Whitt, Morneau to Lead Team Canada at WBC

  • December 18, 2008

OTTAWA – Baseball Canada today announced Ernie Whitt as manager and Justin Morneau as the first player on Team Canada for the 2009 World Baseball Classic. 

Whitt was the Manager for Team Canada at the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006, leading the team to a 2-1 record which was good for a three-way tie with the United States and Mexico at the top of Pool B.  However Canada was eliminated in the first round due to tie-breaker rules.

This marks the sixth time that Whitt will be at the helm for Baseball Canada’s Senior National Team, including leading the team to a fourth place finish at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece and winning a bronze medal at the 1999 Pan-Am Games in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Morneau is joining Team Canada for the second time at the World Baseball Classic and will once again be handling the starting duties at first base.  Morneau hit .308 in the inaugural tournament, with three doubles and two RBI in three games.

Team Canada begins tournament play in Pool C on March 7, 2009 at 2 pm when they take on the United States at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario.  Canada will also be joined by Venezuela and Italy in Pool C.

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Aumont Makes Top 50 List

  • December 16, 2008

OTTAWA – Major League Baseball recently released its list of the Top 50 Prospects in baseball.  Making the cut was Phillippe Aumont of Gatineau, Québec.

Aumont made the list at number 33.  The 19-year-old right-hander went 4-4 in 15 games (8 starts) in his first full season before being sidelined with a minor elbow injury.  He struck out 50 batters in 55.2 innings and registered an ERA of 2.75.

According to a scouting report on MLB.com, the 6’7”, 230 lbs Aumont “throws his fastball, which has hard sink and is tough to pick up, up to 95 mph, with room for more. The breaking ball (curve) has a chance to be plus pitch…  He has pretty good command, especially for his age, and uses his size well for mound presence.

“He's a potential workhorse with well above-average stuff,” says Pedro Grifol, Director of Minor League operations with the Seattle Mariners on MLB.com.  “He has the ability to develop into a top-of-the-rotation type pitcher."

The former Junior and Senior National Team member was selected for the XM All-Star Futures Game this past season, and was selected for the Midwest League All-Star Game.

“Growing up, I was not the best player,” says Aumont on MLB.com.  “There were way better players than me. People kept telling me, 'You have a chance, you just have to work.' So I kept working and working.”

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Morneau Wins Tip O’Neill Award

  • December 12, 2008

OTTAWA – Justin Morneau of the Minnesota Twins has been named the 2008 Tip O’Neill Award winner as presented by the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.

The award is presented annually to the player judged to have excelled in individual achievement and team contribution while adhering to baseball's highest ideals.  It is the second time in three years that the New Westminster, BC slugger has received the honour, and by doing so he becomes the fourth Canadian to win it more than once.

The 2008 runner-up for the American League MVP award joins Jason Bay and Eric Gagné as two-time winners and now trails only Larry Walker, who was awarded the Tip nine times over his prolific career.

”I've got a long way to go to match Larry - he's a Hall of Famer in my books,” says Morneau in a statement to the CBHoF.  “But anytime you want to mention my name in the same sentence as his, that's cool with me!”

In his fifth full Major League season, Morneau hit .300 with 23 home runs, 47 doubles and 129 RBI (2nd in AL).  The left-handed hitting first-baseman has amassed over his career so far 133 homers, 754 hits and 523 RBI which are all ahead of Walker at the same point in his career.

Morneau beat out players like Jason Bay of the Boston Red Sox, Ryan Dempster of the Chicago Cubs and Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds for the award.

“Ryan (Dempster) had a great year,” says Morneau of his Canadian counterpart.  “Not only did he return to being a starter, but he was dominant, and won 17 games in a hitters' park!  He is aggressive on the mound and one of the game's most fun guys to be around.”

 “(Jason) Bay's hard work paid off this year, getting himself into a pennant race thanks to the trade, and he performed big-time in the playoffs.  Now that he is in Boston, his talent is really going to be given the attention he deserves.”

Also among the top vote getters was Ashley Stephenson of the Women’s National Team.  She hit for a .625 average at the Women’s World Cup this past summer and earned the team’s MVP honours.

I haven't met Ashley, but it really made me feel good to learn about her accomplishments,” says Morneau.  “She must be pretty special.  I don't remember ever hitting .625, well, not for more than two games in a row anyway!”

Morneau will receive the Tip O'Neill trophy and silver plate at a ceremony in Minneapolis early in the 2009 season.

