July 10, 2006
Fifteen year major league outfielder and Melville, Saskatchewan native Terry Puhl has been named as Baseball Canada’s field manager for the upcoming Americas Olympic Qualifier, which begins Aug. 25 in Havana, Cuba.
Widely recognized as one of the best all-round players born north of the 49th parallel, the 1978 National League All-Star will head Baseball Canada’s charges as they aim to earn their second straight Olympic berth for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
“This is a wonderful opportunity to be a part of Canadian baseball,” said Puhl, who will be making his first contribution to a Canadian national baseball team. “I’m really looking forward to this opportunity and we will prepare the team properly and effectively to compete. My job is to help the players prepare to play at that level and to get the best out of them in a short period of time. I’m really looking forward to that because I think I can help them.”
Puhl who still holds the career major league fielding percentage record with a .993 mark will look to employ that same defensive mindset to Team Canada.
“I want other teams to have to work very hard for their runs,” said Puhl. “I don’t want to give cheap runs away so we’re going to put a lot of emphasis on pitching, defence and being a fundamentally sound team.”
That’s not to say, however, that Puhl couldn’t light it up offensively. A career .280 hitter and member of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, Puhl ranks in the top five among Canadian major leaguers in four major offensive categories – second in stolen bases (217), third in hits (1447), third in doubles (226) and fifth in runs scored (676). Only Larry Walker has played in more Major League games than Puhl’s 1531 with the Houston Astros and the Kansas City Royals from 1977 to 1991.
“The most important thing for me to do is to get to know our players as quickly as possible and begin to build some sort of chemistry on the team,” said Puhl. “That’s got to be one of the most important things for any manager to do because it can obviously carry a lot of momentum for you.”
Puhl’s coaching staff will consist of Boston Red Sox minor league hitting co-ordinator Orv Franchuck (Edmonton, Alta.), five-time Baseball Canada national senior team pitching coach Denis Boucher (Montréal, Qué), and Baseball Canada director of national teams Greg Hamilton (Ottawa, Ont.).
Now in his fourth season with the Red Sox, Franchuck will join Baseball Canada’s national senior team coaching staff for the fourth time after having served the team at the World Senior Championships in 1977, 1980 and 1981. Prior to joining the Red Sox, Franchuck spent eight years as a scout for the Cincinnati Reds from 1977 to 1984 and seven years as a scout and hitting coach in the Anaheim Angels organization from 1988 to 1994.
Franchuck has also worked within the Oakland Athletics system for eight years including three seasons as a hitting coach for the Triple-A Edmonton Trappers from 1998 to 2001, four seasons as the A’s roving hitting and catching instructor from 1998 to 2001 and one season as manager of the Single-A Vancouver Canadians in 2002.
Boucher makes his fifth appearance on the national team staff after having helped Canada at the 2003 Olympic Qualifier, the 2004 Olympic Games, the 2005 CONCEBE Baseball Regional Olympic Qualifier and the 2006 World Baseball Classic. The former left-handed pitcher spent parts of four seasons in the major leagues, compiling a 6-11 record and a 5.42 ERA in 35 games (26 starts) for Toronto, Cleveland and Montreal from 1991-94.
Hamilton, who also acts as Team Canada’s General Manger, was a primary force behind Canada’s fourth-place 2004 Olympic team and the 2006 Canadian World Baseball Classic Team – arguably the two best Canadian baseball teams ever put together. Much like he did for the 2004 Olympic Games, the 2005 CONCEBE Baseball Regional Olympic Qualifier and the 2006 World Baseball Classic, Hamilton scouts hundreds of players yearly, evaluating talent from a wide array of levels including amateur, collegiate, independent, minor- and major-league ranks in order to assure Canada is well represented in international events. In addition to his work in the front office, Hamilton was also a coach at the 2004 Olympics, the 2003 Olympic Qualifier the 2005 CONCEBE Baseball Regional Olympic Qualifier and the 2006 World Baseball Classic.
The winner and runner-up from the America’s Olympic Qualifier will receive automatic berths into the 2008 Olympic Games. The third and fourth place teams will each earn a berth into a second-chance tournament in 2007 where they will compete against similar teams from around the world for the final three spots in the Olympic field.
Canada and the other 12 teams in the field in Havana will be fighting for more than a spot at the Olympics. Teams must finish seventh or better to qualify for 2007 Pan-Am Games and sixth or better to qualify for the 2007 World Cup.
In preparation for the Olympic Qualifier, the Canadian contingent will head to a weeklong training Camp in Kissimmee, Florida from August 17 to the 23 where they will play a series of exhibition games against the American and Puerto Rican National Teams.
Canada’s first game at the Qualifier will come against the United Sates on Aug. 26.