By Bob Elliott
They were pioneers.
Not that they travelled the established trading posts, forged trails, travelled the Dominion coast to coast, mapped it, or discovered the Northwest Passage.
They were not like Canada’s most respected explorers Alexander Mackenzie, David Thompson, Robert Bylot and Samuel de Champlain.
Yet, they paved the way.
Team Canada was assembled in 1984 by Bill McKenzie. It won the 13th annual Honkball tourney in Holland against The Netherlands, Washington State University, the Republic of China, the University of Iowa and then headed to Los Angeles to compete in the Summer Olympics at Dodger Stadium.
They didn’t play the game like the Broad Street Bullies or the Texas Rangers.
They didn’t stroll onto the red stone dust warning track of Dodger Stadium -- one sock up, one sock down -- with coolers of beer slung over their shoulders.
They blazed a trail.
A strike away from victory Canada lost 3-2 to Nicaragua in the opener at Chavez Ravine in 12 innings, was edged 3-1 by Korea and then knocked off Japan 6-4. That would be the eventual gold-medal-winning Japan.
Men like Rod Heilser (Moose Jaw, Sask.), John Ivan (Windsor, Ont.), Larry Downes (Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.), Barry Kuzminski (Waskatenau, Alta.), Doug McPhail (Brandon, Man.), Tom Nelson (Windsor, Ont.), Alain Patenaude (Laval, Que.) and others helped create a path through deep under brush ... all the easier for others to make their fields of dreams.
Men like Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, BC), Matt Stairs (Fredericton, NB), Justin Morneau (New Westminster, BC), Jason Bay (Trail, BC), Ryan Dempster (Gibsons, BC), Adam Loewen (Surrey, BC), Brett Lawrie (Langley, BC), Phillippe Aumont (Gatineau, Ont.), Josh Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.) and others -- who all wore the red and white of Team Canada and wore it proudly.
Steve Wilson (Victoria BC), Mike Gardiner (Sarnia, Ont.) and Kevin Reimer (Enderby, BC) all took what they learned from their coaches on their Amsterdam-Los Angeles summer tour 1984 to each play six seasons in the majors.
Now, the 1984 Olympic team, our first ever in baseball, will gather Monday night at the Rogers Centre.
Only Rob Thomson (Stratford, Ont.) is still in uniform. He’ll be in the first base dugout as New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi’s bench coach, while the others will be watching from on high.
Back in the 1980s players worked in the summer.
Playing for their country cost them money, although expenses were paid, but as long as they could get off work they were there.
Year after year.
The McKenzies -- manager Eric and architect Bill -- who were not related, had success which led to Bernie Beckman, Tom Valcke,, Wayne Norton, Jim Ridley, Jim Baba and Greg Hamilton.
Everyone who has ever worn the CANADA uniform since 1984 owes the pioneers from that summer a thank you ...
The 1984 roster
Name Hometown School Job Resides
OF Hank Andrulis Etobicoke, Ont. Etobicoke Rangers Air traffic controller Thorold, Ont.
RHP Michael Carnegie York, Ont. Univerity of Miami, Ohio Toronto Hydro Toronto
C Larry Downes Niagara-on-the-Lake Lewis-Clark State College/Valencia CC Retired teacher Career coordinator Pro Hockey Players Association Niagara-on-the-Lake
C Jim Eliopoulos Toronto Toronto Maple Leafs London Life Financial Toronto
RHP Mike Gardiner Sarnia, Ont. Indiana State University Stealth Baseball School Charlotte, NC
INF Joe Heeny Etobicoke, Ont. Pan American University City of Toronto Toronto
LHP Rod Heisler Moose Jaw, Sask. Bemidji State University Teacher, Pro hockey in Germany, Peiting EC Moose Jaw
* INF John Ivan Windsor Ont. Windsor Chiefs/Toronto Maple Leafs
RHP Barry Kuzminski Waskatenau, Alta. University of Nevada-Reno SunLife financial rep Brantford, Ont.
INF Scott Mann Oshawa, Ont. Indiana State University/Alvin CC GM The Winroc Corp. Indianapolis, Ind.
OF Scott Maxwell Lethbridge, Alta. Cochise College, Real Estate Rep. Lethbridge
INF Bob McCullough Cambridge, Ont. Stetson University/Seminole CC, Grounds crew Atlanta at Fulton County Stadium Atlanta
OF Doug McPhail Brandon, Man. Indiana State University/Iowa Western CC, Palomar College Teacher, Life Insurance sales, Retired. Okotoks, Alta.
