A COLLECTION OF NEWS ARTICLES and PRESS RELEASES REGARDING THE WORLD BASEBALL CHALLENGE
BAHAMAS SAILING BACK FOR 2011
January 24, 2011
The dedicated team of organizers involved with the World Baseball Challenge is excited to confirm that the Bahamas Baseball Federation has committed to sending its national team for the tournament, slated for July 8-19, 2011, in Prince George.
The Bahamas Baseball Federation (BBF) stepped to the plate and participated in the first Prince George tournament two years ago, putting up its best showing in a game against the powerhouse USA Baseball entry. Bahamas lost that game 8-1, but gritty right-handed pitcher Desmond Russell gave up just four hits and had his team within one run, trailing 2-1, in the seventh inning, putting a scare into the mighty Americans. Russell gave up just two earned runs in one of the best pitching performances in the tournament.
``We are so pleased to welcome back the Bahamas – they were tremendous ambassadors for their association and their country, and so many people in Prince George became friends with those who represented the Bahamas Baseball Federation with class and determination,`` said Virginia Sprangers, the Director of International Protocols for the World Baseball Challenge.
``They were so impressed with the level of this tournament, the organization, and the hospitality they felt from the people of Prince George. From the time they left to return home, they stated they would do everything they could to come back and put their best foot forward, and we`re excited to know we`ll be seeing them again.``
The BBF fielded a young team in 2009, and late cancellations by players due to injuries and pro baseball status played a major part in the team`s 0-7 record. But the Bahamas, dressed in distinctive white, blue and yellow jerseys, was a clear fan favourite in Prince George as spectators recognized the heart and hustle displayed on the field by a country that is truly beginning to emerge on the international scene thanks to the leadership of quality people such as Craig Kemp and Theodore Sweeting.
``The administration was a bit disappointed in the team`s showing in 2009, but understood it was due to youth and inexperience,`` said Kemp, the President of the BBF.
``The BBF is excited about returning to British Columbia, and is in full preparation mode.``
The BBF has already selected some of the players for the roster, which will be announced at a later date, and that roster will include five former professional players and another seven who have experience at the Division 1 NCAA level. More importantly, a coaching staff is already in place, led by Lionel Ferguson Sr., who was at the helm of the Bahamian team in 2006 when Bahamas defeated Cuba 2-1 at the World University Games in Havana, Cuba. That result is one of the greatest upsets of all-time in international baseball, and spurred the re-growth of Bahamian baseball.
Also on the coaching staff in July will be assistant coaches Bertram Murray Jr. and Jeff Francis (the manager for the 2009 BBF team at WBC); pitching coach Arthur Seymour; and scout and statistician Patrick Knowles Sr.
``We have kept in close contact with Craig, Theodore and others in Bahamas, and we know how excited they are to return and to prove how much their program is continuing to grow,`` said Jim Swanson, co-chair of the World Baseball Challenge.
``Quality leadership is essential, and the people of Bahamas are so fortunate to have outstanding people at the helm. They are fostering outstanding athletes who are even better citizens.``
Further announcements on national teams that are committing for the 2011 World Baseball Challenge will be announced in the coming weeks.
TICKETS – Tournament passes are available through all Ticketmaster outlets, or http://www.ticketmaster.ca/ – For either $199 or $149, sports fans can take in the entire event – the highest-level sporting event in the city`s history.
SPONSORSHIPS – Some partnership opportunities are already sold out, but many remain available for businesses to get involved with the city`s international tournament. To learn more, contact Shawn Rice, 250-612-9856 or shawnwbc(at)telus.net
For further information/comment:
Jim Swanson, Co-Chair, WBC 250-613-7492
Shawn Rice, Marketing Director/Co-Chair, WBC 250-961-9404
Virginia Sprangers, International Protocols and Tourism, WBC 250-962-8275
CKPG story -- http://www.ckpg.com/sports/12443-baseball-canada-video.html
Citizen story -- http://www.princegeorgecitizen.com/article/20101207/PRINCEGEORGE0201/312079977/-1/princegeorge/pg-a-favourite-spot-for-baseball-canada
Ray Carter remembers Prince George fondly, as a city he called home for two years.
