THUNDER BAY – The Junior National Team made its way to Thunder Bay, Ontario today to begin its cross-Canada journey on route to Edmonton for the World Junior Baseball Championship beginning July 25.
The Juniors had a loaded first day. After settling in at Lakehead University, the Canadians made their way to the diamond to play a special charity softball game against some NHL stars, to promote the 2010 World Junior Baseball Championship that will be in Thunder Bay.
Thunder Bay native and Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp was one of the NHL stars to play in the charity softball game and before he became a star in the NHL, he was a ball player in the Thunder Bay region.
“I played until I was 15 years old and then it was either get serious about hockey or get serious about baseball and I chose the hockey route, but I love baseball. I watch it all the time and I like to play it whenever I can,” says Sharp.
The game itself was a fun filled affair; both the Juniors and the NHL stars signed some autographs and took some pictures and created some long lasting memories for fans, as well as themselves.
For someone like Sharp who has a baseball background, it brought back some fond memories from his diamond days.
“We used to go down to Duluth, Minnesota for baseball tournaments in the summer and that was a great time. Just being outside in the summer time when you’re a kid and you’re out of school, that’s probably the best part and having fun with the team.”
But after the festivities, it was down to business. The team held its first practice in what will be a full schedule across Canada prior to the Worlds.
“I like our options. I like our club. I think it’s just a matter of figuring out the right pieces of the puzzle and I think we’ve got the pieces and we’re going to be a complete team,” says JNT Manager Greg Hamilton.
The Juniors will have another practice on Monday and begin their exhibition schedule with a double-header on Tuesday beginning at 4:30 pm with a game against the Thunder Bay All-Stars, followed by a matchup with Chinese Taipei at 7:30 pm.