INF Tom Nelson Windsor, Ont. Indiana State University Plant Controller, Toolplas Systems Windsor
RHP Alain Patenaude Laval, Que. University of Miami
INF Kevin Reimer Macon Ga, Cal State Fullerton/Orange Coast Bear hunter Enderby .BC, hunting bears
C Rob Thomson Corunna, Ont. Kansas State University Bench coach New York Yankees Stratford, Ont.
INF Craig Wilson Sarnia, Ont. Anderson College, Sarnia
LHP Steve Wilson Victoria, BC University of Portland Yankees Pacific Rim Scouting Coordinator/International Cross checker Phoenix, Az.
RHP Mark Wooden Windsor Ont. Lewis-Clark State/University of Southern Illinois Paris, Ont.
Eric Mackenzie Glendon, Alta. Retired from Mooretown Rec. Department Courtwright, Ont.
Dick Groch, Mount Plesant, Mich. Scout for the Yankees, Milwaukee Brewers
* Alfie Payne, Toronto, Ont.
Brian McRobie, Brockville, Ont.
Executive director of Baseball Canada
Bill Mackenzie Sarnia, Ont. Scout Tigers, Expos Rockies Brockville
Alain Patenaude, 13th round 1985, Detroit Tigers
(Two seasons, Rookie-Class Bristol, Class-A Gastonia 9-12, 5.40 ERA, one save, in 37 games, 25 starts, 91 walks, 128 strikeouts in 170 innings)
Mike Gardiner, 18th round 1987, Seattle Mariners signed by Tom Mooney.
(Six seasons in the majors: Mariners, Red Sox, Tigers, Expos, 6-10, 5.21 ERA, two saves, in 51 games, 17 starts, 60 walks, 89 strikeouts in 147 innings.)
(11 seasons in the minors: class-A Bellingham, class-A Wausau, double-A Williamsport, triple-A Pawtucket, triple-A Ottawa, triple-A Toledo, triple-A Norfolk, triple-A Colubus, triple-A New Orleans, triple-A Charlotte, 61-42, 3.45 ERA, 11 saves in 193 games, 124 starts, 273 walks, 763 strikeouts in 193 innings.)
Scott Mann, signed as undrafted free agent with the Expos.
(Four seasons in the minors: class-A West Palm Beach, double-A Jacksonville, class-A Rockford .273 average in 419 games, 72 doubles, six triples, 29 homers, 190 RBIs, .755 OPS)
Scott Maxwell, 8th round draft by New York Yankees 1985
(One season in the minors Rookie-class Medicine Hat .242, one triple, two homers, 16 RBIs, .656 OPS)
Kevin Reimer, 11th round by Texas Rangers 1985.
(Six seasons in the majors: Rangers, Brewers .258 average in 488 games, 85 doubles, four triples, 52 homers, 203 RBIs, .750 OPS)
(Eight seasons in the minors: class-A Burlington, class-A Carolina, class-A Charlotte, double-A Tulsa, triple-A Oklahoma City, triple-A Salt Lake, triple-A Tacoma hit .271 in 728 games, 161 doubles, 29 triples, 81 homers, 390 RBIs, .777).
Rob Thomson, 32nd round draft 1985, Tigers.
(Four seasons in the minors: Rookie-class Bristol, class-A Gastonia, class-A Lakeland .225 in 216 games, 29 doubles, one triple, seven homers, 74 RBI, .589 OPS).
Steve Wilson, 4th round Rangers 1985, signed by Jack Hayes.
(Six seasons in the majors: Rangers, Cubs, Dodgers 13-18, 4.41 ERA, six saves, 130 walks, 252 strikeouts in 345 innings
(Eight seasons in the minors: class-A Burlington, double-A Tulsa, triple-A Charlotte, triple-A Iowa, triple-A Albuquerque, triple-A New Orleans, triple-A Nashville: 4-5, 4.41 ERA, two saves in 61 games, 39 walks, 75 strikeouts in 103 innings.)
Mark Wooden 7th round 1986 Mariners signed by Jeff Malinoff.
(Five seasons in the minors: class-A Bellingham, class-A Wausau, double-A Chattanooga, double-A Vermont, double-A Williamsport: 21-19, 3.67 ERA, 50 saves, 84 walks, 210 strikeouts in 336 innings)