MLB Alumni: John Axford

by Jason Booth

In the first part of our MLB Alumni Series, it's difficult not to get thing started with a pitcher who spent ten seasons in the big leagues and was once named the MLB Rolaids Relief Man of the Year.

While John Axford enjoyed a lengthy big league career and made himself known to baseball fans across the country, his pro baseball career didn't get started in your traditional way. He was drafted twice but was never signed be either team and was cut by the Yankees after 27 games in the minors before he found his way to the Brewers where he was finally able to establish himself at the professional level.

Axford, part of our Class of 2002, played on a scholarship at the University of Notre Dame for three seasons and sat out one year after undergoing Tommy John Surgery in his junior year. Axford was drafted by the Reds in 2005, following his time with the Fighting Irish, and joined the Canisius College program to complete his final year of NCAA eligibility in 2006.

His performance with the Golden Griffins wasn't enough for a contract offer from the Reds but fortunately, his performance that summer in the Western Canadian Baseball League was enough to earn a minor league offer from the New York Yankees.

As previously mentioned, the Simcoe, Ont. native lasted roughly one year with the pinstripes and then joined the Brewers where his career skyrocketed. He spent five years and three full seasons with the Brewers big league club, making his debut in 2009, and by 2011 he was widely regarded as one of the best closing pitchers in baseball.

He led the majors with 46 saves in 2011 while receiving votes for two major awards, the NL Cy Young Award and the NL MVP. This season is what many baseball fans will remember him for but it's difficult for Canadian fans to forget his 2018 season where he appeared in 45 games for his hometown, Toronto Blue Jays.

Beyond the Brewers and Blue Jays, Axford pitched for six other major league clubs, including the Dodgers where which was his final stop on his major league tour.

His story is a testament to his hard-work, dedication and perseverance to continue getting better and working towards his dream of playing pro baseball despite all the road blocks that came his way towards the beginning of his career. 

Team Ontario is very proud of Axford and all of his accomplishments since leaving the program nearly twenty years ago.