(Photo: Michelle Prata)
OTTAWA-Baseball Canada held its 13th Annual National Teams Awards Banquet and Fundraiser at the Renaissance Toronto Downtown on Saturday and once again, the evening did not disappoint as many of Baseball Canada’s distinguished alumni, corporate partners and friends assembled for an unforgettable evening.
Three-time Major League Baseball All-Star and the newest player on the Toronto Blue Jays, Russell Martin was honoured during the awards portion of the evening as he became the 7th member of Baseball Canada’s Wall of Excellence, sponsored by RBC Wealth Management, joining Larry Walker, Justin Morneau, Joey Votto, Ernie Whitt, Ryan Dempster and Jason Bay.
Martin joined the Junior National Team program in 1999 and wore the Maple Leaf again in 2003 for the Olympic Qualifier, and in 2009 for the World Baseball Classic. He has won Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Awards, and has competed in the post season in seven of his nine big league seasons.
Here is a rundown of the other awards handed out:
ESPN Wide World of Sports presented Gareth Morgan with the Junior National Team MVP Award after he helped Canada to a bronze medal performance at the COPABE 18U Pan Am Championship in September. Morgan hit .429 with two doubles, a home run and 12 RBI in nine tournament games, and when it mattered most, went 3-for-4 with a home run and 3 RBIs as Canada defeated host Mexico, 9-7 to win the bronze medal. Last June the Seattle Mariners used their second selection in the MLB Draft on the North York, ON native.
Former American League MVP Justin Morneau received the Stubby Clapp Award, presented by Mizuno Canada after a tremendous 2014 campaign with the Colorado Rockies that saw him lead all National League hitters with a .319 average to win his first career batting title. In addition to being a special player, he is a special person who cares deeply about his native country and its next generation of aspiring Major Leaguers.
The prestigious Alumni Award, presented by the L.J. Pearson Foundation was given to 11-year MLB Veteran Jeff Francis. Francis’s career, spent mainly with the Colorado Rockies, is highlighted by a season in 2007 that saw him win 17 games and help the Rockies to the World Series. He wore the Maple Leaf at the 2006 World Baseball Classic, is a tremendous supporter of Baseball Canada’s National Teams program and will hopefully be toeing the rubber as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays in the spring.
Current Junior National Team first baseman Josh Naylor took home the second annual Canadian Futures Award, presented by the Toronto Chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Naylor played an instrumental role in Team Canada’s bronze medal winning performance at the COPABE 18U Pan Am Championships in September and is poised to become a high selection in the 2015 MLB First-Year Player Draft.
Veteran National Team player Jamie Romak was given a Special Achievement Award, presented by the MLB Players Association. After 1,069 minor league games, Romak realized a childhood dream when the Los Angeles Dodgers called up the London, Ontario native to the big leagues. The majority of his season was spent with Triple-A Albuquerque where he smacked 24 homers and drove-in 85 runs.
Hall of Fame second baseman and two-time World Series Champion, Roberto Alomar was honoured with the Special Recognition Award for his tremendous efforts to help grow and develop baseball players across Canada. Last March, Alomar spent 12 days as a guest coach with the Junior National Team program in St. Petersburg, Florida and will join the club in the same capacity this March. Hall of Fame Executive Pat Gillick who swung an infamous trade to acquire the talented second baseman back in 1991 before the Jays went on to capture back-to-back World Series titles in 1992 and 1993 joined Alomar on stage.
The evening also included check presentations from the Toronto Blue Jays and RBC Wealth Management at values of $25,000 and $20,000, respectively.
“I can’t say enough about the support we’ve received from our sponsors,” explained Baseball Canada President Ray Carter. “They continuously show a vested interest in promoting the sport in Canada, both at the grassroots level and at the elite level."
Baseball Canada would like to thank everybody who made the 13th Annual National Teams Awards Banquet and Fundraiser a night to remember.
See you in January 2016!