Catching up with Toronto Blue Jays Connor Panas
By Ryan Mueller
Toronto Blue Jays minor league prospect Connor Panas joined Jays Journal to discuss the 2015 season, 2016 offseason and more!
Connor Panas was born February 11th, 1993 in Toronto, Ontario, but the soon to be 23-year-old grew up loving the ball diamond despite living in the hockey crazed city.
When he was younger, Connor could be found playing backyard baseball with his brother and friends, but he was never a one trick pony. Connor played basketball, hockey, football, and track, a true multi-sport athlete.
As High School drew to a close, Connor needed to choose between hockey, football, and baseball.
"“Had to give up both at the end of high school, obviously to pursue my dream of making it to the next level in baseball.”"
A dream that he could not have achieved had it not been for the influence of his dad.
"“At a very early age in my life he made me love the game [baseball]. He would always take me out for extra work, be a coach on my teams and help me become a better ball player and person. Even today he is still willing to throw batting practice to me.”"
In spite of being a strong HS player, Connor got overlooked by Team Canada and the Ontario Youth team. Still, Connor didn’t let it get him down. Connor then enrolled to Canisius College in Buffalo New York.
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During his time with Canisius, Connor became known for his work ethic and positive attitude. He attributes the success of becoming named All-American in his Junior and Senior year, as well as being chosen in the 9th round of the 2015 draft by Toronto, to that work ethic and attitude.
Being drafted by his Toronto Blue Jays was a dream come true, one that he got to share with friends and family.
"“To be a hometown boy now apart of their organization is just a surreal feeling. Hopefully one day I get a chance to play at the Rogers Centre Where I once grew up idolizing players and ironically am one now.”"
His earliest memories of Blue Jay baseball came when he played with the son of former Blue Jays catcher Darrin Fletcher.
"“My earliest memories would be when I was around 6-8 years old traveling to the Skydome to watch Darrin Fletcher and the Blue Jays play. I grew up playing baseball with his son and I would be in the Jays clubhouse and on the field meeting the players with him and his dad.”"
Panas didn’t realize how big of deal it was at the time. It wasn’t until this year in Vancouver, when signing baseball for young Vancouver fans, did Connor fully appreciate how amazing that experience was.
Connor played his first professional game for the Gulf Coast League Blue Jays, going 2-for-4 with a run and strike out. He played 5 more games with the GCL Blue Jays before promotion to Vancouver on July 1st, where he went 1-for-3 with walk. Just imagine the feeling for a Canadian boy to get called up to play for the C’s on Canada Day.
"“My first game in the NWL was at home on Canada day . Was just an electric atmosphere all season long.”"
Panas describes his time in Vancouver as the “best experience of my life.” He raves about the fans and the difference between playing in front of few fans in the GCL compared to playing in front of the best minor league fans.
Panas bonded with C’s MVP catcher Ryan Hissey and recently released Sean Hurley. Connor describes Hissey as a “great….great team player, great work ethic and outstanding defensively behind the plate.” Connor was also impressed by how well Ryan Hissey was able to swing the bat.
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His Vancouver career didn’t get off to a blazing start, hitting just .208 in July, but he was able to turn things around in August by hitting .295. The Etobicoke Collegiate Institute alumni attributes his slow start with Vancouver to playing 62 pre-draft day games with Canisius College, where he hit .379/462/.565 with 10HR, 67 RBI and 19 SB. That and some bad habits.
Vancouver’s manager John Schneider and hitting coach Dave Pano approached Connor about making some minor adjustments at the plate in series with Spokane on August 22nd. He elevated his hands to allow for a more direct swing. The results were instantaneous, with a 3-for-4 night, hitting a double, a home run, and driving in 4 RBI. Connor describes his swing as Tulo-ish, but from the left-side.
In college Panas played 3rd base, but in his Senior year he played LF and CF due to a lack of depth. In 2015, Connor was used primarily in LF, but also made appearances at 1st and RF despite being drafted as a 3rd baseman. He enjoys playing multiple positions, ” The more positions you know how to play the better opportunity to play.”
Flexibility for minor leaguers is huge, especially for a player who scouts describe as not having any plus tools, but lacking any true weaknesses. How does this type of scouting report affect the young Panas?
"“I really didn’t understand that comment because I felt it was sort of contradicting itself . I got drafted because I showed I could hit for power, score runners , be very versatile, have speed for a big guy and have a pretty good arm from the outfield. I just always work my hardest in the off-season to get me prepared for what comes next .”"
Connor will continue to work on his new swing over the off-season, while improving his mobility and flexibility. He feels that improved mobility will improve his defense, and will make him a more complete player.
Through college, Panas was all about gaining muscle, but felt that it hindered him as 2015 wore on and he now hopes some improved flexibility will allow him to excel at the plate and on the field.
"“I lifted very heavy and gained a lot of muscle. However during the long season of college ball and pro ball that started to be a negative factor on my throwing shoulder where I would tighten up. So I have currently been doing a lot of exercises to help improve that specific problem.”"
Conor Panas will continue to work hard to succeed and drive to become a better player. Everything you need to know about the young man’s hunger to can be found in his favorite Eric Thomas quote,
"When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe, then you’ll be successful."
Watch out Lansing, here comes Conor Panas.