More recently, he thinks of it as home to top-notch baseball events.
“P.G. feels like a second home, it’s always fun seeing the places and the people,” said Carter, the long-time president of Baseball Canada, who was in the city Tuesday along with Baseball B.C. executive director David Laing to officially name Prince George as the host city of the 2012 Baseball Canada Senior Championship.
“I lived here in 1965-66. It was a booming town, maybe 20,000 or 25,000 people, but things were going up all over the place -- two pulp mills, communication systems. It was a great time.”
The 2012 tournament, which will see the men’s Canadian baseball champion crowned after play takes place Aug. 23-26 of that year, is expected to attract up to 10 teams. The same national tournament was played in Prince George, at the since-demolished Monty Gabriele Park, in 2002.
Carter, who grew up on Vancouver Island and now lives in the Lower Mainland, spoke to a full room at the Coast Inn after meeting with local baseball officials and civic leaders over lunch at Shooter’s Pub.
“The 2002 tournament was such an outstanding event, and the fan base was just so enthused no matter what game you went to,” said Carter.
“The entire community was supportive. How does that happen? It’s the volunteers who organize the event, and that’s what I remember about it. I remember there were no glitches, it went off without a hitch, and I’m 100 per cent comfortable with bringing it back to Prince George. In 2002, this city was ready, the committee was ready.
“I think about the little kids who go to those events, and who see these big guys and want to play baseball. That’s how they get to love the game.”
Prince George beat out Kelowna and Trail for the right to host, and Laing said it was the strength of the bid committee and the key volunteers in place that nudged Prince George ahead.
“(Bid chair) Virginia Sprangers, the work she did, it cannot be overstated how strong that package was,” said Laing, who managed the Burnaby Bulldogs to the national title in 2010, beating host Dartmouth in the final.
Laing’s Bulldogs represented B.C. at the 2002 tournament, losing in the bronze-medal game to Quebec. Alberta won that event.
“She deserves so much credit because Prince George won this on the completeness of the package, how it answered every question. It was beyond thorough, and it speaks to the background of the people here. The volunteers here and the track record put Prince George over the top. The support is community-wide, Prince George is the hotbed for baseball in this province.”
Laing, who was on the coaching staff of Team Canada for the 2009 World Baseball Challenge, hopes to be in uniform for the 2012 nationals.
“In 2002, we really didn’t realize how good the nationals were, and we now have this as our goal every year -- it’s an honour to play in nationals,” he said.
“That first nationals experience in Prince George really stands out. It took us 10 years to win it, it’s that tough.”
Sprangers, who arranged for Carter and Laing to come to Prince George for meetings, spoke about the help that came from the corporate community, notably Coast Inn, Shooter’s Pub, Northern Spirit Transportation, Papyrus Printing, PGTV, and Up The Creek Garment Company.
“The community backing has been outstanding -- 100 per cent from sponsors who helped us with the merchandise for the presentation, for the bid package design, and for the video,” said Sprangers.
“We are so grateful. We wouldn’t have this tournament coming here if not for that community buy-in.”
CKPG-TV story (May 11-2010)
From the Prince George Citizen, May 11-2010
The World Baseball Challenge got some needed moral support from the City of Prince George, this week. Mayor and council was asked to provide two letters of support for the international baseball event held every two years in Prince George, the first being in 2009 and the next coming up in 2011.
One letter was for a grant application for the Northern Development Initiative Trust, and the other was for general purposes as the event's organizers attempt to build on their 2009 achievements.
"I am very much enamoured with the possibilities of this going ahead again in 2011," said councillor Dave Wilbur, and asked organizers to disclose what the estimated economic spinoff was from the inaugural tournament.
The WBC delegation comprised of Don Gowan, Shawn Rice and Virginia Sprangers told council that 2009 had a fiscal benefit to the community of about $1.8 million.
"Our plan for 2011 is to have a much bigger event," said Rice. "We are looking at generating well more than the $1.8 million we did the first time."
