The story of how Redbirds baseball’s Jonas Press landed at McGill is all too relatable for many high school athletes who graduated in 2020 or 2021: COVID-19 derailed his dreams of heading down south to play Division I baseball. However, this unexpected twist has still resulted in a rewarding experience for Press.
“The friends that I’ve met through the baseball team are my best friends here and I love them from the bottom of my heart,” Press said in an interview with The Tribune. “I think we could all agree as a class, as a whole, that we’ve made lifelong friends.”
With his dad, uncle, brother, and cousin all playing the sport, baseball was inevitable for Press.
“I’m the oldest son […] so you could say I started it and then everyone kind of followed,” Press joked. “I started when I was five. My dad loved it and then I grew to love it too.”
Growing up in Toronto, Press began his baseball career with the North York Blues, then moving to the Brampton Royals where he won the Baseball Canada 13U and 15U national tournaments. At 16, Press moved to the Ontario Blue Jays––a team that plays in the Canada Premier Baseball League, Ontario youth baseball’s highest level.
“My goals as a kid were like; I want to be in the MLB, I want to go play for the Blue Jays,” Press confessed. “I was always pretty good so I thought I had a chance and maybe not to make it to the pros, but […] to at least go Division I down in the States. My goal was never to stay in Canada.”
However, as Press entered his final year of high school in the fall of 2020, COVID-19 prevented him from taking part in his team’s fall trip––a vital aspect of the National Collegiate Athletics Association’s (NCAA) recruiting process. As the team planned to visit a collection of southern-U.S. NCAA schools as their few COVID-19 restrictions allowed them to continue playing throughout the pandemic, Press decided that the risk of exposure while travelling would be too great. So, he elected to stay in Canada and attend McGill after graduation.
A few months before he arrived, McGill’s Athletics department announced that the 2021-22 baseball season would be cancelled entirely. At this point, Press considered taking a gap year to evaluate his options, but ultimately, he decided to come straight to McGill.
Despite the lack of support from the university, Casey Auerbach, the team’s coach at the time, was able to organize games for the team against CÉGEPs and other universities without being affiliated with McGill.
As the 2022-23 baseball season got underway, Press explained that the schedule wasn’t exactly what he had expected.
“If you look at schedules pre-COVID […] they had 40 games, they had trainers with them, they got to play against [Ontario University Athletics] teams, they had at least six or seven games in the U.S.,” Press explained. “That just hasn’t happened for us.”
Despite the disappointment and the desire to play more games against better competition, Press believes that the team’s addition to the Réseau du Sport Étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) will aid the long-term development and stability of the team moving forward.
“We’ve realized it’s gonna be really tough to have change for when we’re here, so we’re working for the guys in the future to make sure this team is still running and doesn’t get shut down,” Press said.
Like his teammates, Press has worked incredibly hard for McGill’s baseball program and has plenty to show for it: He leads the Redbirds in runs-batted-in and boasts a .408 batting average. This success may be due in part to his pre-game routine, which involves listening to a lot of Kendrick Lamar and putting on his gear in the same order every time.
For the remainder of the season, Press hopes the Redbirds will continue to compete at a high level and, hopefully, win the RSEQ championship.