Whitt, Morneau to Lead Team Canada at WBC
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.
Aumont Makes Top 50 List
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.”
Morneau Wins Tip O’Neill Award
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 Puhl1985 - Dave Shipanoff1986 - Rob Ducey1987 - Larry Walker1988 - Kevin Reimer1989 - Steve Wilson1990 - Larry Walker1991 - Daniel Brabant1992 - Larry Walker1993 - Rob Butler1994 - Larry Walker1995 - Larry Walker1996 - Jason Dickson1997 - Larry Walker1998 - Larry Walker1999 - Jeff Zimmerman2000 - Ryan Dempster2001 - Corey Koskie & Larry Walker2002 - Eric Gagné & Larry Walker2003 - Eric Gagné2004 - Jason Bay2005 - Jason Bay2006 - Justin Morneau2007 - Russell Martin2008 - Justin Morneau
Register for the World Masters Games
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Games website at www.2009worldmasters.com.
Former National Teams Coach Passes Away
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.