Canadian Prospects Among Best in Baseball

  • March 24, 2006

If Baseball America’s evaluation of the top-10 prospects of all 30 Major League Baseball clubs is any indication, the future of Canadian Baseball is promising as six canucks made the top prospects list for their respective clubs. Leading the list and rated No. 2 (the top pitcher) by Baseball America in the Baltimore Orioles’ organization is left-handed pitcher Adam Loewen, Canada’s highest-ever draft pick. Loewen, who was selected fourth overall in the 2002 MLB draft also received the largest signing bonus and major league contract ever handed out by the Baltimore Orioles to an amateur player. If those numbers don’t emphasize the confidence the Orioles have in Adam Loewen, his statistics on the field will certainly reinforce the belief that the Surrey, B.C. native will likely play in the Major Leagues in the near future. Loewen won seven of his last 10 starts in 2005 in addition to picking up a win in relief in his last appearance of the season with the High-A Frederick Keys. He finished the season 10-8 with a 4.12 ERA and struck out 146 batters in 142 innings of work. The 6’5”, 215 pound lefty also lead the 2005 Arizona Fall League with a 1.67 ERA. Although his up-side was well known within baseball circles, Loewen’s name wasn’t exactly a household name until he shut down a powerful American line-up at the World Baseball Classic, setting the tone defensively to pace Canada to a 8-6 upset of the U.S. where he threw 3.2 scoreless innings, allowing only three hits and three walks. Loewen is expected to begin the season at Double-A Bowie. HISTORY: Selected by the Baltimore Orioles in the first round (fourth overall) of the 2002 MLB draft - Signed May 26, 2003. Of the six Canadians on Baseball America’s list, Dodgers’ catcher Russell Martin (Ranked No. 4 and the top catcher in the Dodgers’ system) will likely be the first to play in the Major Leagues. Martin, who many expected to be a late-season call-up to the Majors last season, opted to make his case for a spot on the Dodgers’ 2006 big league roster rather than playing in the 2006 World Baseball Classic. His decision may very well prove to be a wise career move. Thus far, Martin is batting .357 with one homerun, eight RBIs, five runs scored and only three strikeouts in 13 spring training games. Those numbers, paired with an hamstring injury suffered by projected opening day catcher Dioner Navaro on March 15, may very well translate into Martin’s first spot on a Major League roster. The more experienced Sandy Alomar Junior is expected to get the start over Martin (should Navaro not be healthy enough to play) on opening day. However, having had seven knee surgeries over his 18-year Major League career, you would think that Alomar would need a rest sooner or later, opening the door for Martin to take to the field for the first time. HISTORY: Selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 17th round of the 2002 MLB amateur draft - Signed June 13, 2002. At No. 2 on the San Diego Padres’ prospects list is Scarborough, Ontario native George Kottaras. Kottaras, who projects to be an offense-oriented catcher, is one of three Canadian backstops in the Padres’ Organization.  He and Pierre-Luc Laforest (Hull, Qué.) are both currently listed on the Padres’ 40-man roster as back-ups to Doug Mirabelli and Mike Piazza. Kottaras played his first full professional season is 2005, splitting time between Hi-A Lake Elsinore and Double-A Mobile, batting .299 with 11 homeruns, 36 doubles and 65 RBIs. It is his offensive production that scouts believe will vault Kottaras into a starting position at the big league level by the end of the 2007 season. HISTORY: Selected by Padres in the 20th round of the 2002 draft; signed May 26, 2003. The Philadelphia Phillies’ No. 4 prospect, Scott Mathieson, has been making waves since being drafted in 2002. Off the field, Mathieson is quiet and mild-mannered. On the field, he’s a tenacious competitor and an extremely hard worker. Since being drafted, Mathieson has gained over 30 pounds of muscle and has added 12 MPH to his fastball in addition to developing solid second and third pitches. Despite not having pitched beyond Single-A, Mathieson proved he can throw at a high level, finishing second in the 2005 Arizona Fall League for strikeouts, fanning 36 batters in 26 innings of work. Mathieson also threw a hitless eighth inning setting up Canada’s upset of the United States at the World Baseball Classic. Mathieson will likely begin the 2006 season at Double-A Reading. HISTORY: Selected by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 17th round of the 2002 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft - Signed July 3, 2002. The only Canadian who isn’t either a pitcher or a catcher to make it to his organization’s top-10 list is first baseman Joey Votto (Toronto, Ontario). At No. 9 in the Cincinnati Reds’ system, Votto is a catcher-turned-first baseman who can hit the ball a mile.  The top first-base prospect in the organization, Votto walked 90 times in 2004 showing he can also be patient at the plate. The 22 year-old had a coming out party in his first two international tournaments with Baseball Canada’s national senior team in 2005, earning all-star honours at both the 2005 World Cup in the Netherlands and the 2005 CONCEBE Baseball Regional Olympic Qualifier in Phoenix, Arizona. Votto will likely begin the 2006 season at Double-A Chattanooga. HISTORY: Selected by the Cincinnati Reds in the second round of the 2002 MLB amateur draft - Signed June 5, 2002. The final Canadian to make the top-10 list is the only one to belong to Canada’s lone Major League Baseball organization, the Toronto Blue Jays.  At No. 10 on the Blue Jays’ list is the hard-throwing Vince Perkins (Saanichton, B.C.). Perkins’ premiere pitch, a heaving sinking fastball is already a major-league pitch. As he continues to improve on his second and third pitches, the 24-year old will work his way up the Jays’ system. Perkins will likely begin the season at Double-A New Hampshire and might get called up to Triple-A Syracuse. HISTORY: Selected by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 18th round of the 2000 MLB entry draft; Signed May 24, 2001.  

