January 15, 2023
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
Some news and notes from Baseball Canada’s National Teams Awards Banquet and Fundraiser held at the Toronto Marriott City Centre Hotel inside Rogers Centre on Saturday:
-Thank you to the Baseball Canada team of Greg Hamilton, Adam Morissette, Eugenio Matos, Nancy Dunbar and Jason Dickson for all their efforts in making Saturday’s national teams banquet such a wonderful and memorable evening.
-Congratulations to all of Baseball Canada’s 2023 National Team Award winners. The following awards were handed out on Saturday night:
Special Recognition Award – Josh & Bo Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.)
Russell Martin Award (Junior National Team MVP) – Myles Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.)
Canadian Futures Award – Edouard Julien (Quebec City, Que.)
Special Achievement Award – Denzel Clarke (Pickering, Ont.)
Baseball Canada Wall of Excellence – Adam Loewen (Surrey, B.C.)
-One of the biggest stories to emerge out of the national team’s banquet is that left-hander Adam Loewen (Surrey, B.C.), who hasn’t pitched pitched professionally since 2018, is attempting a comeback to pitch in the 2023 World Baseball Classic in March. The now 38-year-old lefty has a track record of success at international competitions. After honing his skills with the Junior National Team in 2000 and 2001, he was selected fourth overall by the Baltimore Orioles in the 2002 MLB draft, which made him the highest Canadian ever chosen. In 2006, as a 21-year-old who had never pitched above Class-A, Loewen started against the powerhouse United States squad in the first World Baseball Classic. He kept an American lineup that included three Hall of Famers – Derek Jeter, Ken Griffey Jr. and Chipper Jones – off the scoreboard for 3 2/3 innings and earned the win in Canada’s 8-6 upset over the U.S. at Chase Field in Phoenix, Ariz. Loewen also pitched for Canada in several other international competitions, including the 2009 Baseball World Cup, 2013 World Baseball Classic and 2019 Pan Am Games Qualifier. He also played parts of five big league seasons with the Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays, Philadelphia Phillies and Arizona Diamondbacks between 2006 and 2016. Remarkably, after suffering two stress fractures in his throwing elbow, Loewen abandoned pitching and made it back to the big leagues as an outfielder with the Blue Jays in September 2011.
-Right-hander John Axford (Port Dover, Ont.) had stated his intentions to attempt a comeback to play for Canada in the World Baseball Classic in a series of tweets on December 18. The 39-year-old reiterated his goal on stage on Saturday. “If I can come back and do it one more time,” said Axford, “I want to do it with Canada across my chest.” Axford suffered an elbow injury on August 2, 2021 in his only major league appearance with the Milwaukee Brewers that season. Prior to that, the 6-foot-5 righty had not pitched in the big leagues since September 21, 2018. In parts of 11 major league seasons, Axford posted a 3.90 ERA and has notched 144 saves in 544 appearances. His career also included stops with the St. Louis Cardinals, Cleveland Guardians, Pittsburgh Pirates, Colorado Rockies, Oakland A’s, Blue Jays and Los Angeles Dodgers. He has pitched for Canada’s national team on multiple occasions, including serving as the closer for the team at the Americas Olympic Qualifier in the spring of 2021.
-Among the players that confirmed on the stage on Saturday that they intend to play for Canada at the 2023 World Baseball Classic (Note: All are Junior National Team alums):
INF Edouard Julien (Quebec City, Que.) – In 2022, his second pro season in the Minnesota Twins’ organization, Julien batted .300 and posted a .441 on-base percentage (OBP) and a .931 on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) in 113 games for the double-A Wichita Wind Surge. He also belted 17 home runs, walked 98 times and stole 19 bases. The Junior National Team alum 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 1.248 OPS. For his efforts, he was named AFL Breakout Player of the Year, the second baseman on Baseball America’s Double-A All-Star Team and the Canadian Baseball Network’s Offensive Player of the Year (affiliated minor league ranks.)
C Bo Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.) – The younger brother of Josh was promoted to the Guardians’ roster on October 1 and he proceeded to appear in five major league games. He was also on the club’s postseason roster. Before his big-league call-up, the 22-year-old catcher batted .263 with a .392 OBP, while belting 21 home runs and stealing 20 bases, in 118 games between double-A and triple-A. For his efforts, Baseball America named him the Guardians’ Minor League Player of the Year and he was selected to the International League All-Star Team.
IB-OF Josh Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.) – Returning from a devastating leg injury, Naylor set career-bests with 20 home runs and 79 RBIs in 2022. In 122 games for the Guardians, he also established career-highs in hits (115), doubles (28) and runs (47). On May 9, he set a major league record for the most RBIs in a game from the eighth inning on when he hit an RBI double in the eighth, a grand slam in the ninth and a three-run home run in the 11th to propel the Guardians to a 12-9 win over the Chicago White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field. Naylor also registered six hits in seven postseason contests, including a home run in Game 4 of the American League Division Series (ALDS) against the New York Yankees at Progressive Field.
