Ask Myrtle Beach's Scott Thorman about playing high school baseball in Ontario, and it's easy to see how proud he is of his native Canada.
He can rattle off statistics about how many Canadians have been drafted and points out Canada is representing the Americas in the Olympics.
Thorman, in town with the Pelicans for a three-game series with the Potomac Cannons, is evidence of the improving baseball being played north of the border. In 2000, the Atlanta Braves made him the first Canadian high school player to be drafted in the first round.
"There weren't a whole lot of guys out there to pave the way for me," said Thorman, the Pelicans' first baseman and clean-up hitter. "But there is definitely more talent in Canada today, and I think it's great to see Canadian baseball getting some respect."
When Thorman agreed to terms with the Braves, he earned the biggest signing bonus for a Canadian player ($1.225 million). Two years later, a pair of Canadian pitchers were selected in the top 10 -- Adam Loewen by Baltimore and Jeff Francis by Colorado.
After playing rookie ball in 2000, Thorman's initial progress as one of the Braves' top prospects was stunted a year later after a series of dislocations led to season-ending surgery on his left shoulder.
But in his fourth full season, Thorman is a bright spot for one of the Carolina League's worst offenses. He leads the team in RBI (22), is second in slugging (.470) and third in batting average (.287).
Thorman didn't always focus solely on baseball. Like a lot of kids in Canada, he played hockey, too. At the age of 12 he was told by coaches he had to commit to a sport -- Canada's national pastime or the United States'.
"I was pretty good at hockey, but I always had more fun playing baseball," Thorman said. "I had to make a choice. Obviously, I made the right decision."