When I read that the Toronto Sun documents the Top 100 Most Influential Canadians in Baseball every year, I thought the same thing you likely did – “They probably don’t have enough people to fill out the list!”
Of course, that isn’t really the case. In fact, as I scanned the list, I saw a number of familiar names, with news included for several of them.
At number 17, down from number 11, is none other than former Cardinals outfielder Larry Walker. From the looks of it, the 42-year-old may be splitting his March time between two spring camps, that of the Cardinals as well as Team Canada as they prepare for the World Baseball Classic.
If they all suit up, players like Justin Morneau (#4 on the top 100), Ryan Dempster (#16), Russell Martin (#32), Jason Bay (#35), Matt Stairs (#36), Joey Votto (#54) and Jeff Francis (#56) should help make the Canadians be competitive at least.
Still, while Pool C games will be at Toronto’s Rogers Centre, Team USA is in the same bracket as the Canadians, making the team from the North a longshot to survive into the second round.
17. Larry Walker, former NL slugger, coach Team Canada (11).
He lives in Jupiter, Fla. and is a part-time coach with the Cardinals each spring. He will be north of the border: Jan. 24th for the Baseball Canada banquet; in March, with the WBC team and in July when he’ll be inducted into the Canadian Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. The Maple Ridge, B.C. product is the finest Canadian position player the country has produced.
Interestingly, Walker was already inducted into “Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame” in late 2007, so this one is undoubtedly for baseball only. Yet the website of the baseball Hall of the northland says inductees aren’t announced until February. Perhaps Walker is such a lock, the paper is counting it as a done deal. At any rate, good for him.
Long-time Cardinals first base coach Dave McKay is up 12 places this year to number 23. In case you missed it, for Boxing Day, MLB.com ran a nice feature about Cody’s Dad and La Russa’s confidant.
“23. Dave McKay, coach, St. Louis Cardinals (35).
The first base coach is in his 13th season with the Cards and his 23rd season with manager Tony La Russa. When McKay talks in organizational meetings, La Russa listens.”
I don’t know that the Canadian writer who typed this has ever actually been in a Cardinals organizational meeting, but his assertion is likely valid nonetheless. I would add that I honestly believe that McKay is one of the nicest guys around.
And what list of Canadian Cardinals would ever be complete without Stubby Clapp, the second baseman whose number 10 was the first ever retired by the Memphis Redbirds, the club for which he played from 1999 though 2002?
Despite turning 36 years old next month, the ever-popular veteran of numerous international competitions is going to play for Team Canada once again.
“43. Stubby Clapp, hitting coach, class-A Greenville (27).
Though the Windsor, Ont. native is coaching, the Astros were good enough to give him time off to play in the pre-Olympic qualifier in Taiwan, the Olympics and he’ll be around for the WBC in a back-up role.”
One other name caught my eye at #95, that of Hazel Mae (her real name), a personality for the new MLB Network. A former commentator on the Red Sox’ network NESN, the Philippine-born Toronto resident definitely seems up to her big new assignment.