While Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto and New York Yankees catcher Russell Martin prepare for the postseason next weekend and other Canadians like Brett Lawrie (Toronto Blue Jays), Jason Bay (New York Mets) and Justin Morneau (Minnesota Twins) play out the string, a group of minor-league Canucks came shining through on the diamond once again for their country.
Fourteen members of the Canadian national team who won gold at the Pan American Games and a bronze at the World Cup a year ago, were together again to dominate the World Baseball Classic qualifier in Regensburg, Germany over the past several days.
This result was expected. The other countries in Canada's qualifier group - Germany, Czech Republic and Great Britain - just don't have Canada's depth of baseball talent. But not qualifying for the World Baseball Classic next spring would have been rather embarrassing with the amount of Canadians in Major League Baseball these days.
Manager Ernie Whitt's team didn't disappoint, just like last fall.
Canada beat Germany 11-1 in the final to outscore its opponents 38-18 in its three outings. Two of Canada's games ended early because of a mercy rule that ends a game early if a team gets up by 10 runs.
While many Canadians like catcher Chris Robinson, outfielders Tyson Gillies and Adam Loewen enjoyed a strong tournament, it was hard to overlook the performance from 28-year-old first baseman Jimmy Van Ostrand. The native of Richmond, B.C. went 7-for-13, hit four home runs, scored nine times and knocked in 10 runs.
"Jimmy Van Ostrand had an outstanding tournament at the plate," said Greg Hamilton, Baseball Canada's director of national teams. "He was locked in throughout and provided us with consistent power production in the middle of the lineup. He is a character guy who understands the sense of urgency required to excel at the international game."
Van Ostrand also was one of the heroes in Canada's impressive run to Pan American gold last fall, when he knocked in both runs in its 2-1 win over the United States. But the glow of that impressive performance was wiped off his face a few months later when the Houston Astros released him after spring training. Looking for a place to play, he wound up with the independent Sugar Land Skeeters.
Van Ostrand got off to such a hot start with the Gary Gaetti-managed Skeeters, who last month received some instant fame when Roger Clemens pitched for them, that the Washington Nationals purchased his contract. With the Nationals AA affiliate, the Harrisburg Senators, Van Ostrand hit .310 with a .465 slugging percentage.
Maybe, he will find his way to the majors after all and prove he made the right decision to focus on baseball. An all-round athlete, Van Ostrand led McMath Secondary in Richmond to four city basketball titles and was a badminton standout, winning double gold in the under-19 division in the Junior Pan American Games.
In 2007, he was a late invite to the MLB Futures Game - a game that also included Votto - and slammed a pinch-hit homer off Clayton Kershaw, now with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Van Ostrand, who can also play third base, right or left field, will be a lock to crack the 28-player roster for Canada at the 2013 World Baseball Classic. He won't unseat Votto or Lawrie or Bay, but he has earned a shot to get some playing time after his strong outings for Canada.
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