Baseball Canada handing out hardware

Reigning National League MVP Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds will become the third member of Baseball Canada's Wall of Excellence on Saturday, but won't be in Toronto to accept the award because of illness.

Votto, Axford, Mathieson to be honoured at annual national team banquet

John Axford, who finished a strong rookie season with the Milwaukee Brewers by posting 24 saves in 2010, will celebrate his achievement at least one more time.

The Simcoe, Ont., native will receive a special recognition award Saturday night from Baseball Canada at its annual national teams awards banquet and fundraiser at the Renaissance Toronto Hotel.

The 27-year-old took over the stopper's role in Milwaukee early last season from the now-retired Trevor Hoffman. He finished with eight wins, a 2.38 earned-run average and struck out 76 batters in 58 innings pitched.

Scott Mathieson, who has spent the majority of his pro career in the Philadelphia Phillies minor league system, also will receive a special recognition award after being named the club's top minor league pitcher for 2010.

The 26-year-old from Vancouver saved 26 games for the AAA Lehigh Valley IronPigs. He made two appearances in a Phillies uniform, allowing three runs (two earned) on five hits over 1 2/3 innings.

Reigning National League most valuable player Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds will become the third member of Baseball Canada's Wall of Excellence but won't travel to Toronto to accept the award because of an illness.

The Toronto-born first baseman brought the MVP award back to Canada after a 13-year absence, earning 31 of 32 first-place votes and 443 points from the Baseball Writers' Association of America to best St. Louis slugger Albert Pujols, who had prevailed the two previous years.

The 27-year-old is the 12th Reds player and third Canadian to win a Major League Baseball MVP award, joining first-ballot Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Larry Walker (1997, National League) and current Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau (2006, American League).

In 2010, Votto established career highs in batting average (.324, second in NL), homers (37, third), RBIs (113, third) and on-base percentage (.424).

He ranked in the top three in 11 offensive categories — leading in six, including on-base percentage and slugging percentage (.600) — and finished top five in 15 categories and top eight in 18.

Other players to be honoured Saturday include:

  • Jamie Romak (senior national team MVP award) — The 25-year-old outfielder captured MVP honours at the World Cup/Pan American Games qualifying tournament in San Juan, where he batted .448 with five home runs and boasted a 1.103 slugging percentage. Between single-A and double-A, Romak recorded 128 hits, 13 home runs and 64 RBIs, and averaged .296 in 127 games.
  • Chris Robinson (Stubby Clapp Award) — The Chicago Cubs catching prospect was another key contributor to Canada's Pan Am qualifying team. In 67 games last season for the AAA Iowa Cubs, the 26-year-old posted a .248 batting average, two home runs and 26 runs batted in.
  • Kellin Deglan (junior national team MVP award) — Selected in the first round (22nd overall) of the 2010 amateur draft by the Texas Rangers, the 18-year-old backstop was a presence behind the plate at the world junior baseball championships, helping Canada to a fourth-place finish.

New York Yankees catcher Russell Martin, soon-to-be announced Kansas City Royals pitcher Jeff Francis, outfielder Michael Saunders (Seattle), pitcher Scott Richmond (Toronto), pitcher Chris Leroux, former Blue Jays pitcher Paul Quantrill and former major league outfielder Adam Stern also will be on hand.

Other special guests include Blue Jays president Paul Beeston and general manager Alex Anthopoulos, along with one-time Montreal Expos GM and current Blue Jays executive Jim Fanning, and national team manager and former Toronto catcher Ernie Whitt.