Extra Bases V -- Team Canada Jrs. By BOB ELLIOTT
CELEBRATION CITY, Fla. _ The Team Canada National Junior Team found out a lot of things on their annual fall trip to Disney's Wide World of Sports. Some good. Some bad. As always coach Greg Hamilton (Ottawa, Ont.) will be fine tune and tinker with his roster for his team's next get together in April. Who knows what lies ahead? In 1996, Jason Bay was the best second baseman in Canada. Now, you can watch him playing left fielder for the Boston Red Sox. A few years later Rich Harden was not invited to Team Canada as a centre fielder. He made the successful conversion to the mound, went to Central Arizona and last week had his $7 million option picked up by the Chicago Cubs. And as always in Florida there were some impressive outings by those eligible for the 2009 draft: _ LHP Jake Eliopoulos (Newmarket, Ont.) worked five scoreless innings in two starts. He allowed two hits and walked a pair, while fanning four. _ RHP Paul Barton (Victoria, BC) pitched five innings in his two outings and allowed three earned runs. Barton gave up nine hits and two walks, fanning eight. What impressed pitching coach Jeff Zimmerman (Vancouver, BC) was Barton's first outing against the Washington Nationals instructional team of first and second-year pros. Barton didn't start so he borrowed a pen from Zimmerman and sat alone in the bullpen charting Washington hitters. "That warmed my heart," Zimmerman said. _ RHP Jeff Gibbs (Toronto, Ont.) pitched four innings in his two games, allowing three earned runs as he walked one and fanned two. _ RHP Jerome Werniuk (Toronto, Ont.) tossed 4 1/3 innings in his two outings giving up four earned runs. He gave up only three hits but walked seven and fanned a pair. OF Darren Kolk (Mil Bay, BC), Wes Darvill (Langley, BC) and Jeff Hunt (Cambridge, Ont.) were the best position players. The high schoolers from across Canada learned from instructors Philip Tomlinson (Trois-Rivieriers, Que.), Danny Thompson (Burlington, Ont.), Hamilton and former major leaguers Jason Dickson (Chatham, N.B.) and Zimmerman. Dickson pitched four years in the majors and was runner-up as American League rookie of the year in 1997. Zimmerman, like Dickson was an all-star -- in 1999 -- and pitched three seasons for the Texas Rangers. Zimmerman told his young charges about his days in the minors. Zimmerman came up the hard way. He was undrafted out of college, where he pitched for the TCU Horned Frogs. After that he went to Montpellier, France to pitch for Hamilton and learned how to throw a slider. "I was the Nolan Ryan of France, I'd experiment with my next pitch, get to 3-0 and then come back with three blazing 85 mile per hour fastballs and get the out," Zimmerman said. That led to him making the Winnipeg Goldeyes of the independent Northern League and the Rangers signed him to a minor-league deal. He asked pitchers how many had thrown a no hitter and told them to "stencil that feeling" into their minds as it was something they could turn do down the road. All admitted that they had either had a "so-so" or a bad bullpen. Zimmerman, who showed his immense passion and love of the game and why he'd be an invaluable coach to an organization, told the players of his worst/best day in the majors. He was in Oakland with the Rangers and suffered food poisoning. After spending the night game curled up in a ball sick as an ill Yorkshire terrier, he was almost in as bad of shape the next day when he was asked to throw an inning. "I just went out with any regard for mechanics, I was taking one for the team," Zimmerman said. "I was clocked at 95 MPH for the first, last and only time in my life and worked 2 1/3 scoreless innings. The next day I found out I'd been selected to the all-star game." Zimmerman is the self-deprecating sort. Very humble. So, it was shocking when he told of warming up in the bullpen at Fenway Park. "I am warming up and my stuff was electric, I had all three pitches working, Mike Mussina came over do watch, so did a few others because they are thinking what is this set-up guy doing in the all-star game?" Zimmerman said. "I got to the mound had a great warm up and then I got to my balance point and I make the mistake of looking around: eight straight balls. I'm thinking how am I going to get out of here." Zimmerman followed Pedro Martinez, David Cone, Mussina and Jose Rosado to the mound taking over with the AL leading 4-1 in the seventh. He first walked Brian Jordan and catcher Brad Ausmus threw out Jordan attempting to steal second. Then, he walked Jeff Kent. "Out came Ausmus and he told me a joke, after that I was OK," Zimmerman recalled. Next he got Alex Gonzalez of the Florida Marlins to pop up to second. Then, Luis Gonzalez of the Arizona Diamondbacks reached on an error by second baseman Jose Offerman (which reminds us of the old line ... "how do you spell Offerman? With two f's ... and five e's.") Vladimir Guerrero then hit a ground ball up the middle which Omar Visquel back handed and flipped to Offerman for the third out. One pitcher asked Zimmerman what the meanest thing a fan ever yelled at him. Zimmerman told the story of pitching for TCU against the Texas Longhorns and taking abuse for a number of innings. Escaping the jam and getting the final out he looked at the Texas fan, who threw a bottle into the TCU dugout. "The glass shattered and hit our bat boy, a handicapped buy on the helmet, he wasn't hurt but it was scary," Zimmerman said. "My younger brother Jordan (who later pitched for the Seattle Mariners was there. He found the drunken frat boy went up into the seats took him out into the concourse and well ... he beat him up. That was my little brother sticking up for me."
