But What Do I Know? . . . Ernie Whitt, Larry Walker, Rob Ducey, Derek Bell

Ernie Whitt will again manage Canada at the World Baseball Classic. Photo: Baseball Canada

December 18, 2022

By Kevin Glew

Cooperstowners in Canada

My weekly Canadian baseball news and notes:

-Since taking over as senior national team manager in 1999, Toronto Blue Jays legend Ernie Whitt has guided the squad to its first two gold medals (2011 and 2015 Pan Am Games), a silver (2019 Pan Am Games), three bronze medals (1999 Pan Am Games, 2009 and 2011 International Baseball Federation World Cup) and a fourth-place finish at the 2004 Summer Olympics. But Whitt recently told Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi one thing he’d like to add to his resume is leading the national squad to the second round of the World Baseball Classic. He’ll have that opportunity in March. Canada is in an opening round pool with the U.S, Mexico, Colombia and Great Britain. They will have to finish first or second in the preliminary round to advance. Whitt, who turned 70 this year, has been the skipper for the Canadian squad in all four previous World Baseball Classics, including in 2006 when Canada upset the U.S. in a first-round showdown. Right-hander Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.), outfielder Tyler O’Neill (Maple Ridge, B.C.) and Freddie Freeman (whose parents are Canadian) are all on record saying they would like to play for Canada.

-One player who seems like a good candidate to suit up for Canada in the World Baseball Classic is Junior National Team alum and Minnesota Twins infield prospect Edouard Julien (Quebec City, Que.). On Friday, Julien was named the Canadian Baseball Network’s Randy Echlin Award winner, as the best Canuck hitter in the affiliated minor league ranks. Julien batted .300 and posted a .441 on-base percentage (OPS) and a .931 on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) in 113 games for the double-A Wichita Wind Surge in the Twins’ organization this season. He also belted 17 home runs, walked 98 times and stole 19 bases. And the left-handed hitting infielder continued to swing a hot bat in the Arizona Fall League (AFL) for the Glendale Desert Dogs, finishing with a .400 batting average in 21 games to lead the circuit. He also topped the AFL with a .563 OBP and a 1.248 OPS.

James Clark, from the East Village Times, is reporting that left-hander Miguel Cienfuegos (Montreal, Que.) has signed with the San Diego Padres. Earlier this month, Cienfuegos had been named the Canadian Baseball Network’s 2022 Claude Pelletier Award winner, as the top Canadian pitcher in the independent or foreign ranks. Cienfuegos was dominant for the Frontier League’s Québec Capitales in 2022. In 21 appearances, he went 10-2 with a 1.79 ERA – which was the lowest by a starting pitcher in Capitales’ history. The 25-year-old Cienfuegos topped Canuck pitchers in the foreign or independent ranks in wins (10), ERA (1.79), and innings pitched (131) and finished second in strikeouts (106) and WHIP (1.029).

-The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in St. Marys, Ont., unveiled a virtual exhibit called Baseball and the Movies this week. The exhibit was created by the Hall’s graduate intern Elyse Richardson with support from curator Christi Hudson. “Baseball has had a long and famous history which over the years has inspired various movies and TV shows,” reads the introduction to the virtual exhibit. “Whether based on real events or fictional stories inspired by the sport, these movies and TV shows have often captured the hearts of fans. This exhibition will take a look at some of the most popular baseball movies over the years, the real life stories and artifacts which inspired them, and their legacies today.” Among the movies the exhibit shines the spotlight on are 42, Eight Men Out and The Babe. You can check out the exhibit here.

Photo: Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame

-Speaking of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, they have added a game-used glove (see photo above) from former big league right-hander and current national women’s team head coach Aaron Myette (New Westminster, B.C.) to their collection. Myette used this glove during his two seasons with the Texas Rangers in 2001 and 2002. In all, Myette pitched parts of six major league season with the Chicago White Sox, Rangers, Cleveland and Cincinnati Reds from 1999 to 2004.

-I saw this graphic (below) from Triple Play Baseball on Twitter. Let’s just consider it our weekly reminder of how great Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.) was:

-I’m not sure how I didn’t discover this until this week, but here’s an early Christmas gift for you. This is an episode of the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s Virtual Legends of the Game podcast that features Walker and Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.) talking about their careers. It was recorded in July 2020.

-On this date, 30 years ago, Rob Ducey (Cambridge, Ont.) signed a minor league contract with the Texas Rangers. The then 27-year-old Ducey had played parts of six major league seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays and California Angels. Ducey proceeded to bat .282 and post a .351 on-base percentage with two home runs in 27 games for the Rangers in 1993. He returned to the Rangers the following campaign before signing with the Nippon Ham Fighters of the Japan Pacific League where he would belt 25 and 26 home runs in 1995 and 1996 respectively. In all, Ducey played 19 seasons in professional baseball, making him one of just 12 Canadians to do so.

-Thirty one years ago today, the Blue Jays signed ace right-hander Jack Morris to a two-year, $10.85-million contract. The signing, one of the most important of Pat Gillick‘s tenure as general manager, came less than two months after Morris had pitched a 10-inning shutout for the Minnesota Twins in Game 7 of the World Series. The then 37-year-old Morris proceeded to set a Blue Jays’ franchise record and lead the American League with 21 wins in 1992 and help propel the Blue Jays to their first World Series title.

-I was sad to learn that former Blue Jays outfielder Derek Bell is in trouble with the law again. On November 16, he was charged with possession of cocaine in Hernando, Fla. You can read the details of his arrest here. It’s the latest drug offence for the ex-Jay who was a key member of the Blue Jays’ 1992 World Series-winning team. He was also arrested for drug offences in 2006 and 2008.

-On this date 52 years ago, the Chicago White Sox traded third baseman Pete Ward (Montreal, Que.) to the New York Yankees for Mickey Scott and cash. Ward had played the previous seven seasons with the White Sox, but by 1969, he had been reduced to a part-time role. Six years earlier, in 1963, he hit .295, socked 22 home runs, finished second in the American League to Carl Yastrzemski in hits and was named The Sporting News American League Rookie of the Year. Unfortunately, he suffered a neck injury in a car accident in 1965 that hampered him for the rest of his career. Serving almost exclusively as a pinch-hitter with the Yankees in 1970, Ward batted .260 with one home run and 18 RBIs in 66 games. It would be his final major league season.

-You’ve heard of the Montreal Expos, but do you remember the Calgary Expos? They were a Pioneer League Rookie-ball affiliate of the Montreal Expos from 1979 to 1984. Ian Wilson, of Alberta Dugout Stories, has written an excellent article about them and has picked an All-Time Calgary Expo team. You can read his article here. Among the most famous to play for the Calgary Expos are Andres Galarraga, Angel Salazar and Randy St. Claire.

-This week’s trivia question: Two Canadians have played for Canada in all four World Baseball Classics that have taken place. Name one of them. Please provide your answer in the Comments section below.

– The answer to last week’s trivia question (Much is rightfully made of Joe Carter‘s World Series-winning home run in Game 6 of the 1993 World Series, but one other Blue Jays player also homered in that game. Can you name him?) was Paul Molitor, who homered in the fifth inning.

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12 thoughts on “But What Do I Know? . . . Ernie Whitt, Larry Walker, Rob Ducey, Derek Bell

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  1. SO happy for Ernie to still be our Head Coach.
    Cool podcast. I’ll have to listen.
    So much great young talent in Canada. Great to see.

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