WEST PALM BEACH, Florida- After a brief training camp that including some scrimmage-type game action against a local professional squad, the Senior National Team will embark on a journey to São Paulo, Brazil for the Pan Am Games Qualification Tournament that will take place from January 29 to February 3.
The seven-nation event will see the top four squads secure a berth in the Pan American Games baseball competition that will be held in Lima, Peru in July.
Canada’s pitchers and hitters were able to get some work in over the last few days at FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, the first taste of outdoor baseball for many of Canada’s players since the fall.
“It’s (been) a very short look but I’ve liked what I’ve seen so far,” said Canada Manager Ernie Whitt following the four-day camp. “I saw our at-bats getting better as camp progressed. This is the first time they’ve seen live pitching since last September probably, in a lot of cases. So I saw the progression of positive at-bats.”
Each of Canada’s pitchers were also able to see game action and Whitt liked what he saw even if it was just for a brief look.
“I thought our pitchers threw strikes for the most part,” he said. “I mean we didn’t put some guys away early but that’s the first time they’re out too. (Our) whole goal was to get the pitchers out on the mound facing some hitters before we get to the tournament and we did that.”
Canada enters the event as two-time defending Pan Am Games gold medalists defeating the United States in both 2011 and 2015. Eight players from the 2015 squad are part of this year’s qualifying team including Phillippe Aumont, Kellin Deglan, Jesse Hodges, Chris Leroux, Jared Mortensen, Jasvir Rakkar, Scott Richmond and Evan Rutckyj while Jay Johnson, Dustin Molleken and Richmond were part of the 2011 club.
The veteran presence of players who have competed at the international level before, including 2016 MLB All-Star and former Olympian Michael Saunders, combined with some youth provides Canada with a solid nucleus of talent.
“If you see the progression that we’ve had, we’ve had younger players back in 2011 become some veteran players and now as we move forward in 2019 and 2020, we have a good solid base of expectation. And it just rides,” explained Whitt. “We’ve got Molleken, Richmond, Adam Loewen, guys who have been in the system for a long time and now they’re kind of directing and showing our younger guys, this is the way that we do it here with Baseball Canada.
“We had Stubby Clapp for a while, we’ve had a number of veteran guys who have kind of transitioned the younger players into a big part of this program. “
Canada will open the tournament against Panama on January 29thbefore taking on Colombia on January 31st. Semi-final games are slated for February 2ndwhile bronze and gold medal games will take place on February 3rd.
Keep up with the latest news, results and information on Team Canada at the Pan Am Games Qualification Tournament by following @baseballcanada on Twitter.