Melvin cheers Canucks, understands WBC concept

* Doug Melvin (Chatham, Ont.) sees baseball as a global sport, his Milwaukee Brewers had more players on WBC provisional rosters than any other team. .... Day II with Team Canada Day I with Team Canada

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By Bob Elliott

MARYVALE, Az. _ Doug Melvin grew up in a much smaller world.

Maybe that’s why he’s out in front of his fellow general managers when it comes to player participation -- his players -- in the World Baseball Classic.

With 15 Brewers on provisional WBC rosters Melvin’s Milwaukee Brewers had more than any other club.

“Without money generated from this tournament some smaller countries might have to shut down their baseball federations,” said the Chatham, Ont. born Melvin. “When our guys ask me I tell them what a good idea the tournament is, it helps spread the game.”

Not every GM, assistant GM, farm director, share Melvin’s opinion. The commissioner’s office has instructed  every team to make its players eligible as long as they are healthy.

Yet there are plenty of “go if you want, but we’re giving your innings to someone else, you decide” or “nothing is guaranteed when you come back,” discouraging lines.

Wink wink.

Nod, nod.

“When I was young, the National Hockey League was a six-team league and I think every player in the league was Canadian,” Melvin said. “I remember when Tommy Williams became the first American to make the Boston Bruins in 1961.

“Look at it now.”

Baseball is global too.

A total of 28 countries tried to qualify for the third WBC, whittled to a 16-team field for the second round. Canada begins play Friday afternoon against Italy, meets Mexico Saturday and Team USA Sunday. The top two teams from the pool advance.

Each country receives $300,000 US for making the final 16, half of which goes to players in salaries ($5,347 per player). The sum is not life-altering money, like signing bonuses handed out each summer to high schoolers and collegians.

Canada paid manager Ernie Whitt, coaches and support staff the same leaving a profit of roughly $70,000, which is important since baseball does not get the funding it used to since Olympic punted the sport from the Game.

Each country is paid another $300,000 for making the second round ... a mountain Canada has never climbed.

“This is the closest thing we has to the Olympics, when everyone plays for the name on the front of the jersey rather than the name on the back,” said Melvin. “Players come from other countries to the majors but they are so proud to play for their home country. Especially Canadians.”

It was Team Canada’s first game.

It was a game the Canadians beat the Brewers 7-4.

It was one with interesting dynamics:

_ Brewers manager said Ron Roenicke said this is the first time he’s ever rooted for the opposing team’s pitchers, with Brewers relievers Jimmy Henderson and John Axford pitching.

Henderson pitched a scoreless eighth, allowing a base hit, a walk and a drive by Josh Prince to the left field corner which Adam Loewen snared. Axford worked a scoreless ninth.

_ Cale Iorg played short while his father Garth Iorg, coached in the Brewers dugout.

“I don’t think I’ll get any help from my father, but I asked (starter) Chris Narveson to lay a couple in there,” said Iorg.

Iorg popped up against Narveson and was 0-for-3 before hitting a double off eight-year veteran Tom  Gorzelanny in the seventh.

_ Brewers Marco Estrada, asked Melvin who was going to root for if Estrada started against Canada?

Noting the 65-pitch limit, Melvin replied: “I’m with you the first 65 pitches ... after that I’m cheering for Canada.”

Melvin was inducted into the Canadian Hall of Fame in St. Marys in July along with the gold medal winning 2011 Pan Am team, manager by Ernie Whitt.

“I saw the passion and the pride Ernie has for the program, when he spoke about his guys being on the podium with Team USA on one side and Cuba on the other, it was genuine,” said Melvin. “The other day Adam Jones was on TV talking about wanting to be part of the first Team USA to win the WBC.

“Watching the Dominican Republic play the Philadelphia Phillies on TV, Jose Reyes, Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, Edwin Encarnacion they were going at it: 15 runs, 28 hits off the Phillies.”

A right-hander, Melvin pitched seven years in the minors in the Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Yankees systems.

“This tournament is something I wish was around and had a chance to go to when I was playing, we were lucky if we played 20 games a season,” said Melvin looking whist fully at the players in red taking batting practice.

Melvin watched Team Canada beat Team USA 8-6 in 2006 and before heading upstairs to sit with his assistant Toronto’s Gord Ash, said: ”it’s kind of neat seeing all those Canadian kids out there.”

And it would be “neater” for guys like president Ray Carter, Jim Baba, Greg Hamilton and the rest of the crew at Baseball Canada, to be in the second round, next week in Miami.

Bob ElliottComment