It was also announced that highly prized international teams are inquiring about playing at the tournament. Team Bahamas and Team Germany have expressed an interest in returning, as has headliners Team USA, but this time there are high hopes that global powerhouse teams Team China and Team Cuba will be on the marquis as well.
In order to accommodate the major-league talent that will take the field, some improvements must be made for an ideal WBC 2011 tournament to take place, said Gowan, and chief among those improvements is moving the left field wall back to the distance originally in the plans for Citizen Field.
"It is simply too close for a tournament of this caliber," Gowan said.
The cost of this is being covered by grants and sponsorships the organizers are applying to now, he added, so the letters of support from the city would show the commitment of the municipality to the vision for the event.
Council voted to provide both letters. It was noted that the 2009 tournament attracted 18,000 people to Citizen Field, another 8,700 hours were viewed via live internet broadcast all around the world, and more than 300 volunteers committed to working on the event to make it happen over the 11 days they played ball.
From the Prince George Free Press, Dec. 4/09 -- WBC returns for 2011
Their plan was to turn the World Baseball Challenge into a recurring major sports event for Prince George.
This week, the dedicated team of organizers for the WBC confirmed that the international baseball tournament is living up to its goal, and will return to Citizen Field in 2011.
“We thank the sponsors, we thank the fans, and we thank the international baseball community for all that was done to make the 2009 tournament a success, and we thank all the committed people on the committee for so enthusiastically deciding this is something we want to do again,” 2009 WBC marketing director Shawn Rice stated in a press release. Rice’s title has been elevated to co-chair of the event.
“The committee vote was unanimous. Three things cemented the decision to return – the energy of the committee; the response from national baseball programs, particularly Baseball Canada and USA Baseball; and the cherry on top was having the Toronto Blue Jays come to us so far in advance and confirm they will be back and will in fact increase their level of support for 2011. The Blue Jays were impressed with what was accomplished by a first-time event during a difficult economic time, and they were impressed with our city’s enthusiastic participation in all aspects.
“This event proved what leadership and a spirit of teamwork can accomplish, even in tough times.”
Former Prince George resident Steve Brooks, who played youth baseball in the city, is the vice-president of finance for the Toronto Blue Jays and has become a friend of the tournament in a short time. He and wife Connie were in attendance at July’s tournament.
Blue Jays president and CEO Paul Beeston addressed the WBC committee in a letter dated Nov. 24, correspondence that further energized the committee and set the plans in motion for the announcement.
“The tournament brought together some of the best amateur players in the world and showcased the quality of amateur baseball talent that exists in Canada,” Beeston stated in the letter. “The dedication of volunteers such as your organizers as well as your key sponsors is the key to continued growth of the sport of baseball in Canada. The Blue Jays have long been involved in promoting amateur baseball at all levels across the country. Our support of amateur baseball in Canada will continue to grow in the years ahead.
“In this regard, the Blue Jays are proud to join the growing list of sponsors committed to the 2011 World Baseball Challenge in Prince George.”
The tournament was sanctioned by the International Baseball Federation, Baseball Canada and Baseball B.C. On the busiest day of the tournament, more than 4,700 spectators came through the turnstiles, a record for a baseball event in Prince George.
The 2009 tournament was held from July 16 to 26 at Citizen Field. The USA National Team won the competition with a victory over Germany in the final. Four other teams participated – Team Canada, the Bahamas, the host Prince George Westcana Electric Axemen and Team B.C. The inaugural World Baseball Challenge took place in 2002, with Cuba winning the title.
“USA, Canada and the host Westcana Electric Axemen are confirmed for 2011, and Germany and Bahamas have indicated they want to return,” Rice stated. “Invitations have gone out to many other countries, and we want to put the best possible lineup of teams on the field. Larry Seminoff, the tournament founder, continues to assist the committee through the contacts he’s built up in more than 30 years of involvement in international baseball, and we’re more than confident the tournament will be even better in 2011.”
From the Oct. 26 Prince George Citizen -- WBC wins two major Chamber of Commerce awards
The Prince George Chamber of Commerce handed out the hardware for their annual business excellence awards, Saturday night.
