STOCKHOLM, Sweden – Team Canada held its first team practice in Sweden on Wednesday after arriving in Stockholm on Tuesday afternoon.
The team is still adjusting to the time change, but the adrenaline of competing and playing meaningful games after a four game exhibition series with Team USA in Cary, North Carolina has got players and coaches alike ready for action.
“Bring it on,” says Adam Loewen (Surrey, BC). “We’re starting to come together as a team. We’re starting to really get to know each other. Some of us have played together for awhile, so this is really exciting.”
“I haven’t played in an international game since I pitched and I’m excited to do it as a hitter.”
For right-handed pitcher Matt Kniginyzky (Oakville, ON), this is the first time he has the opportunity to represent his country in an international event. He can barely contain his enthusiasm and excitement to be a part of this team.
“The first time I put the uniform on and got to wear the hat, you couldn’t get the smile off my face,” says Kniginyzky. “I’ve wanted to be a part of this for a long time. It’s just been an awesome experience just being around these guys.”
Team Canada Manager Ernie Whitt had the team run through some drills in preparation for their opening game against Korea tomorrow. This is a very different team that Whitt has under his wing compared to years’ past. The core of players from the earlier years are gone, with only Adam Stern (London, ON) and Chris Begg (Uxbridge, ON) remaining from the teams earlier in the decade.
Whitt addressed his young team about what to expect in international play and to play with a playoff mentality.
“I just reminded them that their representing their country and to play with pride,” says Whitt. “These games are for real now and every game counts, so we’ve got to go out there and give 27 hard outs and when we go and take on Korea tomorrow, we’re going to go out there to kick their butts.”
After those four exhibition games against the Americans last week, Whitt has a better feel for his team and their abilities. Despite dropping all four games in Cary, Whitt has lots of confidence in his team and its character.
“We’ve got a very solid lineup and have a very strong bullpen. Our starters were a little shaky in Cary, but I think that will correct itself once we get started in the tournament. We’ve got a very good ball club here, and we’re going to play baseball the Canadian way.”
Canada opens the 38th IBAF Baseball World Cup on Thursday, September 10th against Korea in Pool C action in Stockholm, Sweden. Nick Bucci (Sarnia, ON) is scheduled to start on the mound for the Canadians.