By Bob Elliott
AJAX _ Rick Birmingham sat in his Sarnia, Ont. home in 1991 and clicked through all the stations on his TV dial.
Then, he did it a second time.
And then a third.
The former Atlanta Braves minor-league right-hander was trying to find his son Jason Birmingham and the rest of his teammates in the gold medal against Chinese Taipei at the World Juniors in Brandon, Man.
The only sports he found on TV that day was women’s soccer, but Canada prevailed that night to win its first international gold.
Times have NOT changed.
When Canada plays Saturday night for the right to advance to Sunday’s Pan Am gold medal game you had best be inside President’s Choice Park if you want to see the game.
Parents not in Ajax, relatives not in Ajax, cousins, grand parents, ball fans and Canadian flag wearers -- I do not watch hockey but never miss a second of TSN’s coverage of the World Juniors -- not in Ajax, might as well be sitting in the same chair as Birmingham sat that summer of 1991.
No live baseball on TV from the 2015 Pan American Games.
Unless you live in Cuba.
“It’s disappointing that the baseball is not televised,” said Jays president Paul Beeston, who brought his grandson Max to the Canada-Columbia game on Sunday and plans on returning on this weekend. “I understand there are problems, but baseball is a premier event and we have a good team. It was tough to pass on the round robin there were so many good teams here.
“The baseball captured the 1999 Pan Ams in Winnipeg, those games made for great TV drama.”
So who is to blame?
Karen Sebesta, senior producer CBC Sports, explained in an email that “At this point, there will not be live coverage of the Gold medal game ... however, we are planning on having some hilites and sound via our English crew. It is not a televised and fully covered venue at these Games.”
Chuck Thompson of the CBC replied in an email: “we don’t determine which sports we carry, those decisions sit with TO2015 and baseball is not one of the sports being provided to us.”
(Thompson informed us of an update Saturday afternoon: CBC will live stream Canada’s games starting with their semi-final match versus Puerto Rico at 7pm ET followed by either the Bronze (1pm ET) or Gold (7pm ET) medal match Sunday depending on which includes team Canada. Former minor-legue pro and commentator Warren Sawkiw will provide commentary.)
So, let’s follow this thought process along. CBC bids for the broadcast rights but then the host committee tells then what they can and can’t broadcast?
Sound like a “sound bidness” deal to you?
Sort of like ... “I’ll sell you my house, but no way are you using my two-car garage.”
Teddy Katz, director, media relations and chief spokesperson for Toronto2015 responded in an email (I know, I know, no one uses the phone any more) “TO2015 worked collaboratively with host broadcaster and rights holders in the different countries to determine the sports that maximize broadcast coverage across the globe. Decisions were made after extensive discussions with those broadcasters.”
Maybe the budget would not allow showing baseball, but at gold medal time, I’m guessing you the viewer whether you reside in Victoria, B.C., Stoney Creek or Halifax does not care about “broadcast coverage across the globe.”
CBC added more hours of coverage of cycling, gymnastics, diving, synchronized swimming, swimming, beach volleyball, soccer, taekwondo and basketball after complaints from viewers.
Now, I’m not anti-cycling, gymnastics, diving, synchronized swimming, swimming, beach volleyball, soccer, taekwondo and basketball.
I’m not even anti BMX, fencing, field hockey, handball, rugby sevens and trampoline -- I might have to see roller-figure skating, roller-speed skating first to make up my mind -- but like a lot of people I’m pro baseball.
CBC dished off the rights of the soccer competition to Sportsnet.
Would Sportsnet have done a better job with baseball than CBC’s highlight package and carried games live?
There are cameras here -- not the facilities to show games live. Now mind you it is an awful long drive from Front Street to Ajax.
Someone told of me of highlight they saw Thursday from the Puerto Rico-Canada game as Chris Leroux pitched a dominant six innings, as Tyler O’Neill, Brock Kjeldgaard and Tyson Gillies all went deep ... a shot of former Blue Jays Hall of Famer Robbie Alomar and Carlos Delgado as coaches with the Puerto Rican team.
Four years ago Canada won gold in a south of the border in a town called Lagos de Moreno, Mexico, almost five miles west of Mexico City
There was zero TV coverage.
Now, the lads from Maple Ridge, B.C., Drayton Valley, Alta., North Batttleford, Sask., Richmond Hill and Gatineau, Que. are two wins from gold.
A win Saturday night and another on Sunday.
They’re trying to do so in Ajax, 38 minutes from CBC headquarters and you can’t see it on your TV.
You might as well be sitting in Rick Birmingham’s living room in Sarnia in 1991.
Save your time clicking the remote.