Wathan more Canadian than anyone at Futures Game

By: Bob Elliott

CINCINNATI _ The SiriusXM Futures Game is a time to be proud of your country.

Each uniform on the World team has a crest of the flag from the player’s country.

The prospect game is a chance to observe a young Canuck honored with an invitee to play in a major-league park and look ahead to when he might arrive on a full-time basis.

In other words, it is a chance to wave the flag.

Yet, as the U.S. anthem was played by a brass band before the 17th annual Future Game Sunday at the Great American Ball Park nine flags from different countries blew gently in the light breeze.

There was not a Canadian flag to be found (aside from the one in centre field) at the Great American Ball Park.

For the first time in Future Games history a Canadian was not named to the team.

Candidates had to be selected from lists of players approved by clubs. Each team approves 2-to-6 candidates. 

And not one Canadian made the list.

Not Mississauga outfielder Dalton Pompey of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Or Victoria right-hander Nick Pivetta the Washingtion Nationals prospect who earned Canadian Baseball Network Pitcher of the Year honors in 2014.

Or Whitby lefty Evan Grills of the Houston Astros or Pickering third baseman Eric Wood in the Pittsburgh Pirates system or  have been possible suggestions.

That’s wrong for a nation ranked No. 6 in the world a country with 80 Canucks in the minors.

Of the 26 Canadians previously selected 23 have made the majors.

So who to watch on Sunday?

Well, we thought about third baseman Balbino Fuenmayor from Venezuela. He played at class-A Vancouver in 2011-12 and played indy ball for the Quebec Capitales in the independent Can-Am league last year. Despite three seasons playing in Canada he was terrible return on the Jays investment -- a $1.2 Million US bonus in 2006. 

For a guy at a Future Game, he had a lot of past. 

“I’m more Canadian than anyone in uniform,” said Dusty Wathan, who manages double-A Reading in the Philadelphia Phillies system and was a coach on the World staff. 

Wathan met Heidi Stahl, of Port Dover, Ont. teaching in Palmdale, Calif. in 1996 when he was playing at Lancaster in the class-A California League.

“There was a shortage of teaching jobs in Canada I guess and the board supervisor was Canadian so they staged a job fair in Toronto and Heidi was one of the 30 hired.”

The next year Wathan, son of former Kansas City Royals John Wathan, was promoted to double-A Memphis but their love continued to bloom.

“Every year we go home for Christmas to visit with Ozzie Stahl, my father-in-law,” said Wathan, “home ... to where John Axford is a big deal.”

The Wathans have four children: Elle, 14, Huck 12, Mave, nine and Gus, five.

“Funny story, our oldest daughter was in Grade 1, the school phoned to say ‘you have to come in for an interview, your daughter has a speech impediment.’ My wife shows and the teacher says ‘instead of your daughter saying about, she says ‘aboot.’ My wife started to talk and the teacher said ‘oh, you are Canadian ... never mind.’”

The Wathans now live in Charlotte, N.C. and young Huck returned from competing at the Field of Dreams Park in Cooperstown, N.Y. where his team went 8-1 to finish fifth in the 105-team field.

“He hit four homers,” said proud papa.

The big question is ... is he Canadian?

“All my kids have dual citizenship,” said Wathan.

So, both Huck and Gus are eligible for the 2029 World Baseball Classic when Huck will be 28 and Gus will be 21. 

From the list of submitted players Major League Baseball along with MLB.com and Baseball America select the best prospects who make up the Team USA and the World rosters. 

In fairness, outfielder Tyler O’Neill, who has 16 homers at class-A Bakersfield, former No. 1 pick C Kellin Deglan at class-A High Desert, shortstop Sean Jamieson at double-A Mobile,  right-hander Jared Mortensen at double-A Montgomery, lefty Evan Rutckyj, an all-star at class-A Tampa and lefty Shane Dawson, who has 11 wins at class-A Lansing are all booked.

All committed to defend Canada’s Pan Am gold, meaning that they were not eligible.  

Hopefully a Canadian is invited next year. 

Previous Canadians in Futures

Since 1999 26 players have been named to the Futures Game with Justin Morneau, Brett Lawrie, Erik Bedard and Aaron Myette each being named twice. 

Futures Game Participants (1999-2014)

Name Year Team

Phillippe Aumont 2008 Mariners

Erik Bedard 2001, 2002 Orioles

Jeff Francis 2004 Rockies

Tyson Gillies 2009 Mariners

Rich Harden 2003 A’s

Shawn Hill 2003 Expos

George Kottaras 2006 Padres

Pierre-Luc LaForest 1999 Devil Rays

Brett Lawrie 2009, 2010 Brewers

Jordan Lennerton 2013 Tigers

Kyle Lotzkar 2012 Reds

Adam Loewen 2005 Orioles

Trystan Magnuson 2010 Blue Jays

Scott Mathieson 2005 Phillies

Russell Martin 2005 Dodgers

Chris Mears 1999 Mariners

Justin Morneau 2002, 2004 Twins

Aaron Myette 1999, 2000 White Sox

Ntema Ndungidi 2000 Orioles

James Paxton 2011 Mariners

Dalton Pompey 2014 Blue Jays

Michael Saunders 2007 Mariners

Scott Thorman 2003 Braves

Rene Tosoni 2009 Twins

Phillippe Valiquette 2010 Reds

Joey Votto 2006, 2007, Reds 

Bob ElliottComment