June 14, 2022
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame will hold its first in-person induction ceremony since 2019 this Saturday in St. Marys, Ont.
Four inductees will be honoured: Jeff Francis (2022), Justin Morneau (2020), Duane Ward (2020) and Pedro Martinez (2018).
In the days leading up to the event, I will be profiling each of the inductees.
I profiled Francis yesterday. Today, I shine the spotlight on Morneau.
Justin Morneau Hall of Fame bio
Born in New Westminster, B.C., in 1981, Morneau honed his skills with the North Delta Blue Jays of the B.C. Premier Baseball League and the Canadian Junior National Team before being selected by the Minnesota Twins in the third round of the 1999 MLB draft.
The left-handed hitting Canuck began his minor league career as a catcher but was converted into a first baseman in 2000 in Rookie ball. Over parts of five minor league campaigns, he developed into a top prospect, earning invitations to two MLB Futures Games (2002, 2004) before he was called up to make his major league debut with the Twins on June 10, 2003.
Morneau would spend the next decade with the Twins and evolve into one of the American League’s most feared sluggers. Between 2003 and 2013, he was a four-time All-Star (2007 to 2010), won two Silver Slugger awards (2006, 2008), had four 100-RBI seasons – including tying Larry Walker’s single-season Canadian record with 130 RBIs in 2006 – and in that same season, he became the first – and still only – Canadian to be named American League MVP. In 2008, he also became the first – and still only – Canadian to win the Home Run Derby at the All-Star Game. For his efforts, Morneau was named the Twins’ team MVP twice (2006, 2008).
On August 31, 2013, Morneau was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates where he helped lead the club to its first postseason appearance since 1992. Following that season, Morneau signed with the Colorado Rockies and proceeded to bat .319 and win the National League batting title to become just the second Canadian (along with Walker) to accomplish that feat. He suited up for part of one more season with the Rockies before playing his final big league campaign with the Chicago White Sox in 2016.
Throughout his career, Morneau also consistently answered the call for the Canadian national team. After suiting up for the Junior National Team in 1999, he competed for the senior squad at the IBAF Baseball World Cup in 2001, at an Olympic Qualifier in 2003 and in all four World Baseball Classics. His name was added to Baseball Canada’s Wall of Excellence in 2010.
In all, Morneau played in parts of 14 big league seasons and he ranks in the top five among Canadian major leaguers in many all-time offensive statistical categories, including third in RBIs (985), hits (1,603), doubles (349) and total bases (2,739) and fourth in home runs (247). Over the course of his career, Morneau was also named the winner of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s Tip O’Neill Award, as top Canadian player, three times (2006, 2008, 2014).
In recent years, Morneau has served as a part-time analyst on Twins’ TV broadcasts and as an analyst on the Sportsnet Central panel for the network’s World Series coverage.
The New Westminster, B.C., native has also been very active in charitable endeavors. Each year in Minneapolis, he spearheads a winter coat drive for the Salvation Army. That coat drive has collected over 40,000 coats from generous donors. He has also helped organize fundraisers for juvenile arthritis to raise awareness about a disease his niece, Maddie, is fighting. As part of his efforts for that cause, he hosted an annual casino night that raised over a $1 million for the arthritis foundation and helped send kids to Camp Cambria, a camp for kids with arthritis. Morneau has also supported the United Heroes League, an organization that provides sports equipment and registration fees for children in military families. He is the host representative of an ice fishing tournament for United Heroes League on Mille Lacs Lake in Minnesota.
For his off-field efforts, he was named the Twins’ Carl R. Pohlad Award winner for outstanding community involvement in 2009 and he’s a four-time winner of the team’s Bob Allison Award (2008, 2012-13, 2015), which is handed out to a player who exemplifies determination, hustle, tenacity, competitive spirit and leadership on and off the field.
Morneau on being inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame:
“When I heard the news that I would be enshrined in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame I was honoured,” said Morneau. “When I learned of fellow inductees, John Olerud, Duane Ward and Jacques Doucet, I was at a loss for words. To think that I would be joining these distinguished members that had such a lasting impact on baseball in Canada is truly humbling. I am looking forward to being in St. Marys to celebrate with my fellow inductees in person. Thank you to the voters and the Hall for this incredible honour, and all that the Hall does for the game of baseball in Canada.”
First MLB game: June 10, 2003, started at DH and batted cleanup for the Twins and went 2-for-4 against Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C) and the Rockies in the Rockies’ 5-0 win at the Metrodome.
First MLB hit: June 10, 2003, a single to centre field in his first major league at bat in the top of the second inning off Rockies’ right-hander Jason Jennings.
First MLB extra-base hit: June 15, 2003, a double off Arizona Diamondbacks right-hander Elmer Dessens in the bottom of the third inning in a Twins’ 12-8 win over the D-Backs at the Metrodome.
First MLB home run: June 17, 2003, a pinch-hit solo home run off Kansas City Royals reliever Albie Lopez in the top of the eighth inning at Kauffman Stadium in a Twins’ 14-7 loss.
First (and only) three home run game: July 6, 2007, belted three home runs for the Twins against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field in the Twins’ 12-0 win. He hit a three-run homer off Gavin Floyd in the first and then a solo shot off Floyd in the third. He then added a two-run blast off Boone Logan in the seventh inning.
First MLB game in Canada: July 27, 2005 at Rogers Centre vs. the Toronto Blue Jays. Batting cleanup and playing first base, he went 0-for-4 with a walk in the Twins’ 7-2 win.
First MLB home run in Canada: July 23, 2007 at Rogers Centre vs. the Blue Jays. Batting cleanup and playing first base, he hit a solo home run off Shaun Marcum in the second inning. He then added a two-run shot off Marcum in the fourth. The Blue Jays, however, won the game 6-4.
For many years, Morneau, a former hockey goalie, wore the same Vancouver Canucks t-shirt under his Twins jersey for good luck.
Fun Fact 2:
Many think Morneau wore the No. 33 as a tribute to Walker. This later became the case, but he originally wore it because his favourite hockey goalie was Patrick Roy (who wore No. 33).