By Andrew Hendriks
Canadian Baseball Network
With 5,489 red clad baseball fanatics braving both threatening skies and the harsh humidity of a late July evening in Ajax, Team Canada successfully defended their 2011 Pan Am Games Gold Medal on Sunday.
And they did so in dramatic fashion.
If you couldn’t catch the festivities, you’ve likely read about how Rene Tosoni went deep.
How a missed bunt sent shivers down the spines of the countless Canucks who could be found glued to the CBC’s online feed of the men’s finale.
How a former Toronto Blue Jays prospect named Tyler Pastronicky (traded to Atlanta in 2008) knocked a two-run double in the international rule aided top of the 10th inning and how it set up the wild come-from-behind win that saw the “Say Eh Kids” plate a pair of runs after an errant pick off play that made it’s way past Casey Kotchman at first base.
Nearly lost in the theatrics that was the Canadian’s run for gold is how the Toronto Blue Jays, a certain catalyst for the rapid expansion of the American Game north for the border, lent, in addition to a handful of alumni and a current double-A hitting coach, a trio of minor leaguers to the cause.
At the helm was long time Toronto catcher, Ernie Whitt, who, along with former Jays Denis Boucher, and Paul Quantrill looked after the pitching staff , returned to the GTA to lend his experience to Team Canada following a long standing career within the Blue Jays organization.
They were joined by Stubby Clapp, a dignified luminary of the Canadian program who spent parts of his pro career as a Blue Jays farm hand prior to accepting a position as a minor league hitting coach with the Jays in 2013.
Collectively, they helped guide the Canucks to a tournament best 7-1 record.
With regards to pitching, an obvious strength for the Canadian squad in 2015, the Jays sent a trio of lefties in Jeff Francis, Andrew Albers and Shane Dawson to the games.
Along with having spent time with the big club this season, both Francis and Albers are current members of triple-A Bisons and help anchor the herds pitching staff down in Buffalo while Dawson steadies the ship for a juggernaut Lansing Lugnuts club that has taken the Mid West League by storm in 2015.
Collectively, the trio made eight appearances while striking out 20 batters, walking four and surrendering only six earned runs over 18 and two thirds innings of work en route to posting a cumulative ERA of 2.97 during tournament play.
Joining the crop of current Blue Jays farmhands were a pair of veterans in right handed pitchers Shawn Hill and Scott Richmond, who, like the aforementioned hurlers, also suited up for the Jays at various points throughout their professional careers.
Richmond, 32, spent parts of four seasons in Toronto while winning nine games for the Jays over 36 appearances between 2008 and 2012. The Vancouver born pitcher allowed a run and punched out one during his lone inning of tournament action in 2015.
Similar to Richmond, Hill also appeared in a handful of games with Toronto after breaking in with the Montreal Expos in 2004. Going 2-2 with an ERA of 2.64 over his five career appearances with the Blue Jays, Hill, who now toes the rubber for the York Revolution in independent Atlantic League, tossed scoreless six innings earning the win as Canada edged Cuba 3-1.
All told, the Blue Jays connection to Team Canada Baseball in 2015’s running of the Pan Am Games is strong to say the least. President Paul Beeston and his wife Kaye attended the gold medal game.
Lending their unwavering support to the expansion of the game Canada wide, the Jays, like our back-to-back gold Medal winning Men’s Baseball contingent, will continue to serve as an inspiration for generations of upcoming fans from sea to shining sea.
With the gold, Canada’s medal count reached 142 by days end on Sunday. A figure good enough for second place in the games, 18 behind the front running United States of America.
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