Friday, January 13, 2006
Updated: January 16, 9:18 PM ET
Welcome to Canada
By Joe Connor
Special to ESPN.com
Location: Northern North America, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean on the east, North Pacific Ocean on the west, and the Arctic Ocean on the north, north of the conterminous U.S.
March 3-6, Dunedin, Fla.
Exhibitions (in Dunedin, Fla.)
March 3 vs. Toronto (ss), 1:05 p.m. ET
Schedule (Pool B in Phoenix/Scottsdale)
March 7 vs. South Africa, 9 p.m. ET
March 8 vs. United States, 4 p.m. ET
March 9 vs. Mexico, 8 p.m. ET
Size: 3,851,734 square miles, or somewhat larger than the U.S.
Population: 32 million.
People: British Isles origin 28%, French origin 23%, other European 15%, Amerindian 2%, other, mostly Asian, African, Arab 6%, mixed background 26%
Language: English (official) 59.3%, French (official) 23.2%, other 17.5%.
Government: Confederation with parliamentary democracy.
Capital: Ottawa (population: 1 million).
Baseball (and other interesting) notes
Most known for: Aspiring hockey players turned mentally tough, athletically-sound baseball players; very cold winters; a passion for ice hockey; and beautiful scenery.
Quotable: "I'm a hockey player," Eric Gagne, still in denial.
Famous national anthem verses: "From far and wide, O Canada! We stand our guard for thee."
Baseball's Canada debut: 1838, in honor of King George IV's birthday, a game closely resembling baseball, in its current form, was played in Beachville, Ontario between the town's club and a team from a nearby township. The day had been declared a holiday in celebration of the government's success in overthrowing the rebellion of the preceding year.
Canada's baseball hotbeds: With hockey's historic popularity, baseball will never be a No. 1 hot spot, but the westernmost province of British Columbia has the strongest baseball program in the country. Current Major Leaguers Justin Morneau, Jeff Francis, Rich Harden and Jason Bay all hail from British Columbia.
Approximate number of Canadian-born currently signed to MLB organizations: 90.
First Canadian-born to play MLB: Jimmy Wood in 1871 for the Chicago White Stockings.
Most notable current MLB exports: Eric Gagne (Dodgers); Jason Bay (Pirates).
Ones to watch for in the future: Catcher Russ Martin (Dodgers); Pitcher Adam Loewen (Orioles); Pitcher Scott Mathieson (Phillies).
MLB record-breaker: Eric Gagne (Montreal, Quebec) saved a record 84 straight games for the Los Angeles Dodgers between 2003 and 2004.
MLB Hall of Famer: Ferguson Jenkins (Chatham, Ontario), inducted 1991. Won 267 games, amassed 49 shutouts. Captured National League Cy Young award in 1971 and finished career 11th on all-time strikeout list. Tip O'Neill, a Woodstock, Ontario, native, remains the only Triple Crown winner not enshrined in Cooperstown. A career .326 hitter, O'Neill batted .435 for the St. Louis Browns in 1887 to go along with 14 HR and 123 RBI.
Notable firsts: Tip O'Neill (Woodstock, Ontario), first Canadian to win Triple Crown (1887 with St. Louis Browns: .435, 14 HR, 106 RBI); Jack Graney (St. Thomas, Ontario), first batter to face left-hander named Babe Ruth in a professional game, and also the first player to bat wearing a number on his uniform; Reggie Cleveland (Swift Current, Saskatchewan), first Canadian-born pitcher to start a World Series game (for the Boston Red Sox, in 1975); Toronto Blue Jays became first team to eclipse 4 million fans in MLB attendance over a single-season (1993); Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, BC), first Canadian to be named National League MVP (in 1997); Jason Bay, first Canadian and Pittsburgh Pirate to win the National League Rookie of the Year award.
Canada's baseball weather: Inhospitable until June, July and August.
Biggest sports competitors: Ice hockey and all things winter, including skiing and 'boarding.
Best baseball museum: Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, St. Mary's, Ontario.
Only in Canada: Regular season games at outdoor ballparks, especially in April, often include snow beyond the outfield fences -- or falling from the sky ... Born a Puckhead, and with a dream: Walker wanted to be a goalie in the National Hockey League -- the Holy Grail of the sport. Problem was Walker didn't get even make his junior team. Gagne dreamed one day of being a burly defenseman for the Montreal Canadians. Problem was no NHL scouts seemed interested in his services. Matt Stairs shared Gagne's dream, only he wanted to emulate the success of his favorite offensive player, Yvan Cournoyer. Problem was a knee injury ended Stairs' ability to achieve that goal.
Baseball vs. hockey: How does a physical hockey player become a baseball player? MLB scouts like the main trait that hockey exposes -- tireless workers. Those days of early morning practices in the freezing cold skating up and down the ice are admired, as too as the endless hours between the pipes trying to block slap shots coming at you at more than 100 miles per hour. In truth, hockey is as blue a blue collar sport as there is in Canada. And it's those attributes -- the hard-working, raw athletes with natural abilities and mental toughness -- that often succeed while others pillage. It also helps that the puck-head Canadians are left-handed, a prized commodity in the major leagues. Today, there are more Canadians playing MLB than ever before, with 17 suiting up during Opening Day of the 2005 season alone, a record. What's more, there are more Canadians playing minor league, Independent League and collegiate baseball in the U.S. than in the past.
Via satellite: Raised on satellite and cable TV unlike those before them, some of the younger crop of Canadian major leaguers, like Jason Bay and Jeff Francis, chose at an early age to dump hockey and focus on baseball. Unheard of in Canada.
Additional historical nugget: Canadian-born J.J. Lannin was owner of the Boston Red Sox from 1914-1916, and it was he who signed Babe Ruth. The Bambino led the Sox to back-to-back World Series titles during his reign. Lannin's great-grandson, Christopher Tunstall, predicted the Red Sox would win the World Series after his great-grandfather was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in June 2004.
Amateur and international competition
Approximate number of Canadians playing organized baseball: More than 400,000
Amateur highlights: In 1990, Trail, population 7,000, advanced to the finals of the foreign-bracket of the Little League World Series (losing to eventual champion, Taiwan) with Bay as its centerfielder; finished fourth at 2004 Olympics.
Biggest international rival: U.S.
Wood/aluminum bat use/rules: National federation rules dictate aluminum be used until a player reaches Midget level (16-18 years).
Other important notes: There are more than 600 Canadians playing collegiate baseball in the U.S. In Canada, there are more than 13,000 baseball teams nationwide.
Pitcher limitations are in play for those 15 and under. A pitcher can not throw more than seven innings in one day and no more than 14 innings in a championship or week; he must gets two days rest after any performance five innings or more (latter rule for 13 and under only).
Amateur contact: Baseball Canada
2212 Gladwin Crescent, unit A-7, Ottawa, Ontario K1B 5N1
Tel: (+1-613) 748 5606
Fax: (+1-613) 748 5767
Joe Connor is a contributor to ESPN.com. He has a Web site at www.modernerabaseball.com.