Past winners of the James "Tip" O'Neill Award:

1984 - Terry Puhl
1985 - Dave Shipanoff
1986 - Rob Ducey
1987 - Larry Walker
1988 - Kevin Reimer
1989 - Steve Wilson
1990 - Larry Walker
1991 - Daniel Brabant
1992 - Larry Walker
1993 - Rob Butler
1994 - Larry Walker
1995 - Larry Walker
1996 - Jason Dickson
1997 - Larry Walker
1998 - Larry Walker
1999 - Jeff Zimmerman
2000 - Ryan Dempster
2001 - Corey Koskie & Larry Walker
2002 - Eric Gagné & Larry Walker
2003 - Eric Gagné
2004 - Jason Bay
2005 - Jason Bay
2006 - Justin Morneau
2007 - Russell Martin
2008 - Justin Morneau

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Register for the World Masters Games

  • December 04, 2008

OTTAWA – The World Masters Games is on the lookout for baseball teams interested in participating in the seventh edition of the event to be held October 10-18, 2009 in Sydney, Australia.

They are looking for teams in the categories of 35+ and 45+ in the A and B grades of the competition.  Anybody can register.  You do not need to be an elite athlete to participate.

The World Masters Games were established in 1985 and are held every four years.  The Games were established to bring together mature aged adults from around the world who share a commitment to the simple philosophy of "sport for life". 

"Masters" is simply an age designation; it does not denote a level of proficiency or a particular achievement.  To compete, all you need to do is to satisfy the age criteria for your sport.

For more information concerning the World Masters Games, contact Sally Jarvis by e-mail at sally.jarvis@2009worldmasters.com or visit the Games website at www.2009worldmasters.com.

 

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Former National Teams Coach Passes Away

  • December 01, 2008

OTTAWA – On November 28th, 2008, Baseball Canada lost a friend and true ambassador to the game of baseball in Canada.  Jim Ridley passed away at Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital in Burlington, Ontario of cancer.  He was 64.

Baseball was Ridley’s life.  He always had time to share his experiences and knowledge with the young ball players, whether they were a highly touted prospect, or someone simply willing to learn.  If you had passion for the game, he would try and help you along your way.

“He truly was what you would call a baseball man through and through,” says Greg Hamilton, Director of National Teams and Head Coach for Baseball Canada. 

Ridley managed the Junior National Team from 1983-88, leading his club to a bronze medal at the World Junior Championship in 1983 in Johnstown, PA and again in 1987 in Windsor, Ontario.  He was also the manager of the first Canadian Team to qualify for the Olympics, leading his team to the 1988 games in Seoul.

Ridley played in the Atlanta Braves minor league system and later joined the Toronto Blue Jays as a scout in 1976.  He would coach with the Medicine Hat Blue Jays from 1978-80 and continued scouting for the team until 2002.  In recent years, he served in the same capacity with the Minnesota Twins.

Ridley was responsible for sending off several Canadians to begin their professional careers, including former national team members Paul Spoljaric, John Ogiltree, David Corrente, Rene Tosoni just to name a few.

“Jim was a longtime friend,” says interim Blue Jays CEO Paul Beeston in a statement.  “He made a huge contribution to baseball in Canada and helped the Blue Jays establish roots across Canada.

“The results of his fine work, much of it done at the grassroots level, helped to create a foundation for the success that so many Canadian players now enjoy at all levels.”

“He deeply cared about the game and his life was in so many ways devoted to the betterment of the game in that context,” says Hamilton.  “He was a huge part of the family.”

Baseball Canada sends its condolences to the Ridley family as the entire baseball community in Canada mourns the loss of a true friend.

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David Francis Voted as Top Game Performer

  • November 28, 2008

OTTAWA – The fans voted and the results are in.  You voted David Francis (Mississauga, ON) as This Year in Minor League Baseball’s Single-Game Performance of the Year award winner.

The former Junior National Team member threw six no-hit innings to go along with an incredible 16 strikeouts in just his fourth professional appearance for the Danville Braves of the Appalachian League and won the award with 48.3 percent of the vote.

The 20-year-old right-hander beat out Micah Hoffpauir of the Iowa Cubs of the Pacific Coast League who had a 4-for-5 day with four homers and four RBI.  He garnered 26.5 percent of the vote.

Congratulations to David on his magnificent performance and winning the award and thank you to those who voted for the This Year in Minor League Baseball Awards.

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Baseball Legend Tom Burgess Passes Away

  • November 25, 2008

OTTAWA - Tom Burgess lived and breathed baseball.

The London, Ontario native would often say there was not a baseball park in North America that he had not either played or managed in.

On November 24, 2008, Tom Burgess passed away in his home after a lengthy battle with cancer.  He was 81.

Burgess played professionally between 1946 and 1963, making it to the Major Leagues with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1954 and again with the Los Angeles Angels in 1962.

But his true mark in the game came as a coach.  He was a manager in the Minor Leagues in the farm systems of the Cardinals, Atlanta Braves, New York Mets, Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers.  He would serve as a Major League coach in 1977 with the Mets and in 1978 with the Braves.

