Canada qualifying for 2013 WBC not a lock

*Team Canada will have to qualify for the chance to compete in the 2013 WBC and duplicate the celebration after this win in 2009. 2012 Canadians in College 2012 Canadians draft list Letters of Intent 2011 Canadians in the Minors

By Bob Elliott

DUNEDIN, FLA. - Who advances to the 2013 World Baseball Classic from September’s pool of the Czech Republic, Germany, Great Britain and Canada?

Canada is a slam dunk, right?

Well, since the four-team, pool takes place Sept. 20-24 in Regensburg, Germany, you can scratch Joey Votto, Brett Lawrie and Justin Morneau from consideration.

And forget about Canadian minor leaguers on 40-man rosters like Phillippe Aumont and others, since they’re not eligible.

Will older minor leaguers commit — help Canada qualify when they know they likely won’t be considered for Canada’s WBC roster when the major leaguers can play? It’s one thing playing for a medal, something else to drive the car to the dance and being told to stay in the car. As reader Bradley Rogers points out it's like deciding the AHL playoff to decide who makes the NHL playoffs.

Getting worried yet?

And then consider that Great Britain staged a tryout camp in January in San Diego and will have two more in New York and Toronto in April and May. The Brits are coached by Oshawa’s Sam Dempster, with Brian Essery of St. Catharines doing the recruiting.

Players are eligible if they hold British citizenship and carry a valid passport, are permanent legal residents in the UK, were born in the UK or British territories, are a direct descendant of a British citizen, have a parent who was born in the UK or British territories or is eligible for British citizenship, according to the Team Great Britain website. Germany is recruiting ex-minor leaguers as well.

“If countries were using strictly domestic players, you’d think Canada would advance ... for fun,” said Greg Hamilton from Ottawa, director of national teams at Baseball Canada.

“Right now, it’s an unknown. What players will we face? All it takes is for a country to sign a few ex-pro pitchers. Anything can happen on any given day.

“There’s a lot at stake and we have to treat it that way. We have to understand it’s not a ‘gimmee’ by any means.”

Canada opens against Great Britain, while the Czechs will play Germany, in the six-game modified double-elimination format.

And who gets the nod on the mound for Canada in the opening game?

There’s no way of even guessing. With most minor-league regular seasons ending Sept. 3, for non-playoff teams, starting pitchers will be looking at almost a three-week layoff between outings.

Canada won three medals in 56 days last fall — gold in the Pan-Ams, silver at the World juniors and bronze in the World Cup — to climb to the No. 6 country in the world.

And now Canada is about to qualify for the 2013 WBC.

How bad would it be if Canada did not advance?

It would be embarrassing.

Awfully embarrassing for Baseball Canada.

Yet, the marketing arm of Major League Baseball International should take a look at this format.

True, Canada went winless in 2009 and yes the idea is to expand the game around the world, but does MLB International really want either Great Britain or Germany coming out of the pool?

From a marketing aspect Canada should not be forced to qualify.

Instead of the Rogers Centre drawing 103,899 — including 42,314 for the Canada-USA game — how much will either Germany or Great Britain draw.

There won’t be any Canadian TV deal or sponsorships, t-shirt sales.

Instead of Russell Martin, John Axford, Jason Bay, Erik Bedard, Jeff Francis, Lawrie, Votto and Morneau in the WBC ... MLB International will get a European entry.

There will be a few phone calls to Larry Walker, Morneau and Votto on Sept. 24.

“You’re kidding right ... we’re not in the WBC? Oh, you want to know what I think about it ...”

Burlington’s Tom Boleska, now a San Francisco Giants farmhand, may pitch for the Brits.

Brant Ust was born in Belgium, played for Team USA and reached triple-A Tacoma in 2007 before retiring. He’s told friends he’s “awaiting a call from the Queen.”

Former Blue Jays outfielder Shawn Green has called London Ont.'s Adam Stern to play for Israel.

And two-time WBC champion Japan has not committed for 2013 in a dispute over payouts.

Canada has to qualify along with the other three winless teams from 2009: South Africa, Panama and Chinese Taipei.

The other three qualifying pools line up this way:

_ Panama will host  a qualifier with Brazil, Colombia, and Nicaragua

_ Jupiter, Fla., spring home of the St. Louis Cardinals and the Florida Marlins, will host a qualifier with Israel, South Africa, France and Spain.

_ Taiwan hosts New Zealand, Thailand, and Philippines

One threesome of young minor leaguers who would certainly be a fit would be outfielders Michael Crouse of Port Moody, B.C., North York’s Marcus Knecht and Mississauga’s Dalton Pompey.

OK, there’s three players on the way up.

It's a starting point ... and then what?




Bob ElliottComment