ST. MARY'S - Jason Bay's powerful hands that catch, throw, hit for average, and bash for power, led him to being named today by the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame as the 2009 Tip O'Neill Award winner, presented annually to the player judged to have excelled in individual achievement and team contribution while adhering to baseball's highest ideals. He also uses them for texting Justin Morneau and Larry Walker, who regularly reply with everything from jabs, jokes, trash-talk and sincere words of advice that enable him to stay on top of his game and remain in constant touch with his Canadian soul-mates
"I'd love to talk to them more, but with having young children and combining that with our pressing schedules and changing time zones, texting is just more practical ," said Bay by telephone from his Washington home where he resides with his wife Kirsten and daughters Addison and Evelyn.
"Justin (Morneau) rides me when I'm slumping saying I've got to step it up and things like that. We continually rip each other. He is just a beast offensively, and he's always pushing me."
"Larry (Walker) transcends Canadian baseball. I've always looked up to him, especially being a fellow BC boy. And yet, despite all he has accomplished, he hasn't changed. He's totally down to earth."
This is the third Tip O'Neill award for Bay, who also won it in 2004 and 2005, and places him second all-time to the nine-time winning Walker, who recently retired and was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2009. Walker, along with fellow inductee Ernie Whitt, coached Team Canada in the 2009 World Baseball Classic as well as the 2009 World Cup. Morneau and Eric Gagné are the only other repeat-winners, with a pair apiece.
Bay, who was the 2004 National League Rookie of the Year, won his first Silver Slugger in 2009, and played in the All-Star Game for the third time. The left fielder's 36 homeruns and 119 RBI led the Boston Red Sox to the playoffs, where they were eliminated by the Anaheim Angels. He scored 103 runs and had 142 hits, including 29 doubles, and even stole 13 bases. His batting average was .267, while compiling a .384 on-base percentage and a .537 slugging percentage. The well-rounded player from Trail, BC did not make a single error in his 150 games, chalking up 310 putouts and adding 15 assists. He was a Hank Aaron Award nominee, and finished seventh in the American League MVP vote. His 185 career homeruns place him fourth all-time for Canadians, trailing only Jeff Heath, Matt Stairs and Walker.
Morneau, with 30 homers and 100 RBI in an injury-shortened season, finished second in the Tip voting, and Joey Votto, who batted .322 along with 25 homeruns and 84 RBI placed third.
"Joey is like a sneaky big guy," Bay said about his teammate from the World Baseball Classic.
"He is a tough, tough out. He finds a way to get to you. He just always seems to get the job done at the plate. He has great numbers, and nowhere to go but up."
Among other Tip vote-getters were Team Canada's Rene Tosoni, and Team Canada Women's baseball star Kate Psota.
"I haven't had the pleasure of meeting Rene or Kate yet, but I follow Team Canada and was thrilled for both of them to see what they did in 2009. Rene helped us win our first-ever medal at the World Cup, and seeing Kate's credentials is another indicator of women's baseball taking great steps forward in Canada," added Bay, whose sister Lauren played softball for Team Canada in the Olympics.
Bay reflected on his time with Team Canada at the World Baseball Classic.
"Most people would just assume that it is just another day at the ballpark, but it is the farthest thing from that. Like reaching the playoffs with the Red Sox, it is a completely different atmosphere, and takes you to a different level of pressure, expectation and exhilaration."
"The feeling of national pride just cannot be matched. Wearing the Maple Leaf on your chest takes the whole 'job' aspect right out of it. It is as much fun as I've ever had on a baseball field. It's pretty cool too that we are not just fielding an 'also-ran' team - we are capable of beating anybody."
Bay, whose wife Kirsten is American, was recently granted duel-citizenship. When asked if he would ever play for Team USA if asked, he replied, "First, I"m not sure if I'd even make that team. But even if I would, I would respectfully decline."
Bay was asked what advice he would pass along to a Canadian teenager with baseball aspirations.
"It is certainly more likely now for a Canadian to make it. It is no longer a disadvantage to be Canadian, and we are no longer novelties in the Major Leagues."
"There are two things. First, you must have a fall back plan. It is still a long, tough road, and so your schooling is critical," said Bay, who studied Finance while playing baseball at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington.
"And secondly, if you really think you deserve a chance, then take it seriously. They won't get serious about you until you prove that you are serious about baseball."
Bay politely declined to speak about his free agency situation, which is expected to be sorted out soon.
Also receiving Tip O'Neill Award votes were Ryan Dempster, Rich Harden, Erik Bedard, Scott Richmond, Blake Hawksworth, Mark Teahen, Matt Stairs, Russell Martin, Chris Robinson, Pete Laforest, Tyson Gillies, Matt Kniginyzky, Nick Bucci, Shawn Bowman and Trystan Magnuson.
Past winners of the James "Tip" O'Neill Award:
1984 - Terry Puhl
1985 - Dave Shipanoff
1986 - Rob Ducey
1987 - Larry Walker
1988 - Kevin Reimer
1989 - Steve Wilson
1990 - Larry Walker
1991 - Daniel Brabant
1992 - Larry Walker
1993 - Rob Butler
1994 - Larry Walker
1995 - Larry Walker
1996 - Jason Dickson
1997 - Larry Walker
1998 - Larry Walker
1999 - Jeff Zimmerman
2000 - Ryan Dempster
2001 - Corey Koskie & Larry Walker
2002 - Eric Gagné & Larry Walker
2003 - Eric Gagné
2004 - Jason Bay
2005 - Jason Bay
2006 - Justin Morneau
2007 - Russell Martin
2008 - Justin Morneau
2009 - Jason Bay