OTTAWA, ON - Baseball Canada held its sixth edition of the National Teams Awards Banquet and Fundraiser on January 12 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."
Thanks to all those in attendance and with the help of donors and committed sponsors, the 2008 edition of the banquet was able to raise over $60,000 for Baseball Canada’s National Teams Program.
Baseball Canada also recognized its past, present and future with the annual awards presentation.
Larry Walker 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. He 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. He hit .366 with 49 homers, 130 RBI, 46 doubles, 33 stolen bases, .720 SLG in 153 games. Justin Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP and Minnesota Twins first baseman, accepted the award on Larry’s behalf.
Phillippe Aumont of Gatineau, QC earned the Junior National Team MVP award, presented by Al Schlazer of Disney’s Wide World of Sports, for his outstanding performance at the America’s World Junior Qualifier in Mexico. Aumont did not allow a runner to reach base and amassed 10 strikeouts in only five innings of work. His performance earned him a spot on the Senior National team which competed at the IBAF World Cup in Taiwan and he was just as effective, shutting down the WBC finalists from Cuba for two innings.
Matt Rogelstad of New Westminster, B.C. was awarded the Stubby Clapp Award, presented by John Stacey of Mizuno Canada. Rogelstad led his Potomac Nationals team with a .302 average during the season and he kept leading the way while with Canada at the IBAF World Cup in Taiwan, topping the team with a .484 average along with seven RBI, three doubles and three triples.
Alumni Awards were presented to Ryan Dempster of Gibsons, B.C. and to Paul Spoljaric of Kelowna, B.C., presented by Larry Pearson of the L.J. Pearson Foundation. Dempster was a member of the Junior National Team at the 1994 World Junior Baseball Championships and was also a MLB All-Star in 2000. He has collected 85 saves over the past three seasons with the Chicago Cubs. Spoljaric was a solid reliever during his Major League career. He was also a member of the 2004 Olympic team which narrowly missed winning a medal.
Paul Godfrey, President and CEO of the Toronto Blue Jays, was the recipient of a Special Recognition Award for his and the clubs’ continued support of the National Teams Program and baseball in Canada. The former politician and businessman was an integral part in bringing the Blue Jays to Toronto in 1977 and was a driving force behind the concept of the World Baseball Classic. In 1999, he was made a member of the Order of Canada.
A Special Achievement Award was given to Russell Martin of East York, ON, presented by Mike Port of the MLBPA, for his terrific season. The award can be added to his mantel along side his Gold Glove Award, Silver Slugger Award and Tip O’Neill Award for top Canadian Baseball Player which all was awarded to him this past season. His .293 average with 19 homers, 87 RBI, 32 doubles and 21 stolen bases in a league high 151 games among catchers earned him the starting spot for the National League at the MLB All-Star Game in San Francisco.
And finally, a Special Recognition Award was presented to Jeff Francis of Delta, B.C., presented by Mike Port of the MLBPA. Jeff became only the second Canadian pitcher to start a World Series game. He also set career highs in numerous pitching categories including wins (17), games started (34), innings pitched (215 1/3) and strikeouts (165). He was also instrumental in the Rockies streak of 21 wins in 22 games, including a Major League record tying seven straight wins to open the playoffs.
The evening included check presentations from both Major League Baseball and the Toronto Blue Jays to Baseball Canada at a value of $100,000 and $15,000 respectively.
“I can’t say enough about the support we’ve received from MLB and the Toronto Blue Jays,” 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.”
The festivities concluded with an auction with special auctioneer Ryan Dempster who gave away two packages of a trip for four to Chicago and tickets to Wrigley Field for any series during the 2008 season. The packages included airfare, hotel accommodations, meals, tour of the Cubs clubhouse, autographed jerseys form several members of the Cubs and also Justin Morneau and Russell Martin, pre-game batting practice with the team and a youngster to be bat boy for a game. The items were sold at $6,200 each.
Baseball Canada would like to thank everybody who made the sixth annual National Teams Awards Banquet and Fundraiser a night to remember.