A rogue baseball hitting you on the arm wouldn’t encourage most people to take up the sport but Ealing slugger Jonathan Tolen is made of rather different stuff.

The 19-year-old, who has worn the red, white and blue of Great Britain on international triangles since the age of 12, searched the sport on the internet after being struck by a thought aged six.

Recently returning from representing his country in Italy, Tolen isn’t about to let go of his dream of eventually reaching the Olympic Games.

“I got into baseball in a strange way!” said the teenager. 

“I was amazed that someone could hit the ball so far and I decided I wanted to have a go.

“I loved it straight away. I love running, hitting the ball and the team spirit.

“Unfortunately we got relegated from our league in Italy, but it was a fantastic experience to play abroad with the team.

“Putting on the GB jersey definitely the highlight so far. I loved being able to walk out and sing the national anthem with my friends and family watching.

“I can’t put the feeling into words – it’s exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. I’m really grateful for that opportunity.

“I want to be playing at Olympic level in five years’ time. I don’t want to speak too soon because that’s a big jump, but it is my dream.

“I also want to encourage others to get into baseball by explaining how fun it really is. I’ve made friends for life playing baseball and everyone should at least try it.

“I’d love to go into schools and encourage people to get involved in baseball to help the sport grow in this country.”

His cause is also being helped by SportsAid and the Backing The Best programme, which offers critical financial help to talented young athletes who would otherwise face difficulties progressing through their sport’s system.

Backed by £5.5 million of National Lottery funding, Backing The Best presents annual awards of £5,000 per athlete to help with essential costs such as travel, accommodation, kit, nutrition and medical bills.

Tolen was one of dozens of SportsAid athletes who attended workshops at The London Stadium, offering media training, nutrition advice, performance lifestyle guidance and support for parents.

The youngsters from all over the country were joined by sports stars Maggie Alphonsi, John McAvoy and Jake Wightman, with the latter offering his support for the SportsAid programme.

“When you’re young the funding opportunities are pretty slim, so to know that there are people out there that will help you fulfil the potential that you feel like you have when not a lot of others are doing that is pretty vital,” he said.

“I hope they’ve gained a lot from us athletes being here, because it wasn’t that long ago that we were in that position. Every single one of them has got a good platform to go for success.

“Being a part of something like this, they’re already a pretty good way along the path of being successful athletes. I hope they can come away believing that can happen thanks to Backing The Best.”

Backing The Best is helping talented young athletes facing the greatest financial pressure to pursue their sporting ambitions. The programme, managed by SportsAid for Sport England, is supported by National Lottery funding. Visit www.sportengland.org/our-work/talent/backing-the-best/ to find out more.