By Alexis Brudnicki
Canadian Baseball Network
AJAX, Ont. – Playing for Team Canada is the highlight of Sean Jamieson’s career.
For many players, donning the red-and-white uniform takes top spot in their memories, always an enjoyable experience no matter the finish. Jamieson’s first opportunity was no different, joining Baseball Canada’s Senior National Team program for the first time in Regensburg, Germany at the World Baseball Classic qualifier in September 2012.
It was a short trip, the squad qualifying for the tournament after three commanding wins, but heading into the 2015 Pan Am Games the impression of that time lingered long after it came to an end.
“Getting in with this team you feel like you’re a part of the family,” the 26-year-old Mobile BayBears shortstop said. “When you’re in affiliated baseball you’ve got guys moving around all the time and you can’t really get too tight and personal with guys because they could be moved up or down the next day.”
No matter where players from north of the border are dispersed to throughout the season, the Canadian baseball community remains incredibly tight-knit across the board, with members of the national team sharing a special bond across generations of players.
Jamieson has had that experience and feeling during his time with the Thunderwolves at Niagara County Community College, then with the Golden Griffins at Canisius College, and throughout his professional career, but especially with his Team Canada teammates.
“There aren’t many of us,” he said. “I know that we like to stay with the same guys throughout a lot of the tournaments we play in, for the reason that we can develop this family. There aren’t guys in and out all the time.
“I know we’re the defending champs here [after Canada won gold for the first time in senior team history in Mexico in 2011] and we’re on our home soil and that’s a big deal. We take a lot of pride in that and I know all these guys are really excited to defend that title.”
The middle infielder was excited for Pan Ams from the moment he arrived in Cary, NC for Canada’s pre-tournament exhibition games at the Americas Baseball Festival, when he got to reunite with some of the players he was with in Germany, and meet the team he would be vying for a championship with.
“It’s amazing to be back with the same crew I was with in 2012, that was obviously amazing,” Jamieson said. “We get to share the same stories as I had before with the same guys, and we’ve got a lot of new guys too that we’re grooming to get back in there. I’m just really excited to be with these guys for two weeks and hopefully get a gold medal.”
Not only that, but with a chance to win it right in his home and native land.
“I asked where it was,” Jamieson said of the Pan Am Games. “I didn’t know it was in Toronto, and when I heard Toronto, I was super pumped. I was pumped already, but to have my grandparents be able to come over to watch, and my family and friends from high school, it’s amazing. I’m really excited to see everybody and be back on my home soil for a little bit.”
For a significant part of the last year, Jamieson didn’t know if he would have the chance to build on the highlights he’s already made in a Team Canada uniform. Almost 12 months ago, the Simcoe, Ont., resident fell in a hole, took an awkward step, and tore cartilage in his left knee. The tear required microfracture surgery and a gruelling nine months of rehab, without any guarantee that he would be able to play again.
Despite Jamieson’s obvious desire to play for the Canadian squad, and on home soil not far from his hometown in Kitchener, Ont., when Baseball Canada’s director of national teams Greg Hamilton called, there were a lot of ifs he had to run through.
“We talked about it and I said, ‘Listen I might not even be able to play again,’” he said. “It’s a 50% chance to be able to even come back from the surgery so it was really up to if I could get back, and then if I could get back, if the [Arizona] Diamondbacks would let me leave.
“But our player development coordinator was happy to see us represent our countries – we have a few guys with the American team and a couple with Dominican – and I was super happy to get back, not only to play for the Diamondbacks but especially to play with Team Canada again.”
The rehab process was “brutal” for Jamieson, who was on crutches for three months without the ability to put any pressure on his left leg. He lost all of his muscle, but now several months later he is feeling “better than ever.”
Through seven games - and six wins - with the Canadian squad, the shortstop has four hits, five walks, four runs scored and a run driven in, and couldn’t be more grateful to just be back on the diamond. It wasn’t until he was forced from the field that he truly realized just how much he loved the game.
Feeling “better than ever” now, the middle infielder truly realized just how much he loved the game when he was forced out of it, however temporary.
“You miss the game a lot when you’re not able to play it,” Jamieson said. “You know you have the love of the game when you sit out for a year ... But the best time in my pro career had to be with Team Canada so far, and hopefully I can have a good couple weeks here and make some more memories.”