All told, Burgess has spent over 40 years in professional baseball.  That type of longevity is a remarkable feat for a Canadian at a time when Canadians in baseball were a rare breed.

“To survive in the U.S., being a Canadian, you’re getting knocked down and getting back up,” said Burgess in an interview back in 2003.

After his professional coaching career, he would continue coaching at the amateur level as a member of the coaching staff of the Junior National Team in 1999 and 2000, as well as the Senior National Team in 2001 and 2003.  He has coached the likes of Justin Morneau and Jason Bay in his time with Baseball Canada.

A member of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame since 1992, the love to give back and teach kids the game he loved so much has took him all over the world over an illustrious career.

Baseball Canada sends its condolences to the Burgess family.

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Former National Teams Coach in Fight of His Life

  • November 25, 2008

OTTAWA – Jim Ridley, the Manager of the 1988 Canadian Olympic Team and 1991 Pan Am Games Team is battling a bigger foe than any pitcher, or team he has ever faced.

The former Blue Jays scout and current scout with the Minnesota Twins is in hospital fighting for his life, battling cancer.

Baseball Canada asks that all of those who have had the privilege of being touched by Ridley over the years to send your best wishes to Jim and his family in this time of need.

Ridley is responsible for sending off several Canadians to begin their professional careers, including former national team members Paul Spoljaric, John Ogiltree, David Corrente, Rene Tosoni just to name a few.

Ridley is what many would consider a baseball lifer.  Among his aforementioned accomplishments in baseball, he was the coach of the Junior National Team from 1983-88, leading his club to a bronze medal at the World Junior Championship in 1983 in Johnstown, PA and again in 1987 in Windsor, Ontario.

So when you get a chance, offer your encouragement over to Jim as he offered to so many young players over the years.

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Baseball Canada to Host National Teams Awards Banquet & Fundraiser

  • November 19, 2008

OTTAWA – It is that time of year again! Baseball Canada announces it will hold its annual National Teams Awards Banquet and Fundraiser on Saturday, January 24, 2009 at the Renaissance Toronto Hotel at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario.

The banquet, which will once again take place in the Northern Lights Ballroom, was first held in 2003 and serves as the associations primary fundraiser for national team programs.

Many of the programs’ Major League alumni and current national team players attend the banquet each year, along with several professional and amateur baseball executives and dignitaries.

“We have been fortunate in the past to receive great support from our alumni playing in Major League Baseball as well as from personnel in both the professional baseball and corporate communities,” says Greg Hamilton, Baseball Canada’s director of national teams. “We look forward to celebrating a season of Canadian baseball excellence in an environment that fosters future national team success and highlighting the upcoming 2009 World Baseball Classic.”

Throughout the evening, Baseball Canada plans on honouring its national teams and players both past and present, including its 2008 Olympic and World Junior clubs.  Baseball Canada will honour the Most Valuable Player of both the junior and senior national teams as well as pay tribute to other notable contributors to the association in the form of alumni and special achievement awards.

In addition to the awards portion of the gala, an auction will take place featuring several popular and exclusive items.  Featured items include tickets to the 2009 MLB All-Star Game in St. Louis and to college football games at the University of Michigan and the University of Notre Dame.  Also featured is a one-week stay at a luxurious golf and ski resort in Panorama, B.C., and several autographed pieces of baseball memorabilia.

Tickets to the event, which will be emceed by Toronto Blue Jays radio announcer Jerry Howarth for a seventh consecutive year, cost $400 per person, $3,200 for a table of eight guests or $4,000 for a table of ten guests. Baseball Canada has registered charitable status.

For more information, please contact Greg Hamilton, director of national teams, at 613-748-5606 ext. 225 or via e-mail at ghamilton@baseball.ca.

2009 National Teams Awards Banquet & Fundraiser Registration Form

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Baseball Canada Recognizes its Best at Convention

  • November 15, 2008

TORONTO – Baseball Canada presented its annual awards at the 2008 Fall Convention, recognizing some of the hardest working people in the sport.

This year, the MLB Volunteer of the Year Award goes to Geoff Hughes (Saskatchewan). The Lionel Ruhr Coach of the Year recipient is Mark Noel (New Brunswick), while the Dick Willis Memorial Umpire Award winner is Derrick Dubell (Manitoba). Ashley Stephenson (Ontario) is the Women’s National Team MVP, Kate Psota (Ontario) is the winner of the Jimmy Rattlesnake Award and finally, Province of the Year is awarded to the province of Manitoba.