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Former Canadian Junior Team Prospect Ties NIU Single-game Hit Record

  • March 22, 2006

Canadian Marc Besteman (Bradford, Ont.) went five-for-six with a pair of RBIs to tie a Northern Illinois University record for hits in one game, Friday, in a 13-9 loss to the University of Nevada Wolfpack in Reno, Nevada. “It was great because each and every one of those came in a situation where we needed a hit,” said Besteman, adding he would have traded all of those hits in for a Huskies win. “But I would rather have had five sac bunts and a win than five hits and a loss.” With his parents on hand, having flow in from north or the border, Besteman (Bradford, Ont.) hit five singles to become only the fifth Huskies’ player and the first since 2002 to collect five hits in one game, his only hiccup coming in the eighth inning when he flied out to left field. With two away in the top of the ninth inning and Besteman coming to the plate representing the last out of the game, the 21-year-old was solely focused on keeping the inning and his team’s hopes of winning alive. “I didn’t know what the record was or that I was even going for a record there. My coach told me after the game,” he said. “I can recall having played a good double header, but I can’t recall ever picking up five hits in one game.” Besteman, who played on a myriad of Ontario provincial teams during high school and hwoattended the Canadian National Junior Team prospects’ spring training camp in 2003, is now hitting .293 with seven RBIs and three stolen bases in 14 games this season. Besteman’s record-tying game 1st : Single to right field3rd: Single up the middle4th: Single, advanced to second on the throw, RBI7th: Single up the middle, RBI8th: Flied out to left field9th: Single to left-centre field  

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Baseball PEI Announces New Executive Director

  • March 17, 2006

Baseball P.E.I. is pleased to announce the recent appointment of Kelsey McIntosh to the position of Executive Director. Originally from Souris, P.E.I., McIntosh and has been working as a Multi Sport Executive Director with Sport P.E.I. for the past 4 1/2 years. McIntosh has vast sport and recreation experience having been involved with baseball, football, and hockey as an athlete, coach, official and/or administrator.  He also has administration experience with basketball, cycling, figure skating, ringette, synchronized swimming, tennis and the 55+ Games Society. McIntosh met the membership March 13th when Baseball P.E.I. held its Recognition Night and Presidents Meeting. The Recognition night was the Association's opportunity to award the 2005 Sport PEI Certificate of Achievements while the Presidents meeting outlined the plans for the upcoming 2006 season.  Additional volunteers are always needed to assist with upcoming events. Anybody interested in becoming involved is asked to contact McIntosh. Baseball PEI welcomes McIntosh and encourages anyone with questions about the Association to contact Kelsey directly.  He can be reached by Phone: (902) 368-4208 or Toll-free 1-800-247-6712 (in PEI) or by Email at kmcintosh@sportpei.pe.ca, by Fax at (902) 368-4548 or Toll-free Fax 1-800-235-5687 (in PEI) or by mail at Baseball PEI, P.O. Box 302, Charlottetown, PE, C1A 7K7.