Name: Paul Barton Position: RHP Age: 17 Ht: 6' 2". Wt: 177 lbs. Bats: R. Throws: R. Graduation Year: 2009 Hometown: Qualicum Beach, BC. 2008 Team: Parksville Royals. 2009 Team: Parksville Royals. Baseball Influences: "My dad, Chuck, who brought me into baseball. He didn't play, but he read a lot of books and coached me (from age 11-to-14) and Jim Seredick, my pitching coach at Parksville, who taught me how to pitch." Favorite Player: "A.J. Burnett. His arm is really loose. He throws 96 MPH and it doesn't even look like it takes him any effort." Best day in baseball: "Against Nanaimo, in the Premier League, I struck out 15 in a complete-game win. I had a real good curve ball that day." Where do you want to be in five years: "Hopefully I get drafted or go to college, probably a junior college. I'm not so smart in school." Best thing about playing in Team Canada: "Wearing CANADA across your chest."
Name: Alexandre Beland. Position: C. Age: 17. Ht: 5' 9". Wt: 175 lbs. Bats: R. Throws R. Graduation Year: 2009. Hometown: Trois-Rivieres, Que. 2008 Team: Les Ailes du Quebec. 2009 Team: Midget triple-A or junior. Baseball Influences: "My coach, Philip Tomlinson, was the most important. I was a pitcher and he decided to make me a catcher. I didn't like it at first. But it gets better every day. Now I love it." Favorite Player: "Russell Martin because he's a Montrealer and he's a great guy." Best day in baseball: "In Medicine Hat at the Baseball Canada Cup we beat Saskatchewan 9-3. I had a good game behind the plate, hit a ball to the opposite-field off the left-field wall for a double, squeezed in a run and got to second on a bad throw." Where do you want to be in five years: "I'd like to be at a great college." Best thing about playing in Team Canada: "We are like a pro team the way we are treated. The installation, the coaching staff. Everything here is perfect."
Name: Wes Darvill Position: SS Age: 17. Ht: 6' 3". Wt: 165 lbs. Bats: L: Throws: R. Graduation Year: 2009. Hometown: Langley, BC. 2008 Team: Langley Blaze. 2009 Team: Langley Blaze. Baseball Influences: "My parents, Rosalea and Mike, are my biggest supporters. They were always there for me good of bad. Mom sells hot dogs at our park and my father throws BP and coaches first base. My coach Doug Mathieson, who has given my exposure. He has high expectations. I am always trying to impress him and Ben Nalutka, who helps me with my hitting. He's a good man and never asks for a cent." Favorite Player: "Michael Young. He reflects everything I want to be." Best day in baseball: "As a 12-year-old for Langley we won the Little League provincials against Layritz where Rich Harden played to go to the Canadians. We went to the nationals in Broussard, Que. and lost in the semi-finals to Quebec." Where do you want to be in five years: "I hope to be playing in the majors ... if you didn't think that way you wouldn't be here. You have to play the game with passion." Best thing about playing in Team Canada: "All the people I look up to -- like Justin Morneau -- played here and now you're one of them. You're in the exact same place as they were at the exact same age."