MLB Volunteer of the Year: Geoff Hughes
Geoff Hughes first became involved in minor baseball in 1983 as an assistant coach for his son’s Mosquito team and he has been involved ever since. In 1988, he began is long administrative association with Saskatchewan Pee Wee Baseball where he has held the positions of Treasurer, Vice-President and President over the years.

Geoff felt his greatest contribution was to help steer the construction of the present Pee Wee Park in Saskatoon through its planning process and approval by the City of Saskatoon. This three-diamond, city-owned baseball facility has been named the Geoff Hughes Baseball Complex in recognition of his efforts in obtaining the new park.

In addition to the recognition received by naming the Pee Wee Park after him, he was also awarded the Investors Group Volunteer Sports Administrator Award in 2005 and was inducted into the Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008.

Lionel Ruhr Coach of the Year: Mark Noel
Mark Noel started his coaching career in 1996 when he joined the Chatham Ironmen program in New Brunswick as the Head Coach of the Bantam AAA team. In this capacity his team won the 1997 provincial tournament and represented the province at the Bantam National Championship in North Bay, Ontario.

In 2000 he joined the Ironmen Midget AAA team as assistant coach and subsequently took over as Head Coach the following year. Under his guidance, his team represented New Brunswick at the Midget National Championship in 2002, 2003 and 2005, culminating with a silver medal at the 2005 championship in Trois Rivières, Québec.

In 2006 he joined the New Brunswick Canada Cup program as an assistant coach, and later became Head Coach of the New Brunswick Selects in 2007. Since joining the program, the team has finished fourth, fifth and third respectively – resulting in a promotion to Pool A for 2009. His bronze medal team in 2008 was the first New Brunswick team ever to medal at the Baseball Canada Cup.

Mark believes strongly in the benefit of continuing to improve his skills through NCCP training and is a full Level 3 coach. This year he participated in the pilots for the MultiSport theory modules for Competition-Development and he is now starting his level 4 tasks. Similarly he displays the leadership desired for high performance coaches as he has now returned to contributing at the grassroots level. He is now an assistant coach for the Ironmen Mosquito AAA team where he coaches his son.

Dick Willis Memorial Umpire Award: Derrick Dubell
In a relatively short 18 year umpiring career, Derrick Dubell has officiated many provincial and Western Canada championships, along with 11 National Championships.

As this Winnipeg native’s own playing career began to wane, he started umpiring in 1990 and within four seasons had earned his Level 4 status and his first national assignment, the Baseball Canada Bantam Championships in Kelowna, BC.

He hones his skills locally by doing extensive games in the Manitoba Junior League, the Winnipeg Senior League and the Northern League of Professional Baseball. This past season he was recognized by the Northern League as he was assigned a spot in the Annual All-Star Game. This past season also saw Derrick experience his first International assignment as he was afforded the opportunity to umpire at the World Junior Championships in Edmonton, Alberta. He umpired nine games in that tournament, including the prestigious plate assignment for the gold medal game.

On top of his accomplishments, Derrick has also been serving the last several years as an Umpire Clinician for Baseball Manitoba, teaching the Level 1, 2 and 3 clinics and assisting at Level 4 clinics. Along with his teaching duties, he also evaluates up and coming officials during league play and has supervised several provincial championships.

Women’s National Team MVP: Ashley Stephenson
Ashley Stephenson receives the Women’s National Team Most Valuable Player Award for the second time after winning the prize in 2005. A member of the National Team since its inception in 2004, Ashley has dominated most offensive categories in her three appearances at the Women’s World Cup tournament.

During the most recent World Cup in Matsuyama, Japan this past August, Ashley completed the tournament with a .625 batting average while driving in nine runs and finishing first in the category of stolen bases. Ashley was also a major contributor in the victory over the defending world champions, the United States, with a solid performance on the mound. Selected to the 2008 International All-Star team, she is a logical choice for this award.

Jimmy Rattlesnake Award: Kate Psota
The Jimmy Rattlesnake Award is presented for the first time to an athlete who is a member of the Women’s National Team. Kate Psota is the first female winner of the award, which is given to an athlete for their on-field accomplishments, as well as their team spirit and leadership. Kate has been a member of the Women’s National team since 2004 and is the ideal teammate which every team looks for.

A strong competitor, Kate is among the cream of the crop of pitchers on the international stage, all-while being one of the most feared hitters on the planet. Always making herself available to her teammates, she also stands out by her involvement in team activities. Without a doubt, the name Kate Psota is synonymous with this award.

Province of the Year: Manitoba
Manitoba is awarded the Province of the Year for the fifth time and it’s first since 1999. The province was a force in governance and program development this past year, finishing first in both categories.

In other developmental categories, Manitoba placed second in coaching and fourth in officials’ development. Finally, the association placed fourth in player registration in a year that saw every province showing a slight increase in registration numbers.

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