Minor leaguers won so best Canucks could play in March

* 1B Jimmy VanOstrand (Richmond, BC) homered in each game, four times in all, hitting .538 (7-for-13) with a double  and 10 RBIs, finishing with a 2.138 OPS to Canada could qualify for the WBC in March ....  2013 Canadians Projected Draft list Letters of Intent 2012 Canadians in the Minors  2012 Canadians in College 2012 Canadians Drafted

Projected Canadian WBC roster for March 

Vids vs. Germany in finale -- Canada-Germany highlights .... Whitt, Albers, Frady post-game presser .... Robinson hits two-run HR .... Loewen's two-run homer .... Jimmy VO's 4th HR -- unofficial MVP .... Loewen makes grab on warning track .... Bowman scores final run

Vids vs. Germany -- Game highlights .... Tosoni hits grand slam .... Smith triples in run .... Gillies homer breaks 4-4 tie .... VanOstrand hits solo shot .... VanOstrand hits three-run homer in first 

ADAM MORISSETTE -- Canada qualifies with 11-1 over Germany .... Canada thumps Germany 16-7 as Jimmy VO goes deep twice, along with Gillies, Lennerton and Tosoni .... 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 

Vids vs. Great Britain .... Canada beats Great Britain 11-1 ....  Skylar Stromsmoe hits bases-clearing double ....  Jimmy VanOstrand hits tw0-run HR ....  Shawn Hill impressive ....  Adam Loewen hits RBI double ....

TIM SMITH -- One meal remains .... Canada makes the trip to Germany ....  WBC beards are in  .... Blogging Day 1

ALEXIS BRUDNICKI -- Loewen has had his ups and downs .... Albers starts WBC finale in Germany .... Magnuson has scoreless outing vs. Germany ....  Canada favoured in WBC qualifier ....  Stern: Canada faces tough road 

TODD DEVLIN -- Jimmy VO has 1.900 OPS ....  Jamieson lone rook on WBC squad

GEOFF MORROW -- Canada, flavored with Harrisburg Senators thump Great Britain in WBC qualifier

JOSH TIMMERS -- WBC Qualifier scouting reports

BASEBALL AMERICA -- Germany, France release rosters

International vet, Shawn Hill,  starts opener for Canada 

By Bob Elliott

“Can you do us a favour?” said the one imaginary roster to the other.

“Sure,” answered the World Baseball Classic qualifying roster.

“Get us into next spring’s tournament,” asked the 2013 WBC roster. “One problem -- we’re not sure how many of you guys can come with us.”

“No problem,” said the WBC qualifying roster in the typical Canadian whatever-is-best-for-baseball-in-the-country way.

And it wasn’t any problem as favoured Team Canada thumped Germany 11-1 Monday afternoon to win the pool, qualifying for next March’s event before 2,720 fans at Armin-Wolf Baseball Arena in Regensburg, Germany.

Jimmy VanOstrand of Richmond, B.C., Chris Robinson of Dorchester, Ont. and Adam Loewen of Surrey, B.C. all homered as North Battleford, Sask. lefty Andrew Albers worked six innings for the win.

Imaginary rosters don’t have imaginary conversations between each other, but those were the facts.

Major leaguers wanted to play in the third WBC, wear the Maple Leaf and make up for the embarrassing loss to Italy at the Roger Centre in 2009, but to get there they needed help from a minor-league roster, 14 of whom won gold at the Pan Am Games in 2011.

A total of 21 Canucks appeared in the majors this season. The actual WBC roster consists of 28 players. Now manager Ernie Whitt and director of national teams Greg Hamilton will begin work on who constructing the roster for next March.

“One thing that’s unique about Canada is the pride we take in our country and Baseball Canada,” said VanOstrand. “A lot of us realized we might not be a part of the March roster, but we knew how important it was for us to give the big guys, the best guys from our country, a chance to be on the field when the time comes to show how many good players come from Canada.

“I don’t think anyone was worried about whether they’d be on the field in March, we wanted to win.”

VanOstrand spoke of the immediate respect and friendships amongst Canadian ball players.

"It is how it is when you’re from a smaller under dog country in baseball when you meet another Canadian, you have a bond that might not be shared by players from other countries whether you come across a Canadian in the minors or in winter ball.”

The "smaller under dog country" has done OK in the past year: won bronze in the World Cup, finished second in the World junior qualifying junior tourney, won the Pan-Am gold, winning silver at the world juniors in Korea and now qualified for the WBC qualifier.

And they won in Germany not worrying about would play where in March, they won it for the millionaires in Cincinnati, Minnesota and Texas.