Name: Jake Eliopoulos Position: LHP Age: 17. Ht: 6' 3". Wt: 165 lbs. Bats: L. Throws: L. Graduation Year: 2009. Hometown: Newmarket, Ont. 2008 Teams: Toronto Mets, Brantford Red Sox. 2009 Teams: Brantford Red Sox, Kansas City Royals Scout team. Baseball Influences: "My father, Jim, he gave me good advice -- to never show emotion when I was down and how good mental make up means a lot. Greg Hamilton, who has the most motivational speeches -- he gives you a lot of confidence. Jeff Zimmerman has shown us how to prepare yourself and don't ever show emotion because if you do, the other team has you beat." Favorite Player: "Tim Lincecum how he gets all the effort from his motion. I'm trying to complete what he does with his legs." Best day in baseball: "Pitching at Wrigley Field. I gave up a home run in the eighth, but in the ninth I got the side 1-2-3 (on 13 pitches) for the save." Where do you want to be in five years: "I want to be in the major leagues." Best thing about playing in Team Canada: "All the coaching and instructing we're getting here."
Name: Jeff Gibbs. Position: RHP Age: 17. Ht. 6' 3" Wt. 180 lbs. Bats: R. Throws R Graduation Year: 2008. Hometown: Toronto, Ont. 2008 Team: Team Ontario. 2009 Team: Team Ontario. Baseball Influences: "Mark Ireland and Cameron Watt, my coaches at East York, they worked on my mechanics and helped me make it to Team Ontario." Favorite Player: "Jason Bay of the Boston Red Sox." Best day in baseball: "Winning the gold medal game of the Baseball Canada Cup in Medicine Hat. I pitched a two hitter in the semi-final against New Brunswick." Where do you want to be in five years: "Playing pro baseball." Best thing about playing in Team Canada: "Getting a chance to represent your country. It's a great learning experience."
Name: Jason Gibson Position: LHP Age: 17. Ht: 5' 11". Wt: 175 lbs. Bats R, Throws L. Graduation Year: 2009. Hometown: Victoria, BC. 2008 Team: Victoria Mariners. 2009 Team: Bear Mountain Red Sox. Baseball Influences: "My dad, Phil, he always pushed me, kept me going, he wanted me to succeed and he coached me (from age 5-to-11), Marty Hall, my Bear Mountain coach. It's a new traveling team. He's helped me with my mechanics and pitch selection." Favorite Player: "Roy Halladay. Watching him is so inspiring because he's so successful." Best day in baseball: "In 2006 we went to the nationals and I struck out 14 against Manitoba. I had a great curve ball that day in Windsor." Where do you want to be in five years: "Hopefully I'm on a farm team, after I go to college." Best thing about playing in Team Canada: "Knowing you are representing your country. Like we're standing along the third-base line before the game and they played the Canadian anthem. They weren't playing it for both teams, they were playing it for us."
Name: Jeff Hunt Position: INF Age: 17. Ht: 6'2". Wt: 175 lbs. Bats: L. Throws: R Graduation Year: 2009. Hometown: Cambridge, Ont. 2008 Team: Intercounty Terriers. 2009 Team: Intercounty Terriers. Baseball Influences: "My coaches, Danny Thompson, with the Terriers, I've been with him since 2007 and he's worked a long time with me getting me exposure, and Greg Hamilton, with Baseball Canada, who has taught me a lot about fundamentals and keep your swing intact." Favorite Player: "Evan Longoria because he's exactly what I want to be down the road." Best day in baseball: "The day we beat BC 8-6 at the Canada Cup this summer. It don't think I had a hit, but I enjoyed the winning aspect of it all." Where do you want to be in five years: "In the big leagues." Best thing about playing in Team Canada: "Getting the chance to play and meet all the guys from across the country. You get the chance to feel like a big leaguer for a week. The facilities here (spring home of the Atlanta Braves) are much different from at home."
