By Adam Morissette
One of the greatest Canadian baseball players of all-time is calling it a career as New Westminster, B.C., native Justin Morneau announced his retirement at a news conference at Target Field in Minnesota on Wednesday.
Morneau will now join the Minnesota Twins front office as a special assistant, continuing a relationship with the squad that drafted him in 1999 and where he spent 11 of his 14 big league seasons.
After reaching the big leagues in 2003, Morneau soon became one of the top sluggers in the game winning the American League’s Most Valuable Player Award in 2006 and being named to four consecutive All-Star Games from 2007-2010. He would later add a National League batting title to his resume as a member of the Colorado Rockies in 2014.
He finishes his career near the top of many offensive categories among Canadian-born MLB players, including second in hits (1,603), doubles (349) and RBI (983), trailing only Larry Walker, third in games played (1,545) and fourth in home runs (247). He is the only Canadian to win an American League MVP Award and one of just three Canadians (Larry Walker and Joey Votto) to win a Most Valuable Player Award.
Morneau has a special connection with Baseball Canada first joining the Junior National Team program as a 17 year-old in 1999 before representing Canada at the 2001 IBAF Baseball World Cup and the 2003 Olympic Qualifier in Panama where he helped the Canucks qualify for the 2004 Athens Olympics.
He is one of a handful of players, including Pete Orr (Newmarket, Ont.), to have participated in all four World Baseball Classic events. He was also a guest coach at Junior National Team Spring Training in 2016 before signing with the Chicago White Sox later that year. Fittingly, his final appearance as a player came with a Canadian jersey on at the 2017 WBC last March.
“Since the moment he put on a Canadian uniform, Justin has had a tremendous impact on our National Teams program. Through representing Canada in international competition, his generous support of our programs and National Teams Banquet to lending a hand as a guest coach with our Junior National Team, we are forever grateful for his kindness,” said Greg Hamilton, Baseball Canada’s director of national teams. “We’d like to congratulate Justin on an amazing 14-year career in the big leagues and wish him and his family the best in their next chapter of their lives.”
Justin Morneau timeline:
July 1998-Represented British Columbia in the Baseball Canada Cup where he received invitation to Junior National Team Spring Training
April 1999-Participated in first ever Junior National Team Spring Training against pros at Disney in Lake Buena Vista, Florida
June 1999-Drafted by Minnesota Twins in 3rd round of 1999 MLB Draft
2001 - Represented Canada in 2001 IBAF Baseball World Cup
June 10, 2003-Made big league debut against his childhood idol Larry Walker and the Colorado Rockies
June 16, 2003-Hit his first big league home run at Kansas City off Albie Lopez
November 2003-Helped Canada qualify for the 2004 Athens Olympics with standout performance at Olympic Qualification tournament in Panama.
March 2006-Represented Canada at inaugural World Baseball Classic and helped Canada upset the United States on March 6th in Phoenix, Arizona
November 21, 2006-Was named American League Most Valuable Player after hitting .321 with 34 home runs and 130 RBI
July 6, 2007-Hit his 100th career home run off Gavin Floyd of the Chicago White Sox in Chicago
July 10, 2007-Played in his first of four consecutive All-Star Games at AT&T Park in San Francisco
July 14, 2008-Won the MLB Home Run Derby in a memorable showdown with Josh Hamilton at Yankee Stadium in New York
March 2009-Represented Canada at the World Baseball Classic staged at Rogers Centre in Toronto
January 16, 2010-Joined Larry Walker as just the second inductee onto the Baseball Canada Wall of Excellence, presented by RBC Wealth Management
August 6, 2012-Hit his 200th career home run off Josh Tomlin of the Cleveland Indians in Cleveland
March 2013-Represented Canada at the World Baseball Classic in Phoenix were he hit .636 with three doubles and three RBI in three games
August 31, 2013-Traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates where he would help the club reach the postseason for the first time since the 1992 season
December 3, 2013-Signed a two-year contact with the Colorado Rockies
September 2014-Won the National League batting title after finishing the season with a .319 batting average
April 2016-Joined the Junior National Team as a Guest Coach at Extended Spring Training
June 9, 2016-Signed a one-year deal with the Chicago White Sox and went on to play 58 games with the club
March 2017-Represented Canada at a record fourth World Baseball Classic
January 17, 2018-Announces retirement from Major League Baseball