Four years after Canada was born, five players born in England broke into the majors. When the first World Cup took place in 1938 Great Britain beat the United States in five games in the best-of-seven final, the first tournament held by the International Baseball Federation (IBAF). It took more than 70 years for British ball to get even close to where it was in 1938, qualifying for the 2009 Baseball World Cup by finishing second at the 2007 European Championships. Now Team Great Britain manager Sam Demster (Kingston, Ont. -- Canada's first capital and some say it still should be) is charged with getting the Brits back to where they were. Dempster will start with trying to repeat the 2007 finish and win a World Cup qualifier. Team Great Britain is headed to Tel Aviv, Israel and like any good coach, Dempster is looking for players. Any sons of parents born in England with passports or sons of mothers and fathers born in England, who can apply for passports are eligible.
Once an English passport is obtained, which is no problem for British-born parents or the players themselves, Canadian players are eligible to try out for the team. A July trip to Israel ... the chance to learn from the learned Samuel Dempster ... the opportunity to qualify for the Worlds ... with talks of the 2013 World Baseball Classic expanding from 16 teams ... well who knows what lies down the road for a bunch of dream chasers.
Prospective players can email Dempster at (email@example.com). "If your father or mother was born in Great Britain a player can get a passport, or in some cases if the father or mother were born in Great Britain they may have to get a passport first and then the player can apply," Dempster said.
The Brits have not have had a lot of history in ball besides the original five who broke into the majors in 1871 and Dempster has done his homework ... none of the fab five are available:
- Hall of Famer centre fielder Harry Wright (Sheffield, England), who played for the Boston RedStockings and Boston RedCaps in the National Association and the National League.
- Outfielder Al Reach (London, England), who played five seasons with the Philadelphia A?s.
- Infielder Sam Jackson (Ripon, England), who played two seasons with the Red Stockings.
- Outfielder Dick Higham (ipswich, England), who played eight years with the New York Mutals, Baltimore Canaries, Chicago White Stockings and the Hartford Dark Blues in the NA; plus the Providence Grays and the Troy Trojans in the NL.
- Outfielder George Hall (Stepney, England), who played seven seasons with the Washington Olympics, Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia and the Louisville Grays in the NA.
Besides running the successful Durham Lords college program in Oshawa, Dempster is one of the head coaches of the MLB Envoy program. The man has travelled the world teaching everything from how to cover first, to balance points, backing up third to how to grip a changeup in Germany, England, Holland, Spain, Kenya and South Korea among other countries, as an Envoy coach.
"Just back from Uganda, we had 100 coaches and players in Kampala," Dempster said. Dempster is entering his 19th season coaching the Lords and has more than 119 suggestions from aide-de-camp Jim Lutton (Oshawa, Ont.). Together the two ran the Best Ever Coaching Clinic, a highlight of the winter each year. Dempster's Lords have had one losing season in 18 years and since 1995, have qualified for the OUA final all but one year, while Dempster compiled an over-all record of 257-177 and a conference record of 169-108.
The Lords have won the CIBA Ontario Conference championship five times, including four straight wins from 2005 to 2008. Durham?s first conference championship came in 1999. Dempster was given the prestigious Julio Puente Envoy International Coach award by MLB at the American Baseball Coaches Association Conference in Orlando, Fla. in January of 2007. The award is presented for ?unselfish, dedicated and passionate work "in growing the game."
An associate Canadian scout for the Milwaukee Brewers and previously a scout for the New York Yankees, he was inducted into the Whitby Sport Hall of Fame this year.
The Israeli Association of Baseball is hosting a European Championship qualifier tournament with the winner going on to the 2012 European championship. Team Great Britain is the fave, ranked 21st in the world among IBAF countries. The other three countries are Lithuania ranked 48th, Israel placed 57th, and unranked Georgia. Looking for talent in Canada is nothing new for Team Great Britain, which had Geoff Freeborn (Red Deer, Alta.) pitch for the British program from 2000-2007. He also was with Northern Kentucky University and the Calgary Vipers of the Northern League/Golden League.
At the 2007 European Baseball Championships, Geoff had his best international performance, gaining the win over France, plus he worked 5 2/3 innings allowing one earned run in a come-from-behind 10-7 win over Sweden.
Currently Dempster has the likes of Canadians/passport-holding Brits in:
- LHP Brendan Cunliffe (Southampton, Ont.), who pitched at Montreal College.
- RHP Brian Essery (St. Catharines, Ont.), who pitched three seasons of independent ball with Welland and Altoona.
- INF Chris Falls (Calgary, Alta.), who played at Mississippi Valley State.
- INF Aaron Hornostaj (Waterloo, Ont.), who played seven seasons in the San Francisco Giants organization.
- OF Matt McGraw (Burlington, Ont.), a former member of the Maine Black Bears.
- INF Evan Romanchuk (Vancouver, BC), who played at Santa Rosa College, Arkansas Tech and San Francisco State before playing indy ball.
- RHP Stephen Spragg (Cherry Hill, Ont.), who pitched at Liberty University and then three years with the Washington Wild Things.
Add to that RHP Jeff Mottl (Zurich, Switz.) who pitched at Douglas College and Dempster has enough people around who he can speak "Canadian" with.