West Australian Bjay Cooke is the latest Aussie to sign a professional contract with an MLB organisation.
The 19-year-old pitcher-infielder from Swan Districts Baseball Club inked a deal with Oakland Athletics over the weekend. He had previously committed to Weatherford College but will instead join the A’s.
"Bjay is a special type of athlete. He has an amazing self-awareness for a kid his age. He knows what he wants, has a plan, and is confident in his process," Baseball WA High Performance Manager Andy Kyle said. "It's one thing for an athlete to say they want something, but they have to put actions to those words, and it has been a pleasure to see Bjay work so hard on his trade the past few years."
"He is an exciting talent - athletic, can play multiple positions, showing ability to hit for average and now some power and on top of that could easily jump on the mound and flash a low 90's FB. Bjay has a bright future in this game and I can't wait to follow his journey."
Since first picking up a bat and ball in 2009, Cooke has racked up a long list of accomplishments representing his charter, state, and country.
He was part of the Team Australia U23 side that qualified for the upcoming World Cup with a sweep of New Zealand last month. He went 2-for-5 with an RBI and threw a scoreless inning in game two.
Cooke previously played for Australia at the 2018 U15 World Cup and was also part of the Team Australia Futures’ series against Adelaide Giants earlier this year.
Cooke won a gold medal with WA at the 2020 Australian Youth Championship in Geelong and took part in the 2015 Cal Ripken World Series.
Reflecting on his baseball journey so far, Cooke says all these representative opportunities and the support of his family and coaches have helped him get where he is today.
"I started my career at Kalamunda Rangers with my dad and one of my career-long coaches, Arnie Noel," Cooke said. "I was there with six or seven guys that I then grew up playing with at Swan Districts. I was fortunate enough to have great coaches and programs growing up."
"I am very grateful Baseball WA gave me the foundation and resources to build my career, whether that be facilities, coaches, camps, tournaments and all the extra stuff that was put together."
While Cooke has many highlights from his junior career, he says the thing he looked forward to the most was playing charter and taking trips with his team.
"Those trips were the most fun and Swan Hills was always a competitive team which was a bonus. I have so many of my favourite memories coming from those tournaments," Cooke said. "I must also mention winning the U18 National Championship in 2020 with all the guys that I grew up playing with and playing against, we are all a very close group now and I hope that never changes."
As for signing with the A's, Cooke says there is no better feeling in the world.
"I’m extremely proud to be wearing the A’s uniform. The club has a rich history and I can’t wait to be apart of the family they have! The A’s have shown me nothing but support and what they can bring to the table since the start."
"From the conversations that I’ve had with the people in the front office, they run the organisation in the most professional way possible and I will be in a great position as a player to further develop myself not only on the field but off the field too which is most important to me."
No matter what the future holds, Cooke knows he will be happy chasing his dreams and playing ball.
"My end goal like any kid that plays baseball is to become a Major League All-Star… but the main reason why I play is to inspire people to be better and chase their dreams. I love playing for my family, friends and the kids, I feel that as long as I can continue to inspire and make the people around me better, my goal has been achieved."
Cooke says none of this would have been possible without his family.
"Honestly, there are so many people that I could say thank you to and who I am very grateful for. Those people know who they are, and I can’t explain how much time I have for them," Cooke explained. "Above everyone else though comes my parents, Dee and Andy. We really made it our lives, they have done so much for me and been apart of my baseball life since the beginning."
"For dad it was the coaching, the thing that I love the most is that it isn’t always about me, he fell in love with the game just as much as I did and puts his heart and soul into it and being able to share something like this is beyond amazing. Mum just went above and beyond what any mum should do, supporting me from the scorer’s table, the stands, or back home I knew she was cheering for me even if I couldn’t hear her. I love them both very much!"
For any younger players who are dreaming of signing an MLB contract one day, Cooke has a few bits of advice that helped him along his journey.
"I like to keep things short and simple, two things mainly. First, the harder you work, the luckier you get, and second, be able to understand and let things ride out. If you’re well prepared and want something bad enough, nothing will ever stop you!"