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Former Blue Jay Dalton Pompey 'excited for the challenge' of playing in Guelph

29-year-old outfielder teases this may be his last season of professional baseball

Dalton Pompey hopes to get back to the baseball basics and rediscover the fun of the sport this spring and summer in a Guelph Royals uniform.

Late last month the former Toronto Blue Jays outfielder agreed to join the Royals for their upcoming Intercounty Baseball League season.

“I'm looking forward to just having fun again,” he said in a video call from West Palm Beach, Fla. “I think at times being in professional baseball, at times it's not fun. You kind of go through a roller coaster ride. Being able to take a step back and really enjoy my time playing again, especially knowing I don't know how much longer I'm going to be play. I might be lucky enough to play another couple of years. Maybe this is my last year. I don't know.

“In the meantime I'm just going to enjoy myself and try to connect myself with the community a little bit more than I have in the past. Obviously my past is different than most and having been able to play for the Jays, people have watched me before so just try to be that staple in the community and try to make a difference in any way that I can.”

Pompey, who turned 29 in December, played parts of four seasons (2014, 2015, 2016, 2018) with the Jays, collecting three homers, 10 RBIs, eight stolen bases and a .221 batting average in a total of 64 games. He also saw time with the Buffalo Bisons, the Jays’ Triple-A affiliate, in each of those four seasons.

“I always used to tell people that I felt like it was a blessing and a curse playing for the Jays,” Pompey said. “I enjoyed every moment of it. I got to live out my dream to wear the uniform. If you'd asked me when I was 15 or 14 if I would be playing for the Jays, I probably say that you're crazy.

“But at the same time I felt there were times that I couldn't get away. People would watch me all the time. They could always see me. If I had a bad game, I kind of just wanted to be left alone to just try to get my thoughts together and just try to turn the page, but everybody would be commenting on that.

"Sometimes I wished I would've played for a different team, but you play with the cards you're dealt and I wouldn't change anything for the world. I had such a great time with those guys and being able to be part of the playoffs and whatnot was definitely one of the highlights of my career. There's no regrets whatsoever.”

The Mississauga native elected free agency following a 2019 season with Buffalo. He signed a minor league contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2020 and was assigned to their Double-A affiliate, the Jackson Generals. He was released late in May that year when Minor League Baseball cancelled play in all of its leagues due to the pandemic.

Midway through May of last year, Pompey put his signature on a minor-league contract with the Los Angeles Angels. He began his season in Double-A with the Rocket City Trash Pandas before getting called up to the Triple-A Salt Lake Bees two months later, where he played about three and a half weeks before being released.

“I just felt like last year with the situation that I dealt with with the Angels, it was kind of out of my control,” he said. “I was doing well and they wanted opportunities for other guys, which I get. I think the game has changed a lot over the years. There's a lot less jobs available with them cutting minor league teams and whatnot.”

When Minor League Baseball returned from the pandemic break for the 2021 season, there were 42 fewer teams and no league names – just the level designation (Triple-A, Double-A, High-A and Single-A and the complex leagues, formerly known as rookie leagues). The league names are back this year, although they’re down to 11 leagues above the rookie level. There were 15 in 2019.

Being one of two players on the Royals with Major League experience – pitcher Dario Alvarez is the other – Pompey doesn’t figure that will bring extra pressure his way.

“I think playing in Yankee Stadium in front of 50,000 people is pressure,” he said. “I don't think me playing in Guelph and the pitcher, we're going to feel as much pressure. You just kind of go out and do the best that you can. I think two guys aren't going to change the dynamic of the team. It's a team game so the other guys have to pull their weight as well as us. We'll see how the summer goes. Obviously having that experience helps. Being able to mentor other guys and try to help them out as much as we can is going to be huge, too. It's a team game and we'll see what happens this summer. I'm looking forward to it and (Royals coach) Dino (Roumel) says there's a pretty good team put together so our chances are as good as anybody's.”

This year the IBL will have an expanded season. Last year, when the Royals chose to be the lone team of the eight in the league to sit out due to the uncertainty of the pandemic restrictions when they had to make their decision whether to participate, the teams played 30 games apiece in the regular season. The league didn’t hold a season in 2020 and the teams played 36-game regular seasons in 2019. Each team is to play a 42-game regular season this year.

“Being off for two years, it should build an excitement within people and hopefully we see that support as the season goes on,” Pompey said.

And Pompey is just looking to contribute and have fun.

“I'm looking forward to it,” he said. “I think it'll be a good opportunity for me in a lower-pressure environment than what I'm used to. I'm excited for the challenge. Dino's been telling me great things. He really emphasizes for me to just try to have fun and try to enjoy the game and just not worry about what I've been in the past and that's performing at a high level.

"It's not that I don't want to perform at a high level as obviously I hold myself to a high standard and I'm not going to go out there and try to suck by any means. When it's your job and you live and breathe baseball, sometimes it can get a little stressful and overbearing in a way mentally sometimes. It should be good. It should be a good summer.”

The Royals are to open their regular season with three games on the Victoria Day weekend as they’re slated to start the season with seven games in 11 days. They’re to host the Toronto Maple Leafs May 21 at 1 p.m. at Hastings Stadium before playing at Hamilton May 22 at 2:05 p.m. and at London May 23 at 1:05 p.m.