Ontario coach responds to criticism
* Ontario celebrated winning the Canada Cup, but baseball people were still talking about Gareth Morgan of the Canadian Junior National Team. Photo: April Whitzman ….
By Bob Elliott
LONDON, Ont. _ The 24th annual Canada Cup is over.
Controversy surrounding outfielder Gareth Morgan not being on the Ontario roster is not.
Morgan has spent two years on the Canadian Junior National Team and is projected to be amongst the top 10 picks in the 2014 draft by the Perfect Game Showcase, was not selected for the Ontario team which went 8-0, extending its winning streak to 15 games at the nationals.
“This victory was particularly satisfying because of the pressure we felt due to unfair remarks published in the media attributed to a member of the JNT coaching staff regarding the selection process,” said Ontario coach Marc Picard, after Ontario beat British Columbia 9-8 late Sunday night at Labatt Memorial Park.
Even in the gold medal after glow Picard was upset from criticism from another coach.
“No representative of the JNT was present at either tryout camp which form the primary basis for player selection,” Picard said.
And Picard was upset over the fact neither he nor his team were not congratulated by Junior Team coaches.
“We were extremely disappointed no attempt was made to contact members of our staff prior to the comments being made,” Picard said. “Further no member of the JNT coaching staff approached the Ontario coaching staff at any point during the tournament and were nowhere to be found at the concluding ceremonies.”
Baseball Canada program coordinator Kelsey McIntosh congratulated Picard and for his Ontario win during the post-game ceremonies. The coaches did not. “This certainly tainted an impressive performance as very few times has a team gone undefeated in this tournament, particularly when a number of outstanding players were unavailable,” said Picard.
He was referring to Ontario Terriers players from last year’s gold medal winning team who were age-eligible but were not allowed to attend tryouts since the Terriers are no longer part of the Premier League of Ontario. The same goes for other teams not allowed to try out.
Former major leaguer and international star Adam Stern, a coach with the junior team, made like Larry Walker and blasted the selection process for Ontario’s entry as the 24th annual Baseball Canada national championship began in London.
“Morgan should be here,” Stern told the London Free Press last week. “He’s a draw. He’s the kind of player people come out to the park to watch. What I’m supposed to do is pick players I think can compete at the junior level international. What better way than to see them play against a player like him?
“I coached him in the Dominican (this summer) and there’s no doubt in my mind he can play in the Canada Cup.”
When Picard and his staff of Scott Robinson, Chris Papalia and Kyle Sheppard selected the team Picard explained Morgan has all the tools to be an outstanding player and would probably play in next year’s event but he and his staff thought “there are more polished players defensively in terms of this tournament.”
Juston Orton hit .400 for Ontario while other outfielders Daniel Procopio hit .333, Daniel Bignall .300, J.D. Osborne .250 and Danny Beaver hit .143.
Ontario hit one home run — Sean Ratcliffe — but stole 23 bases led by Malik Collymore with six and Jake Lumley with four.
“We won because of three reasons: our speed, Malik and catcher Matt Deneau,” said Picard.
With Ontario trailing Manitoba 2-1 in the fourth, Zachary Lampreia stole home to tie the game.
“We took off from there, we had their guy at 3.8 seconds to home,” said Papalia as Ontario went on to a 13-3 win.
Collymore was named the best offensive player of the tourney hitting .586 (12-for-21) with four doubles, two triples and 14 RBIs, including five in the gold medal game.
Trailing 3-2 in the fourth, Ontario had the bases loaded when B.C. Connor Noble retired the first two hitters in the Ontario lineup and got ahead of Collymore on back-to-back curve balls running the count to 1-2.
“I choked up, he threw another curve which hung a little,” said Collymore who lined the ball over the centre fielder’s head for a bases-clearing triple putting Ontario into the lead for good.
“With the Ontario Blue Jays last year we won the regionals and went 2-2 at the Mickey Mantle World Series in Farmington, N.M.,” said Collymore. “That was a great experience, but this is better. I like being No. 1.”
The next inning Collymore hit a two-run single to left.
Collymore credited his father Lawrence “for always pushing him to go to the batting cages,” and Ontario Blue Jays coach Sean Travers for giving him confidence.
Besides hitting .429, second to only Collymore, catcher Deneau threw out B.C.’s Curtis Kostuk at third base to end the fifth and Tyler O’Neill at third for the first out of the sixth.
Papalia’s highlight was the steady play of Lampreia at shortstop. Robinson pointed to closer Blake Weston who retiredf the final four outs, the first three on strikeouts.
“He’d had struggled with velocity, a result of his back problems all season,” said Robinson. “We need him in that situation.”
Deneau earned top catching hounors, while lefty J.P. Stevenson of Prince Edward Island earned the top pitching honours. Stevenson was 2-0 in two starts with a 1.00 ERA, striking out 13 in 14 innings.