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Top-Five reasons why fans shouldn’t be disappointed with Canada’s run at the World Baseball Classic

  • March 15, 2006

Team Canada’s ride at the inaugural World Baseball Classic was an emotional roller coaster. First they fought off a pesky South African squad in one of the wildest games of the tournament. Then they shocked the world by beating a star-studded American team a day later, only to fall to an inspired group of Mexicans in their final game. Although the Canadians ended the tournament on a low point and failed to advance to the second round, there are reasons a plenty for Baseball Canada for which to be proud. Here are the top-five reasons why fans should not be disappointed with Canada’s finish at the World Baseball Classic. 5. Against what was hyped to be one of the best pitching staffs in the tournament, Boston Red Sox outfielder Adam Stern (Port Stanley, Ont.) lit it up offensively in an 8-6 win over the United States. Stern was a double away from hitting for the cycle, going 3-for-4 with 4 RBI. In addition, Stern was a rock in centre field making diving plays and leaping grabs against the wall to preserve Canada’s lead. After the first round of the World Baseball Classic, Stern was second in batting average and led the entire field in number of hits. With the departure of Johnny Damon to the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox outfield is considerably weaker than that of 2005. Canadians shouldn’t be surprised if they see more of Adam Stern this season. 4. Canada’s young guns were its best performers, especially on the mound.  The four youngest Canadian pitchers, Jesse Crain (24), Vince Perkins (24), Scott Mathieson (22) and Adam Loewen (21) did not allow a single run and only gave up one hit over a combined 7.2 innings of work. In addition, Erik Bedard (27), Eric Cyr (27) and Steve Green (28) combined for 4 hits, 2 walks, 1 run and 8 strikeouts over 7.1 innings pitched. The future of Canadian baseball is in good hands. 3. As Baseball Canada shifts its focus to the Americas Olympic Qualifier which will be held in Havana, Cuba August 23 to September 2, it can take solace in the fact that more than half the players from its World Baseball Classic (18) team will likely be eligible to return to the national senior team. Any player not on a Major League Baseball 25-man roster is eligible for the tournament; meaning players like Loewen, Mathieson, Perkins, Green, Ryan Radmanovich, Scott Thorman and Stubby Clapp could help Canada on its quest for a second-straight Olympic berth. Depending on his status with the Boston Red Sox, Stern might also be available. Having recently retired from Major League Baseball, veteran pitcher Paul Quantrill would also be eligible. 2.  Although Canada would have traded in their victory against the U.S.A for a berth in the second round of the World Baseball Classic, the upset of the American powerhouse has opened some eyes both north and south of the 49th parallel. Although Canada has come up with major victories in the past (1991 World Junior Championship gold medal, bronze medal at the 1993 World University Games, wins over both Cuba and the United States at the 1999 Pan-Am Games and a fourth-place finish at the 2004 Olympics), this year’s U.S.eh! game will likely go down as the most memorable. For baseball fans in the U.S. and around the world, the U.S.eh! game is the game that has put Canadian baseball on the map. Within baseball circles, Canada’s baseball teams have been earning more respect and although Canada has been producing more and more quality Major League players, fans who generally tune-out during international competitions have been oblivious the strides Baseball Canada has made over the last 15 years. Now that Canada has pulled off another major victory on the biggest stage against the best players baseball’s birthplace could provide, sports fans around the world are finally realizing that Canada is not just about hockey, curling, and ketchup sandwiches. 1. After the first round, Canada was no better or no worse than the two teams who advanced ahead of them. Canada was the only team in the entire World Baseball Classic field to be eliminated with two wins in its three first round games. After being tied with the United States and Mexico with two wins and a loss, Canada simply ended up getting the short-end of the stick on a tie-breaker rule in a sport that prides itself in determining a clear winner every time out. With two wins in the most competitive first-round pool at the World Baseball Classic, Canada’s team has absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.

