Pan-Am Gold One To Savour
Jimmy Van Ostrand had a unique view of one of Canada’s most memorable baseball moments.
He was watching it from second base.
After hitting a two-out double down the right-field line to plate Chris Robinson and Tim Smith and give Canada a 2-1 edge over the United States in the gold medal final of the 2011 Pan Am Games in Guadalajara, Mex., the Richmond, B.C., native had to observe from a distance as the Canadian bench erupted with joy.
“Standing on second after scoring those runs and seeing the guys going crazy in the dugout was something I will never forget,” Van Ostrand said, reliving the moment nearly three years later.
With the 2-1 lead intact the rest of the game, the Canadian senior team earned its first gold medal in international competition, and Van Ostrand was able to celebrate with the rest of his teammates after the final out.
He was the hero of the game, but he’d never admit that.
[Jimmy Van Ostrand Canada] “Being the one that got the hit was just a bonus to a great accomplishment for our team,” said the now 29-year-old, who retired from playing this past off-season and currently helps coach at Boston College. “That group was such an amazing combination of players that it meant a lot more to me for us to win that medal together than it did for anything I felt I achieved personally by getting a hit in a big spot.
“I still think the biggest moment was the base running by Tim Smith to score from first on my hit, and (third base coach) Tim Leiper to see the play develop and send him home.”
Of course, other players did their parts, too.
Robinson, of Dorchester, Ont., hit a two-out single to right field to start the rally for Van Ostrand in the sixth inning, and left-hander Andrew Albers of North Battleford, Sask., pitched 6 2/3 innings, giving up one run on six hits while striking out eight.
Both Albers and Robinson made their big league debuts last season, with Albers called up to replace a struggling Scott Diamond (Guelph, Ont.) in the Minnesota Twins’ rotation and Robinson cracking the big leagues when San Diego Padres catcher Nick Hundley went on paternity leave.
The 28-year-old Albers now pitches for the Hanwha Eagles of the South Korean baseball league, while Robinson, 30, helps coach the Great Lake Canadians program in London, Ont., along with the junior national team.
Asked to name their most memorable Team Canada moment, Van Ostrand, Albers, and Robinson all gave the same response — that gold medal final at the 2011 Pan Am Games.
Here are their memories, in their own words.
“For me, it is unquestionable the Pan Am final in 2011 and getting the opportunity to start the game against the U.S. My favourite moment of that game was when manager Ernie Whitt made a mound visit in the seventh inning. There was only one out and runners on first and third. Ernie came out and asked me what I thought. Left-handed hitter Tommy Mendonca was on deck. I told Ernie I had one more hitter in me. He said ‘OK.’ I went on to strike Mendonca out and Scott Richmond came in and went seven up and seven down to end the game giving us a 2-1 victory.
“It was such an amazing feeling to be part of that moment with those guys. Being a part of the first gold medal for a Canadian senior men’s team in baseball and the way we did it is a memory I will always hold dear.”
“The first thing I remember when thinking back on that game was the intensity and focus that our entire team was playing with. We were locked in the entire game and I always felt like we were going to find a way to get the job done.
“(One of) my favourite memories of playing with Team Canada is singing the national anthem with the guys. Whether it was with Stubby Clapp starting it off before the Olympics, or singing proudly on the podium after (winning) gold at the Pan Ams, there are a bunch of great memories involving that amazing song and our amazingly terrible voices.”
“Way too many to tell ... but the one I will choose is the 2011 Pan Am Games in Mexico. We beat Mexico in the semifinal in their own stadium then beat the U.S. in the final to win the gold medal. Getting to share that moment with that team and that staff that had been together for so long and had been so close to something historic was pretty special. Standing singing O Canada with the U.S. to our right and Cuba to our left on the podium was something that we will never forget.
“It’s a good story to tell. ... Something about this group of guys is what I will remember most about my career. Team Canada defined some of us more than our professional careers did and I think most of us are ok with that.
“That gave me goosebumps. Thanks for letting me relive that. Happy Canada Day!”
CANADIANS IN THE MAJORS
Though major league players didn’t participate in the Pan Am Games, Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto has his own favourite memory of wearing the Maple Leaf in international competition.
[Joey-Votto] “Nearly beating the U.S. in Toronto in 2009 (at the World Baseball Classic),” the Etobicoke, Ont., native said before the Reds’ 7-3 loss to the Cubs in Chicago last week. “It was an exciting game that featured a range of emotions.”
The 2009 WBC was Votto’s first. He also participated in the 2013 instalment of the tournament, though a previous knee injury could have given him an excuse to sit out.
Votto is hitting .260 with a .400 on-base percentage through 57 games with the Reds this season.
CANADIANS IN THE MINORS
St. Louis Cardinals middle infield prospect Malik Collymore had already begun his pro career when he took one last trip with the Canadian junior team — to Taiwan for the IBAF 18-under World Cup last September.
[malikcollymore] Though Canada failed to make it past the round robin portion of the tournament, finishing 2-3 after the preliminary round, Collymore picked one specific game from Taiwan as his most memorable.
“My favourite team Canada memory would be the game against Chinese Taipei in the 18-under world championships,” the Mississauga, Ont., native said. “The electricity of playing against the home team was incredible and our team put up a great fight. I really wish we could have won that game, but it was still an amazing experience.”
Canada lost 4-2, and Collymore had a rough night at the plate, going 0-for-4. But he did reach first base on a fielding error, and stole second.
The former Ontario Blue Jay was selected by St. Louis in the fifth round of the 2013 MLB draft. He’s hitting .364 through nine games with the Gulf Coast League Cardinals.
CANADIANS IN COLLEGE
Arizona State left-handed pitcher Ryan Kellogg also picked one of his last games on the junior team as his most memorable.
“My favourite team Canada moment was playing against Team U.S.A. in Seoul, South Korea (in the second round of the 2012 IBAF 18-U World Cup) and beating them 1-0 in 10 innings,” the Whitby, Ont., native said.
“Being able to be part of that game and prove to the world that Canada can compete in baseball even at the international level was something special.”
Kellogg pitched 8 2/3 innings of scoreless ball, giving up just two hits and a walk while striking out five. Outfielder Nathan DeSouza (Milton, Ont.) singled in pinch hitter Chris Shaw (Winnipeg, Man.) in the top of the 10th for the winning run. Canada went on to win silver at the tournament after falling 6-2 to the U.S. in the final.
Kellogg, the Blue Jays’ 12th round choice in the 2012 draft, was 8-3 with a 3.67 ERA in his sophomore year with the Sun Devils. He’s eligible for the draft again in 2015.
-- Follow Melissa Couto on Twitter @ThrowinSmoke