Milwaukee Brewers closer John Axford of Port Dover, Ont. tweeted Monday morn:

“Good luck to the boys with @baseballcanada fighting for our place in the WBC today. May the great spirit of William Shatner be with you!”

Axford said he would be tweeting congrats on Tuesday.

“It’s incredible what they have done,” said Axford via email. “They’ve accomplished something for their country that many of us were unable to be a part of. The pride each player has for Canada really shines through in moments like this.

“Playing with big hearts and that true national pride is what will allow us to play on the big international stage. What this team has done will not be overlooked by those who will participate in the WBC. Hopefully I can get a chance to continue this great teams success. Congratulations to Canada and many thanks to all the boys who played so hard.”

Brewers reliever Jim Henderson of Calgary tweeted “Good luck to @baseballcanada today. Throwing up the “C” high fives today!”

First baseman VanOstrand will be there likely as a bench player behind first baseman Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds and DH Justin Morneau of the Minnesota Twins.

Despite knocking in the game-winner in October as Canada beat Team USA for Pam-Am gold, VanOstrand couldn’t keep a job in Washington Nationals system. He opened 2012 playing for Sugar Land Skeeters in independent Atlantic League before the Nationals re-signed him to play at double-A Harrisburg.

During three games in Germany he hit .538 (7-for-13) with a double, four homers and 10 RBIs, finishing with a 2.138 OPS.

Asked if he wished the tourney got gone on a little longer and Canada could have played some more games, VanOstrand said no.

“It was good to get going for a few games, these three games were huge games for Baseball Canada,” he said. “Three games were enough. We got the job done. Whenever you’re swinging the bat these.”

Go to any sandlot park and you’ll see a 50-50 split between left-handed and right-handed hitters.

But at the elite level: our best are left-handed hitters see Team Canada coach Larry Walker -- hitting for this group who had them swinging like Amin-Wolff Baseball Arena was like Coors Field with the wind blowing out, Justin Morneau and Jory Votto.

I’ll never forget phoning Whitt after Canada beat Mexico in Panama in 2003 to qualify for the Athens Olympics and asking Whitt how on earth he started eight left-handed hitters.

“I did have an option,” said Whitt. “I could have started nine.”

VanOstrand swings from the right side.

“We have such strong left-handed hitters most teams try to attack us with left-handers,” said VanOstrand, “but we have such strong left-handed hitters like Loewen, Smith, Tosoni, and others, I was able to take advantage of it.”

Methinks thou art too modest.

It has not been determined which pool Canada will play in but it will not be the Rogers Centre, which will not host an event. The Toronto pool event, however, without a practice field it was not a suitable location.

Canada scored four in the first as German lefty Andre Hughes was overmatched walking Tyson Gillies of Langley, allowing a two-run homer to Robinson, then walks to Toronto’s Tim Smith and VanOstrand. A grounder and an error put the Canucks up 4-0. Smith and VanOstrand doubled in the second and Loewen went deep to left for a two-run homer.

While undefeated Israel (2-0) lost the winner-take-all final 9-7 to Spain in Jupiter, Fla. in another pool, Canada remained undefeated outscoring opposing teams 38-9 in the three games.

Lead-off man Gillies hit .500 (7-for-14) with five runs scored and three RBIs, as did Loewen (7-for-14) with a homer and five RBIs. Robinson was next hitting .455 (5-for-11) with a homer and four RBIs.

After retiring the first nine Germans in order Albers allowed an infield single to Eric Suttle leading off the fourth. Aaron Altherr led off the fifth with a solo homer to centre cutting Canada’s lead to 8-1. Albers was in familiar territory -- he started for Canada against Team USA in the Pan Am gold medal game and earned COPABE (Confederacy Pan American Baseball) senior male athlete of the year honours for 2011, while Baseball Canada was named the Federation of the Year.

VanOstrand walked with one out in the eighth in from the Germany bullpen came Toronto lefty Adam Kudryk to face Loewen, who worked a five-pitch walk. Shawn Bowman of Port Moody B.C. doubled in two runs and Rene Tosoni of Coquitlam, B.C. singled him to third. Skyler Stromsmoe popped up down the right field line, which was caught by second baseman Toby Gardenhire, and Tosoni tagged and raced home for the run to invoke the 10-run mercy rule.

Lefty Mark Hardy of Campbell River, B.C. and Burlington’s Tom Boleska each had a scoreless outing.

Whether they made the 28-man roster next March or not, this 28-man group has, in the words of Walker, “made Canada proud.”

They shall not be forgotten for what they have accomplished.

When was the last time Canada went into an event so heavily favoured?

Oh the Italy game ... forget about it.

This group has erased that game.