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Canada Fends Off Feisty South African Squad in Wild World Baseball Classic Showdown

  • March 08, 2006

SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA –  Baseball Canada’s National Senior rallied to narrowly avoid being upset by a pesky South African team, Tuesday Night at Scottsdale Stadium, hanging on for a wild 11-8 victory in its first-ever World Baseball Classic Game. Three outs away from pulling off the biggest upset of the World Baseball Classic, South Africa and its 17-year-old reliever Jared Elario couldn’t prevent a four-run, ninth inning rally from Canada, who had to look to its bench for a hero. After entering the game late as a defensive replacement, Ryan Radmanovich (Calgary, Alberta) hit a 430-foot triple off the base of the wall in straight-away center to lead-off the ninth inning for Canada. Radmanovich was cashed in by a double to right by Adam Stern (Port Stanley, Ont.) to tie the game.  Elario continued to struggle, throwing two wild pitches with Canadians on third base and giving up an RBI double to reserve outfielder Sebastien Boucher (Ottawa, Ont.) to run the final score out to 11-8. “How was that for an emotional roller coaster to start the tournament?” said Canada’s second baseman Stubby Clapp (Windsor, Ont.). “This was probably a good game for us, not only because it was back and forth and we fought back to win the game, but because it lets us realize that anything can happen in a tournament like this.” After taking a 3-0 lead, South Africa came back to take a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the fifth inning. Canada came answered  with four runs in the seventh to regain a three-run lead, but with the bases loaded, South African second baseman Paul Bell cleared the bases with a double down the left field line to put South Africa up 9-8 going into the ninth inning. Bell went 3-for-3 with a pair of doubles, one run, one walk and four RBI. Corey Koskie (Anola, Manitoba) hit a two-run blast to right in the top half of the seventh inning to help Canada take a temporary 7-4 lead. Coskey finished the game 1-for-3 with two RBI, one double and three walks. "Usually, this is still early in Spring Training and you don't play with this intensity," said Koskie. "There was no 75 to 80 percent out there today. It was 100 to 110 percent all the way through. Nobody was leaving anything behind. You saw that with our guys, and their guys.” After a relatively uneventful first four innings where the two teams combined for only three hits, the offences took over and the wheels came off for almost every pitcher that came into the game for both teams. Canada got on the board first with a three-run fifth highlighted by a two-run double to right from Designated hitter Matt Stairs (Fredericton, N.B.).  South Africa came back to take the lead going into the sixth thanks in part to a bases clearing double from shortstop Brett Willemburg with the bases loaded. The game featured 16 walks, 8 wild pitches (all by South Africa), three hit batsmen and five errors. There were 47 base runners on the game behind only 27 hits. The game went 3 hours and 38 minutes, giving Canada just over 12 hours to prepare for their second game of the tournament. “We’ve got the win now and what we have to do is go home, get rested and be ready to face the Americans tomorrow,” said Stern. Canada will face the United States in the second match-up of the World Baseball Classic Wednesday at 4 p.m. EST at Chase field in Phoenix, Arizona.  Adam Loewen will get the ball for Canada while Dontrelle Willis will start for the Americans.

