Albers starts WBC final vs. Germany
* LHP Andrew Albers (North Battleford, Sask.) will start the WBC winner-take-all qualifier as Canada (2-0) faces Germany (2-1) Monday at 1 PM EST ….
ADAM MORISSETTE – Jimmy VO, Shawn Hill pace Canucks to 11-1 win over Great Britain …. Honours for Canada, Albers …. Lennerton homers, Hill goes three scoreless …. Albers, Avery get A’s for effort …. Mark Hardy works three scoreless in 12-0 win over SPC …. Canada sets roster for WBC qualifier
TODD DEVLIN – Jamieson lone rook on WBC squad
JOSH TIMMERS – WBC Qualifier scouting reports
BASEBALL AMERICA – Germany, France release rosters
By Alexis Brudnicki
Andrew Albers personifies persistence and perseverance.
The fact that the 26-year-old is still playing the game of baseball and pursuing his lifelong dream is as impressive as what he’s been able to do on the field of late.
Recovering from Tommy John surgery is tough for anyone, but being released by the San Diego Padres during that recovery added to the mountain of difficulty that Albers had to climb. Getting back to the game and wondering if he would even make an independent minor league roster, the southpaw rose to the challenge, though not before being overcome with self-doubt.
He found his confidence and from there he forced his way back into affiliated ball, convincing the Minnesota Twins to give him a chance. Albers proved to the club that Tommy John or not, he could be the pitcher that he always knew he was.
In 2011, in 35 games with the class-A Fort Myers Miracle and double-A New Britain Rock Cats he went 8-2 with a 2.16 ERA. In 95 2/3 innings he walked 14 batters and struck out 80.
The North Battleford, Sask. native’s triumphs continued beyond the season when he made the Team Canada roster for last October’s international run.
In what would be one of Baseball Canada’s finest moments, Albers shone the brightest. After matching a best-ever senior men’s finish and winning bronze at the World Cup in Panama, the left-hander took the hill for the gold-medal matchup against Team USA at the Pan Am Games in Mexico.
Albers pitched 6 2/3 strong innings for the Canadians, only to be relieved by former indy-ball vet Scott Richmond. The duo held down the Americans to capture the win and claim the top spot for Canada.
With the tournament in the rear view mirror, gold medals and jerseys framed and displayed, and the entire team inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, Richmond reflected on the month’s competition and named Albers as the man who impressed him the most.
“He started the gold-medal game,” Richmond said earlier this season. “Pretty much the whole World Cup before the [Pan Am Games] he did great. He didn’t give up many runs, and he always throws strikes.
“He doesn’t throw hard and he doesn’t have unbelievable stuff but he knows how to pitch with the stuff that he has. And it’s kind of cool, too, because he came from the independent ball route, the same as me, so it was really good to see him get his name on the map and pitch really well.”
Albers would obviously share in Richmond’s sentiment in the fact that he is happy to be pitching well. The left-handed hurler views his recent success as a result of a combination of luck and hard work.
“I think there are multiple parts to it,” Albers said. “I caught a huge break. Obviously that’s a tremendous compliment from Scott Richmond, having gone through a similar route. I mean, he was in indy ball for a long time and he’s had success so he’s an example of what can happen when you just stick your nose to the grindstone and keep grinding it out.
“For me, it’s a combination of catching a break and taking advantage of it. In this game, usually you kind of need that to happen. You need to get lucky a little bit and I was very fortunate to get another opportunity with the Twins and I’m very thankful for it and I’m just trying to make the most of it.
“You go out there; you never know what tomorrow holds. You can get hurt the next day and be done. So I’m just very appreciative of the opportunity and [I’m] trying to make the most of it.”
Albers is certainly capitalizing on the chance he has been given. This season with the Rock Cats he went 4-3 with a 3.75 ERA in 98 1/3 innings. He made 17 starts for New Britain after being used primarily out of the bullpen previously and walked just 12 batters, striking out 73.
But getting to the point he’s at now seemed farfetched just a couple of years ago, when the lefty was having second thoughts about his major league aspirations.
“That happens,” Albers said. “Coming back from surgery, having been released by the Padres, just before I got healthy, I hadn’t pitched yet and I wasn’t sure. The elbow hadn’t responded well from my Tommy John surgery and I wasn’t even sure if I was really going to play.
“I had actually gone to the independent ball route on a tryout for spring training. I didn’t even know if I was going to make that team or not. I wasn’t sure how effective I’d be pitching. It was just a matter of trying to find out where I’m at and make sure I did everything to not have to question it later down the road of, what if or if I would have done this or if I would have done that, could I have had another shot?
“So that was kind of what it came down to for me and I’m obviously very thankful that I did it and things have gone really well and I couldn’t ask for more.”
Amidst his release and his journey back to baseball was the most difficult time that Albers has faced in his career.
“The rehab from Tommy John was pretty tough,” he said. “When you’re 24, 25, 23 or whatever, you think you’re invincible. You think you’re not going to get hurt. Unfortunately that was a little bit of a rough road for me and the result of the surgery was getting released by the Padres and that was a tough thing. Certainly I was shocked by it.
“I thought I’d get a year to at least maybe get back acclimated to the game and see where I was at throwing-wise and unfortunately it didn’t happen. But it certainly makes you thankful for the second opportunities you get.
“You don’t take it for granted as much and maybe that was something that I needed to learn as well. And like I said, I’m just trying to take advantage of every opportunity that I have now and I’m very thankful for it.”
Albers is certainly taking advantage of the chances that he’s been given by Baseball Canada. The gold medal that he brought home came from his first tour with the national squad. Now in the position to help his country qualify for the World Baseball Classic, the international game is still relatively new to him.
“It’s only my second time playing with the team so I’m not real familiar with all these things,” Albers said. “For me it’s another tournament. It’s an opportunity to play for my country and I’m really looking forward to it and that’s kind of how I’m approaching it.
“We’ve had tremendous success the last two years and that’s been really nice but we have to go prove it again. You’re only as good as your last tournament so hopefully we can go out and play well and qualify.”
With the current competition underway, seeing Canada defeat Great Britain 11-1 in seven innings on Thursday, the team from north of the border can still be considered as good as its last tournament. And what a tournament it was. Richmond didn’t make the trip to Germany as he had important business at home — his wife Deanna Richmond who welcomed their twin baby girls Wednesday in Scottsdale, Az.
“Last year was a special year,” Albers said. “It’s tough to describe. It was something for me that I was just so happy to be a part of. It was a great group of guys, tremendous chemistry, guys that just played their hearts out and it really showed on the field. I don’t know if we were the most talented team out there, we probably weren’t, but we really played hard. We grinded it out and these guys went to war for each other every day.
“It was just a great couple tournaments and I was just thankful to be a part of it. It’s a tremendous honour to get the chance to play for Team Canada and I was thankful that Greg [Hamilton, coach and national teams’ director] and the selection committee and everyone who did that gave me an opportunity.
“Again, just try to take advantage of it and luckily the defence behind me was outstanding in the two tournaments. And really I just felt like I had to throw the ball over the plate and they’d do the rest. And that’s kind of how it worked out and they were great. The team behind me was great, the lineup outstanding, and we got the job done. I don’t know how else to describe it but it was just so fun to be a part of.”