsimmons began playing baseball in his hometown with the Badgers. A successful athlete at H.B. Beal Secondary School, he was nominated for a Spectra Award before embarking on his baseball career.
His first stop was Canisius College, a Division-I school in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conferences, where as a sophomore he was named the conference’s Relief Pitcher of the Year, setting a program record in saves and appearances, also leading the MAAC in saves throughout the season. As a junior, he was named Co-Reliever of the Year, was an honourable mention All-American, and was a part of the program’s first-ever MAAC championship victory. Undrafted as a junior, Fitzsimmons played for the Wilson Tobs in the Coastal Plains League following his championship season. He was named an all-star in the circuit, and after pitching in the all-star game, signed as a free agent with the Kansas City Royals organization. He spent the remainder of that summer and his next in the advanced-rookie Pioneer League, winning another championship with the Idaho Falls Chukars.
After being released by the Royals, he joined the Quebec Capitales in the independent Canadian-American Association of Baseball, where he was an all-star, was named Rookie of the Year in Quebec City, and was the Reliever of the Year in the Can Am League. After another successful all-star game, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound right-hander signed with the Cleveland Indians organization and headed back to affiliated baseball. Finishing the season with the Indians, Fitzsimmons was selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Rule 5 Draft the following December, and after being released by the organization in spring training, singed with the Los Angeles Angels organization. With the Angels, he moved up to Double-A before returning to the Capitales and then eventually to London.
Along the way, Fitzsimmons learned many lessons he hopes to pass on as he embraces his coaching career. Early on, he thought that the higher he moved up in baseball, players would have a noticeable difference in talent than the level he had come from, and instead he learned that everyone is very close in skill level, and aside from some natural gifts, the separating factors are mental. His most enjoyable experiences throughout his career were the times he was on teams with quality teammates. He enjoyed having a dedicated fan base like the one he experienced in Quebec City, and understood that good teammates could be a difference-maker in a clubhouse.
At Canisius College, Fitzsimmons gained a lot of baseball knowledge from head coach Mike McRae. He believes the biggest thing he helped with was in throwing strikes, having command issues early in his collegiate career. He also embraced the life experience that going away to play baseball at college had to offer, gleaning a unique education in Buffalo and enjoying everything D-I baseball offered in the MAAC.
Getting into the coaching side of the game is a way for Fitzsimmons to stay around baseball, which is something he wants to embrace. When he was younger, a lot of the coaches he had were really inspiring and helped him enjoy the game a lot more than he would have with coaches who weren’t as knowledgable or as excited to be there, so that experience is something that he wants to provide for the players with Great Lake.
The 26-year-old is excited to join the experienced staff that the Canadians provide, and work with players that he looked up to as he grew up, and guys that he learned a lot from along the way. He is humbled at the opportunity to contribute to the program and be a part of such a high calibre of coaching staff, among players who have played at such a high level.