olympicbaseball January 13th, 2008
Due to the Game timing, Canada Baseball Final Qualification team faces lots of problem to piece together a team, and no one want to face the dilemma of choose team or country, according to Canadain Press.
And, Adam Stern, Stubby Clapp, Steve Green, Chris Begg, T.J. Burton, Jonathan Lockwood, Mike Saunders, Matt Rogelstad, Nick Weglarz Chris Robinson and Ryan Radmanovich got the OK from team to play but infielder Pete Orr, Danny Klassen did not.
TORONTO — Justin Morneau, Jeff Francis and Russell Martin have each faced the dilemma of choosing between team and country and offer lots of sympathy to their fellow Canadians who will soon be forced to make that same decision.
Baseball Canada is struggling to piece together a team for the final Olympic qualifier this March because the tournament’s timing coincides with big-league spring training. Anyone not on a major-league roster is eligible to play, meaning lots of players trying to impress their teams can’t afford to leave camp to wear the Maple Leaf.
Morneau and Francis faced a similar situation before the 2004 Olympics and ultimately missed out on the Athens Games when their teams called them to up the majors. Martin skipped the 2006 World Baseball Classic because he wanted to impress a new coaching staff with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
All three, now established big-league stars, say it’s almost a no-win situation to be in.
“It’s like either way you choose, nothing good can come of it almost,” Francis, the Colorado Rockies ace left-hander from North Delta, B.C., said Saturday at Baseball Canada’s annual awards banquet. “You want to be in both places at the same time. The reason you play baseball is to try and get to the big-leagues and it’s a tough choice.
“You’ve got to think about everything, making a living, your dream of playing for your country and your dream of playing in the big-leagues. I went through it and I don’t envy someone who has to go through it.”
Martin, the all-star catcher from Chelsea, Que., agreed.
“If you go to represent your country you’re going to be happy but if you don’t end up making it (to the big-leagues) you don’t want to say, `Oh, it’s because they didn’t get a good look at me and stuff,”‘ he said. “It’s a dilemma, it’s a tough decision and if you go on one side, you’re going to get yelled at and if you go on the other, you’re going to get yelled at by people.”
Morneau, the Minnesota Twins first baseman and 2006 AL MVP from New Westminster, B.C., called it a very tough situation to be in.
“If you’re not there (at spring training) for them to see you, how are you going to make the team?” said Morneau. “For each person, it’s different. You’ve got to do what’s best for you but at the same time you get only so many chances to play for your country, especially since this is the last Olympics with baseball in it.”
The coming qualifier, which will be played in Taiwan with three berths to the Beijing Games up for grabs, was a hot topic of discussion at Baseball Canada’s annual fundraiser.
Outfielder Adam Stern of Port Stanley, Ont., has received permission from the Baltimore Orioles to suit up for Canada while infielder Pete Orr of Richmond Hill, Ont., had to pull the plug on the qualifier because he’s trying to win a job with the Washington Nationals.
National team stalwart Stubby Clapp, now the hitting coach for Lexington, Houston’s single-A affiliate, got the OK from the Astros to play but infielder Danny Klassen of Leamington, Ont., did not.
“We as Canadians are very proud, we’re loyal to our country, loyal to our program and that’s where the heartstrings come in,” said Clapp. “It’s tough for us to have to turn down representing our country, it hurts deep.
“You’ve got to remember (the big-league teams) are the ones that sign your paycheque and they’re the ones who give you an opportunity to be financially set and make a lot of money playing the game you love. There’s no pressure from us, Team Canada will always be there for our people.”
Orr, a veteran of the 2004 Olympic team, is clearly torn up over having to pass up the chance to play for Canada again. He called the timing of the tournament “terrible.”
“I guess you kind of have to put your professional, your family and your career ahead of the chance of a lifetime,” he said. “For me, I’ve got to fight for everything so I can’t really go to them and say, `Can I take off for three weeks during camp?’ As much as I’d like to, I just can’t do it.”
Stern, who had the game of his life for Canada in the 8-6 win over the United States at the 2006 World Baseball Classic, also criticized the timing of the event, which was set by the tournament hosts in Taiwan.
Taiwan and South Korea benefit greatly from staging it then, as it comes before the season starts in their professional leagues. Canada, Australia and Mexico are particularly hurt by the timing. South Africa, England and Spain are also in the round-robin event.
“It’s kind of an unfair disadvantage but you know what, just go down there, beat them all and qualify,” said Stern. “It doesn’t matter who’s there. Just get it done. In the end there’s no excuses, you go out and you mash and you mash and you score and leave everything you got.”
There’s plenty riding on the tournament for Baseball Canada.
With baseball’s removal from the Olympic roster following the 2008 Games, the organization will lose much of its government funding. The cut will be less severe if Canada reaches the Olympics.
Director of national teams Greg Hamilton has been walking a tight-rope knowing the stress players go through making the decision. Gaining access from pitchers will be his biggest problem.
“To me, putting the players in that situation is real difficult because they dearly want to do both,” he said. “The pitching is a huge issue at that time of year.”
Steve Green, Chris Begg, T.J. Burton and Jonathan Lockwood are among the pitchers expected to suit up for Canada.
Youngsters like Mike Saunders, Matt Rogelstad, Nick Weglarz and Chris Robinson are expected to join veterans like Stern, Clapp and Ryan Radmanovich on the roster.
“Whoever set up the timing of this tournament definitely threw a wrench into things,” said Orr. “But the guys who do go are going to be good players, it’s not like they’re not going to have a good team.”
Notes(at): Major League Baseball gave Baseball Canada US$100,000 to sponsor the national team while the Toronto Blue Jays donated $15,000.