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Canada’s Young Guns Get the Call Against All-Star Line-up

  • March 08, 2006

PHOENIX, ARIZONA – 21-year-old Baltimore Orioles prospect Adam Loewen will lead a group of young pitchers into Canada’s second World Baseball match-up against the United States this afternoon. The 6’5”, 225-pound left-hander will start the game on the mound for Canada, who is 1-0 after defeating South Africa Tuesday night in Scottsdale, Arizona. “Adam has a lot of talent coming out of that arm,” said Canadian Manager Ernie Whit of the fourth selection in the 2001 MLB draft. “He’s got tremendous stuff and the Americans have never seen him before, so I’m confident he can go out there and do very well.” Loewen, who led the 2005 Arizona Fall League in ERA (1.67) is Canada’s highest-ever draft pick and is rated No. 2 on Baseball America’s evaluation of the top prospects in the Baltimore Orioles’ organization. He threw two innings, allowing no runs, one hit and two walks during a spring training game for the Orioles in his last outing when he faced the Florida Marlins Thursday, March 3. It’s likely that Loewen won’t be the only young pitcher to throw against the U.S.  26-year-old Chris Begg, 22-year-old Scott Mathieson, and 24-year-old Vince Perkins will all be available after not being used in yesterday’s game against South Africa. Eric Cyr (27), Steve Green (28), Mike Meyers (28) and Aaron Myette (28) are also available. Including the position players, Canada’s World Baseball Classic squad features 10 players aged 25 or under. “I think that helps team chemistry a little bit,” said Mathieson, one of the top pitching prospects in the Philadelphia Phillies’ system. “We all realize that this is a big opportunity for us and we really look to feed off of each other as well as learning from the more experienced guys like Paul Quantrill or Rheal Cormier.” The collection of young players is part of a core group of athletes who have a wealth of international tournament experience, which some consider to be one of Canada’s biggest strengths under the World baseball Classic’s format. The 10 players under the age of 25 combine 42 international tournaments on various Baseball Canada’s National Team programs. Canadian Manager Ernie Whitt said that having such a talented group of young players projects a very good outlook for the future of Canadian baseball. “I think it’s going to bode very well for us because these guys are going to gain a lot of experience at this tournament,” said Whitt. “I think it’s really going to pay dividends for Canadian Baseball. This is a great opportunity for them to come in here and showcase their abilities under the spotlight. They’re going to come out competing against Major League hitters and there are going to be a lot of scouts out there. A lot of opportunities might arise out of this.” Game time is scheduled for 4 p.m. EST at Chase Field in Phoenix. Fans can watch the game live across the country on all Rogers Sportsnet channels.  Fans without cable or satellite packages can also follow the game live at www.worldbaseballclassic.com.

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Canada Calls on Bedard to Start Against South Africa

  • March 07, 2006

POENIX, ARIZONA – Navan Ontario’s Erik Bedard will be handed the ball on the mound for Canada’s first-ever World Baseball Classic match up tonight against South Africa. Bedard’s start was a late decision for Manager Ernie Whitt, who decided to start the Baltimore Orioles’ left-hander in order to have him available more quickly should Canada advance to the second round. Fellow lefty and Orioles’ prospect Adam Loewen, who was originally schedule to play against South Africa will now throw against the United States, Wednesday. “We just felt that if we pitched Bedard first, then his next assignment would likely fall against Japan in the next round, provided we qualify,” said Whitt. “We feel that Japan is a pretty good hitting ball club and that Bedard would match up better against them than Adam Loewen.” Despite the short notice, Whitt is extremely confident that Bedard will bring his A-Game in his first-start ever for a Canadian National Team. “Erik has a lot of experience on the mound and he’s one of the best pitcher’s in the game when he’s healthy,” said Whitt. “And he is healthy right now.” Bedard started the 2005 season 5-1 with a 2.09 ERA before going on the disable list in late may.  He finished the season 6-8 with a 4.00 ERA. South Africa is expected to send the well-conditioned Carl Michaels to the mound. Michaels, a 24-year old once in the Milwaukee Brewers Minor League system, threw 13 innings in a 5-4 loss to the second-place Koreans at the 2005 World Cup in the Netherlands. Michaels allowed 12 hits and struck out 12 of the 53 batters he faced in that game. He was charged with only two earned runs but fired a wild pitch that sent the winning run home from third base in the bottom of the 13th inning. Game time is scheduled for 9:05 p.m. EST at Scottsdale Stadium in Scottsdale, Arizona.  Fans can watch the game live on Rogers Sportsnet East, Ontario and Pacific or tape-delayed at 1:00 a.m. EST on Rogers Sportsnet West.  For those without cable television packages, the game will also be featured live at www.worldbaseballclassic.com.