Name: Darren Kolk. Position: OF. Age: 17. Ht. 6' 0" Wt: 160 lbs. Bats: L. Throws R. Graduation Year: 2009. Hometown: Mil Bay, B.C. 2008 Team: Nanaimo Pirates. 2009 Team: Nanaimo Pirates. Baseball Influences: "My older brother, Kevin, who was an outfielder too. He taught me everything like not to get down of myself. He's always been there for me. In fall ball we played together and we took batting practice together." Favorite Player: "Ryan Sweeney, of the Oakland A's, because he plays the game athletically and he's always into it. I like the way he plays. I try to get to Seattle each time Oakland is in town." Best day in baseball: "Coming to the Team Canada National Junior fall instructional league down here last year. Greg Hamilton helped me a lot with my hitting technique." Where do you want to be in five years: "Playing in the minors and working my way up to the big leagues." Best thing about playing in Team Canada: "There is a lot of pride involved. Like the first game I heard it played here and they played the anthem. It's much different than say hearing it at a Vancouver Canucks game."
Name: Ethan Stewart. Position: LHP Age: 17. Ht: 6' 5" Wt: 195 lbs. Bats: L. Throws: L. Graduation Year: 2009. Hometown: Campbell River, BC 2008 Team: Parksville Royals. 2009 Team Parksville Royals. Baseball Influences: "Shawn Corness, my pitching instructor. I took lessons from him and he helped fix my mechanical flaws." Favorite Player: "Johan Santana of the New York Mets." Best day in baseball: "Once I had 18 strikeouts for Campbell River when we beat Aldergrove in the bantam provincial semi-finals in Duncan. We lost in the final to Chilliwack." Where do you want to be in five years: "Playing pro ball, hopefully in the majors." Best thing about playing in Team Canada: "Representing your county. It's a great experience to learn new things and different points of view from former major leaguers like Jeff Zimmerman and Jason Dickson."
Name: Mike Washurn. Position 3B. Age 17. Ht: 6' 1. Wt: 210 lbs. Bats: R. Throws: R. Graduation Year 2009. Hometown: Fredericton, NB. 2008 Team: Fredericton Royals, New Brunswick Selects. 2009 Team: Vauxhall Academy. Baseball Influences: My dad, Mike. He coached me from when I was seven years old until this summer." Favorite Player: "Justin Morneau. He's Canadian and grew up playing hockey -- just like me." Best day in baseball: "In bantam in 2006 I went 5-for-5 with a homer, two doubles and two singles at the provincials against Saint John. I don't know how many RBIs I had. We lost in the final to Moncton." Where do you want to be in five years: "Playing pro after I get a college education." Best thing about playing in Team Canada: "At the Baseball Canada Cup we won bronze and after the gold-medal game they called my name and I walked out behind the mound. Everyone congratulated me."
Name: Jordan Wong. Position: RHP Age: 17. Ht: 6' 5". Wt: 175 lbs. Bats: L. Throws: R. Graduation Year: 2009. Hometown: Calgary, Alta. 2008 Team: Calgary Cubs. 2009 Team: Vauxhaull Academy. Baseball Influences: "Jim Lawson, of the National Sports Academy and Pro Baseball Force, along with Les McTavish, my coach at Vauxhall. They've both helped me in a lot of ways." Favorite Player: "Randy Johnson because he's been in the game so long and he still dominates." Best day in baseball: "At the Baseball Canada Cup. We were all standing down the third base line and they called out my name that I had made the team. I went out behind the mound and guys were congratulating me." Where do you want to be in five years: "Hopefully I'll go to school some where in Texas and then sign a pro contract." Best thing about playing in Team Canada: "Being around a lot of other good players and getting to meet guys from other teams we've played over the years."
Name: Evan Zerff. Position: RHP. Age: 17. Ht: 5' 9" Wt: 160 lbs. Bats: R. Throws: R. Graduation Year: 2009. Hometown: Regina, Sask. 2008 Team: Regina Mets. 2009 Team: Regina Mets. Baseball Influences: "Morgan Reiter, my pitching instructor. He goes to camps and clinics all over and comes back and passes on all the knowledge that he has learned." Favorite Player: "Billy Wagner, of the New York Mets. He might use the other arm, but he's about my size." Best day in baseball: "In the 2002 Little League World Series I closed out a game. It was great to see what baseball is all about and it's a reason why I love baseball." Where do you want to be in five years: "Hopefully in a minor-league system working my way up the ladder." Best thing about playing in Team Canada: "Having that logo on the front of your chest -- that is the most memorable thing."