OTTAWA - Baseball Canada held its seventh edition of the National Teams Awards Banquet and Fundraiser on January 24 at Toronto’s Renaissance Hotel at Rogers Center and the event was once again a complete success.
"Once again, we were quite fortunate to celebrate Canadian Baseball excellence with so many committed alumni, MLB and Corporate Partners and Friends who have directly and indirectly contributed so much to the growth and development of our National Teams Program," says Greg Hamilton, Baseball Canada's Head Coach and Director of National Teams.
"Baseball excellence in Canada continues to impact the game on a global scale and as such we are honored to have the support of so many of our country's key contributors."
Baseball Canada also recognized its past, present and future with the annual awards presentation.
Highlighting the awards portion was Larry Walker who was honoured with Baseball Canada’s first Wall of Excellence Award, presented by David Vander Voet of RBC Wealth Management. The numbers speak for themselves as Walker holds most Canadian Major League career records. The humble Maple Ridge, BC native tallied a .313 average with 383 homers, 1,311 RBI, 2,160 hits, 471 doubles, 230 stolen bases in 1,988 games. He was the 1997 NL MVP, putting together arguably one of the best single seasons in Major League history when he hit .366 with 49 homers, 130 RBI, 46 doubles, 33 stolen bases, .720 SLG in 153 games.
“I would like to thank the Regina Pats who cut me twice, making my choice of careers that much easier,” says Walker jokingly while accepting his award.
Brett Lawrie of Langley, BC earned the Junior National Team MVP award, sponsored by Disney’s Wide World of Sports, for the second time in three years. Lawrie was the offensive key cog of the Junior National Team at the World Junior Championship in Edmonton, winning the Triple Crown of the tournament batting .469 with three home runs and 16 RBI. He also displayed his power during the Dominican Summer Camp, hitting five home runs in a doubleheader against the Seattle Mariners Dominican team.
Nick Weglarz of Stevensville, Ontario was recognized as the Olympic team MVP, presented by Steve Rogers of the MLBPA. Weglarz was a crucial part of Canada qualifying for the 2008 Olympics when he hit .450 with three homers and seven RBI at the Final Olympic Qualifier in Taiwan. He then proceeded to lead the team at the Olympics with a .400 average, two home runs and five RBI. He is also establishing himself in the professional ranks as he is now ranked third by Baseball America on the Cleveland Indians top 10 prospects list.
The Stubby Clapp Award was presented to Scott Richmond of North Vancouver, BC, presented by Dave Bartlett of Mizuno Canada. Richmond is the personification of this award as he came from working the docks in Vancouver to taking the mound in the Majors. After completing his college career, the 6’5”, 220 lbs right-hander went to Edmonton to play independent ball with the Cracker-Cats. After three seasons, he signed with the Blue Jays in 2008 and quickly made his way to the big leagues, making his debut on July 30th. He earned his first Major League win on September 26th, throwing six shutout innings against the Baltimore Orioles.
Alumni Awards were presented to Rheal Cormier of Cap Pele, NB and to Jeff Zimmerman of Carsland, Alberta, presented by Larry Pearson of the L.J. Pearson Foundation. Cormier is a two-time Olympian, participating in the 1988 and 2008 Olympics. Following the Beijing Games, Cormier retired from baseball. He pitched 16 seasons in the majors, collecting a 71-64 record and 4.03 ERA in 683 career games. Zimmerman was a solid reliever during his Major League career with the Texas Rangers. He owns a handful of club records, including most consecutive wins to start a season with nine and was an All-Star in 1999. He is now the Co-Chair of Baseball Canada’s Alumni Group and is a coach with the Junior National Team.
Chris Reitsma of Calgary, Alberta was the recipient of a Special Recognition Award, presented by Steve Rogers of the MLBPA. Reitsma spent seven seasons in the Major Leagues, appearing in 338 games with the Cincinnati Reds, Atlanta Braves and Seattle Mariners. The right-hander called it quits after the 2008 season when he represented Canada at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Reitsma is now back in his native Calgary where he is involved in several endeavours, including working with mentally and physically disabled kids.
And finally, a Special Achievement Award was given to Joey Votto of Toronto, Ontario, presented by Steve Rogers of the MLBPA, for his terrific season. After being a September call up in 2007 with the Cincinnati Reds where he hit .321 with four home runs and 17 RBI in 24 games, Votto completed his first full season by finishing second in voting for the National League Rookie of the Year Award to Geovany Soto of the Chicago Cubs. The first baseman hit .297 with 24 home runs, 84 RBI and 32 doubles in 151 games in 2008.
The evening included check presentations from Major League Baseball, the Toronto Blue Jays and the Royal Bank of Canada to Baseball Canada at a value of $100,000, $15,000 and $10,000 respectively.
“I can’t say enough about the support we’ve received from our sponsors,” said Baseball Canada Director General Jim Baba. “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 seventh annual National Teams Awards Banquet and Fundraiser a night to remember.