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Canada Pounces on Kia Tigers in Final World Baseball Classic tune-up

  • March 05, 2006

DUNEDIN, FLORIDA – Baseball Canada’s national senior team is heading to the World Baseball Classic with a full head of steam after convincingly beating the Kia Tigers 7-1, Saturday. The Tigers, a professional team from Korea currently training in the United States, put up a fight early thanks to a brilliant performance by starting pitcher Jim Woo Kim, who held the Canadians to no runs and just one hit while striking out four batters, including three major leaguers. However, Kim’s first strikeout victim, Jason Bay, got his revenge on the Tigers in the bottom of the fourth, hitting a deep solo-homerun to left-center field for the first run of the game. Bay’s homerun off of reliever Hee-Girl Kim ignited a Canadian offence which had struggled up to that point. First baseman Justin Morneau followed with a hard-hit single to right and later scored on an errant throw as Hee-Girl Kim attempted to pick him off at the base. Canadian pitchers were efficient against the Korean batters. Starter Jeff Francis threw two scoreless innings to get the ball rolling. Chris Begg then needed only 22 pitches to retire six straight batters to preserve Canada’s 2-0 lead going into the top of the fifth. Vince Perkins and Eric Cyr then combined for three scoreless innings to shut the Tigers down through seven innings. Canada blew the door open in the bottom half of the seventh thanks to a solid team effort, putting together a three run-inning with all the damage being done with two away. Ryan Radmanovich drove hit an RBI single to right field while Peter Orr zipped two-run single up the middle for a 5-0 Canadian lead. Kia led the top of the eighth inning with a pair of pinch-hit doubles by Jae-Hak Shim and Ju-Hyung Kim to cut the lead to 5-1, but would get no closer. The Canadians added a pair of insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth inning thanks to a two-run single by Maxim St. Pierre to make it 6-1. Canada’s next test will be its first game of the World Ball Classic, March 7th against South Africa. Game time is schedule for 9 p.m. EST at Scottsdale Stadium.

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World Baseball Classic Gives Quantrill First Stint on Canadian National Team

  • March 05, 2006

PHOENIX, ARIZONA – Port Hope, Ontario’s Paul Quantrill is only the third pitcher in the history of Canadian baseball (and the first in 25 years) to rank in Canada's top-10 in wins (84), innings pitched (1255.7), strikeouts (725) and saves (21). He has pitched in the Major League Baseball All-Star game and has taken to the mound in several playoff appearances, establishing himself as one of the finest pitchers ever to come out of Canada. A true Canadian workhorse, he has also pitched in more major league games than any other Canadian pitcher - his mark of 841 eclipsing the previous record of 664 games pitched by Hall-of-famer Ferguson Jenkins. However, despite all of the accolades he has received over his 14-year Major League career, Quantrill has never represented Canada in international competition – until now. The 37-year old, who announced his retirement from the majors this week will be making his first appearance on a Canadian national team at the first-ever World Baseball Classic, which begins for Canada March, 7 against South Africa in Scottsdale, Arizona. Contrary to current practice, professional players of any kind were not eligible to play in international competition as Quantrill worked his way up the minor league ranks. For him, the World Baseball Classic came just in time. “I think this will always hold a special place in my heart because there’s nothing you can do in professional baseball that puts you in a position where you’re truly representing your country,” said Quantrill. “I’ve always taken great pride in being loyal to my team and representing my club, but when you’re representing your country and all of the people in Canada, that’s something that’s a world apart.” “I would certainly hope that anybody would want to participate in a tournament like this at some point and usually you would get a chance earlier, but that just didn’t work out for me,” he added. “This is something that I’ve always wanted to do.” One of Team Canada’s strengths is undoubtedly the amount of international experience its players bring to the table – a combined 79 International Baseball Federation sanctioned tournaments.  Although Quantrill does not factor into that equation, his experience and leadership will surely be useful on a club which features 10 players who were born in the 1980s. “It’s great because all you can do is pick his brain and learn through a pitcher like him,” said 22-year-old Phillies prospect Scott Mathieson. “He’s been around for a while and he’s got a lot more knowledge than us young guys do so that can only help.”Quantrill, stressed Canadian manager Ernie Whitt, will also lead by example. He’ll be capping off a tremendous career by wearing his heart on his sleeve and the word “Canada” across his chest – a well deserved moment for a true Canadian baseball hero.