OF Denzel Clarke (Pickering, Ont.) – Selected by the Oakland A’s in the fourth round of the 2021 MLB draft from the Cal State Northridge Matadors, Clarke recorded a .365 OBP and hit 15 home runs and had 30 stolen bases in 93 games between class-A Stockton and Lansing last season. Clarke also became the first player in pro baseball history to hit inside-the-park homers in back-to-back games when he did so for Lansing on August 2 and August 3. On stage Saturday, Clark said he was unaware he had made history with this feat until a coach mentioned it in an online group chat. The 6-foot-5 outfielder has also been invited to the A’s major league camp this spring.
-Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee and longtime big league reliever Paul Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.) confirmed on stage that his son, Cal, intends to pitch for Canada in the World Baseball Classic. The elder Quantrill will return as a pitching coach, alongside ex-big leaguer and longtime coach Denis Boucher (Lachine, Que.). “It’s a good thing we have Denis [on staff] because Cal won’t listen to me. I’m his father,” quipped the elder Quantrill, who owns the record for most big league pitching appearances (841) by a Canadian. Cal, who honed his skills with the Junior National Team, led the Guardians and set a career-high with 15 wins (fourth in the American League) during the 2022 regular season. The 6-foot-3 right-hander also hurled a career-best 186 1/3 innings (eighth in the American League) and posted a 3.38 ERA (12th in the American League). His 32 starts were tied for the second-most by an American League starter. Quantrill was at his best in the second half when he went 9-0 with a 2.94 ERA in 15 starts. On October 11 when he started against the Yankees in the American League Division Series, he became the first Canadian to start the first game of a postseason series since Ryan Dempster (Gibsons, B.C.) did so for the Chicago Cubs on October 1, 2008.
-It was also shared on stage on Saturday that Russell Martin (Montreal, Que.) will join the Canadian coaching staff for the World Baseball Classic. One of his primary duties will be working with the catchers, including Bo Naylor. “It’s an honour,” Martin said about being asked to coach for Canada. “I don’t have a ton of coaching experience, but it will just be fun to hang out with the guys.” Martin officially announced his retirement on May 28, 2022. Selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 17th round of the 2002 MLB draft, the Junior National Team alum made his major league debut with the Dodgers on May 5, 2006, He’d suit up for a total of 14 big league seasons with the Dodgers, Yankees, Pirates and Blue Jays. He ranks in the top 10 among Canadians in many major league statistical categories, including third in All-Star Game appearances (4), fourth in games (1,693), fifth in runs (803), sixth in hits (1,416) and seventh in home runs (191). He also won Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards in 2007 and played on major league teams that advanced to the postseason 10 times.
-Right-hander Mike Soroka (Calgary, Alta.) may be only 25, but he seemed the perfect recipient of Baseball Canada’s Stubby Clapp Award on Saturday. The Stubby Clapp Award is known as Baseball Canada’s “grinder award” and it was created to recognize a national team player for their hard work, perseverance, positive attitude and strong performance on the field. Soroka has not pitched a major league game since tearing his Achilles tendon in a start for the Atlanta Braves on August 3, 2020. He then re-tore his Achilles the following June. After two years of recovery and rehabilitation, he returned to pro game action in August last year and posted a 5.40 ERA in six late-season starts between class-A and triple-A before being shut down with elbow inflammation. This off-season, however, has been his first normal off-season in terms of baseball conditioning since prior to the 2020 campaign and he believes he’ll be ready for spring training. From the stage on Saturday, Soroka thanked the many who have offered him support over the past few years. Among those who reached out to Soroka to offer encouragement was Justin Morneau (New Westminster, B.C.), who missed a long stretch of time during his career after suffering a concussion and its lingering effects. A graduate of the Junior National Team, Soroka was a first-round pick (28th overall) of the Braves in 2015. In 2019, he went 13-4 with a 2.68 ERA in 29 starts and finished second in the National League Rookie of the Year voting.
-Thank you again to Baseball Canada for the still surprising, but deeply appreciated Bob Elliott Media Award, which was presented to me at the Baseball Canada press conference on Saturday. Yes, that’s me, second from the right. I was working the press conference, but I promise I did dress up for the banquet that night. In the photo with me from left to right are Bob Elliott, Baseball Canada media and public relations coordinator Adam Morissette and Baseball Canada CEO Jason Dickson. I can safely say that no award will ever mean more to me than one with Bob Elliott’s name on it. As I always tell people about Bob, “He’s a Hall of Fame writer and an even better person.” I also wanted to thank Scott Crawford, at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame who has been such a great supporter. Also thank you to my parents, Ralph and Glenyce Glew, who have supported me unconditionally, even when they really probably wanted to tell me to go back into corporate communications. I’m very blessed.
-Thank you also to Paul Beeston who was so kind to me at the banquet on Saturday. He’s a generous guy who I have always admired. It’s an honour to know that he regularly reads this blog.
-This week’s trivia question: Two position players have played for Canada a record 13 different times in international competitions. Name one of them. Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below.
-The answer to last week’s trivia question (Who was the only Montreal Expos pitcher to win 20 games in a season?) was left-hander Ross Grimsley who won 20 games in 1978.