OTTAWA – The 2009 Baseball Canada Cup in Kindersley, Saskatchewan will once again be the premier event on the Baseball Canada National Championships calendar. Defending champions Ontario will look to repeat and capture their seventh Canada Cup overall.
Ontario defeated the 2007 Canada Cup champions British Columbia in the 2008 final and they will be looking for the same result this time as well.
“Every year when we put together a team, the goal is to win gold,” says Ontario Head Coach Geoff Whent. “But the cards have to unfold just right. On paper, we’ll have a good squad, but the games aren’t played on paper.”
For Team BC, it was a bit of a tough pill to swallow last year as they were looking to repeat for the first time since capturing three straight Canada Cup titles from 1995-1997. But BC is always in the title picture as they have reached the finals of this event for 10 consecutive years and hold the most overall titles with seven.
“The goal every year is to get to the finals and win,” says BC Head Coach Bill Green. “We were a little unlucky last year. It was a great final game that went back and forth.”
“The group of kids we have this year is completely different. Only four kids are returning from last year’s team. So for us we reference the history of the program and we tell these kids that they are the next in line of a great group of players that have come along over the years.”
Another heavy favourite along with BC and Ontario is Québec. La Belle Province has won this tournament six times since its inception in 1989 and also holds the distinction of being its first ever champions.
But Québec has hit a bit of a dry spell in this tournament, not winning the Cup since 2004 and making the finals only once since, which was in 2007. But rest assured Québec Head Coach Sylvain Saindon hopes to turn that around this year.
"The last few years we haven't had the same talent pool to choose from as in years past. But now we've got some pretty talented players this year and in years to come and we expect to be back in the medals."
British Columbia, Ontario and Québec have dominated the medal haul since the tournament’s inception, but that does not mean one can count out the other provinces in the tournament.
Saskatchewan, who hold the honour of being the only province outside of the big three to win the Canada Cup back in 1994, has been an outside favourite and a formidable challenger for the last few years.
Alberta has been in the hunt in the past and may be again this year. Alberta has earned six medals in this tournament, its last being a bronze in 2005.
But then you have a team that comes out of nowhere to surprise everyone. That was New Brunswick last year when they were the story of the tournament by capturing an unlikely bronze medal, the province’s best finish in the Canada Cup.
By winning the bronze last year, New Brunswick moves up in Pool A with the big three for the 2009 Cup. Head Coach Mark Noel says he is well aware of the slim chances of repeating the stellar performance of 2008, but says that last year’s medal has helped provide exposure to the program and that the top crop of player are yet to come.
“Our selects program in New Brunswick is based more on player development than it is on showcasing players for college scouts or pro scouts. We’re developing them to get to that level.”
“Right now, a lot of the talent in the province is up and coming. We have a few good players that are 17, 16 years old, but at the 14 year old level we have all kinds of great players coming. We don’t want to have a team stocked with 17 year olds and then start over every year. We’re trying to keep an good continuum of players in the program.”
“It’s a bit of the chicken or the egg scenario for us,” adds Noel. “We need to have the players in order to have those high profile finishes in national tournaments, but we also need the high profile finishes to get the players.”
The Baseball Canada Cup takes place from August 5-9 in Kindersley, Saskatchewan and all the action can be seen on the Baseball Canada Championships website.