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Canada warms up for World Baseball Classic in Exhibition Match-up with Blue Jays

  • March 03, 2006

DUNEDIN, FLORIDA –  Baseball Canada’s national senior team lost its first tune-up to the World Baseball Classic, today, 9-4 to the Toronto Blue Jays. The match-up, says Team Canada manager Ernie Whitt, was an excellent opportunity to get most of his players into the game and in many instances, try a variety of players at different positions. “I think it’s very important to play as many games as you can before going into a tournament like this,” said Whitt. “First of all you want the players on the team to get a feel for each other and secondly, a lot of these players have not been to spring training yet, so they need these game situations.” “I thought we did very well today,” added Whitt. “We didn’t make any errors and we had some really good at-bats. We didn’t drive in the runs when we had runners in scoring position, which was a little disappointing, but that’s why we have these games.” Having his pitchers face a line-up that has been the talk of the off-season in the American League and having his offensive players face Toronto starter A.J. Burnett gave Whitt’s squad a chance to play against top-notch competition – something that can only help the club as it prepares for its first game at the World Baseball Classic March 7 against South Africa. “There’s no question it was a great test for us today and we’ll use this as a building block as we get ready for the tournament,” said Whitt. “We’re just trying to get the guys as many at-bats as we can and have the pitchers get a good feel for the strike zone.  Ultimately, you don’t like to lose, but I’m very pleased with our result today because this is a good building process for us.” Toronto jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first thanks to a double down the first base line by designated hitter Lyle Overbay that scored  Aaron Hilll and Shea Hillenbrand. After a quick second inning, the Jays made it 4-0 as Overbay was at it again, smashing a line drive double off the wall in straight-away centre to score Hillenbrand and Troy Glaus. The Blue Jays padded their lead to 7-0 in the bottom of the fourth with a three-run inning highlighted by an RBI triple by Aaron Hill that took one hop off the warning track and bounced off the wall behind Canadian center fielder Jason Bay. Blue Jays centre fielder Wayne Lydon hit a two-out, two-run homerun over the wall in right field in the bottom of the fifth for a 9-0 Blue Jays lead. Canada got on the board in the top of the sixth inning. After Sebastien Boucher singled to left in his first at bat of the game, Justin Morneau sent him over to third on a double to left field and Adam Stern drove him in on a ground out to the right side. Canada scored a second time in the inning as catcher Pierre Luc Laforest hit a one-out double to right-center to score Morneau from third base to make it 9-2 for the Blue Jays. Kevin Nicholson then drew a full-count walk to load the bases with two out and Peter Orr beat out a slow roller to third base for an RBI infield single to score Laforest to cut the Jays’ lead to 9-3. Orr’s speed not only kept the Canadian rally alive, but also chased pitcher Ben Webber from the game. Coming in from the bullpen, Josh Banks gave up a fly to Canadian second baseman Stubby Clapp.  With the wind pushing out to left field, the ball carried all the way to the warning track but was caught to end the threat. With no outs, Canada loaded the bases for a third time in the top half of the eighth inning. However, Canada failed to fully capitalize, scoring one run as Kevin Nicholson sacrificed himself with a ground out to second base to drive in catcher Chris Robinson to make it  9-4. Burnett took the win for the Blue Jays while Canadian starter Mike Meyers was charged with the loss.  Canada’s next game is scheduled for Saturday when they’ll face the Kia Tigers, a professional Korean team, at 1:30 p.m. at the Bobby Mattick Training Centre in Dunedin.

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