The only double-winner at the event was this summer's sporting extravaganza the 2009 Enbridge Northern Gateway World Baseball Challenge which brought national teams from around the world to Prince George for one of international baseball's premier tournaments. On Saturday it also brought home two awards: Newsmaker of the Year (sponsored by The Prince George Citizen); and Tourism Excellence (sponsored by Initiatives Prince George).
“The Chamber put on a wonderful event, and it was tremendous to be able to see so many of our major sponsors at the banquet and to thank them for their integral role in the tournament,” said Shawn Rice, the WBC marketing director and co-chair.
“It is that kind of support that is encouraging us to look toward bringing the tournament back in 2011. We are discussing potential dates, speaking to major sponsors, and going through a full evaluation of the 2009 tournament to determine the next steps. Many of our committee members are still hard at work tying up loose ends dating back to July. Hopefully we can confirm that soon, and can make an announcement. We have met with our outstanding title sponsor, Enbridge, and are in dialogue with national team programs, with plans developing to send representatives to Lausanne, Switzerland in early December for the International Baseball Federation meetings.”
The coveted Businessperson of the Year Award was won by Sam Kirsch for his work managing the Ramada Hotel and advocating for downtown development. The only other contender in that category was Dan McLaren of Commonwealth Financial. Kirsch and McLaren came forth together, following the award announcement, to celebrate the Prince George Chamber of Commerce and the spirit of this particular trophy.
"It is an honour," said Kirsch. "We are both involved in the community a great deal, and we both know that it is about making a difference in your community. I know I have never lived in a city with as much potential as Prince George. It has the wherewithal to become one of the important cities in Canada for trade, technology, business, culture and the arts."
Kirsch, a Prince George resident for more than two years, praised McLaren who has lived for decades here and, in Kirsch's estimation, serves as an example for other business people for getting involved in the matters of community.
"He is one of the most ethical, knowledgeable and passionate people I know," he said.
"That feeling is double in return," McLaren retorted. "More has been done for downtown Prince George under Sam's leadership. He works on the mayor's task force, the investment the Ramada has made is leading by example, and a lot of the momentum in downtown's favour is as a result of Sam Kirsch."
McLaren has served on the board of directors for both the Prince George and B.C. Chamber of Commerce over the years. He said it was especially gratifying for business peers to choose them as the only finalists for this particular category.
Kirsch said "I am very proud to be associated with the Chamber. I think it is a great organization to identify, define and work towards solutions on issues of local importance, and federal, provincial and civic policy. Its collaborative nature ensures that it is a powerful voice. I think it is a lot of leadership the Chamber takes on behalf of business and the community."
The other winners included...
- Community Booster (Business) Award: Pacific Western Brewery Co.
- Community Booster (Non-Profit Association) Award: Volunteer Prince George.
- Customer Service Award: Intergris Credit Union.
- The Green Award: Habitat for Humanity Re-Store.
- Home Based Business Award: My City Life.
- Manufacturer of the Year Award: Wolftek Industries Inc.
- Retailer of the Year Award: BK Two Way Radio Ltd.
- Technology Innovator Award: CMO Data Systems Corp.
- Employer of the Year: Papyrus Printing Ltd.
- Corporate Citizen (1-49 Employees) Award: Hubbell Designer Goldsmiths.
- Corporate Citizen (50 + Employees) Award: Spee-Dee Your Office Experts.
Germany names 40-player roster
Head Coach Greg Frady visited several German Baseball-Bundesliga games since last Thursday and selected 40 players for a preliminary roster for the 38th Baseball World Cup afterwards. Assistant Coach Jesco Veisz announced the team on Monday afternoon.
Reigning champion BUCHBINDER LEGIONAERE REGENSBURG has ten players on the team, the SOLINGEN ALLIGATORS six and the HEIDENHEIM HEIDEKOEPFE five. Five of the 40 aren’t playing in Germany currently, as Kai Gronauer, Donald Lutz and Jennell Hudson are under contract by Major League organizations, Andre Hughes by the Dutch Hoofdklasse club HCAW MR COCKER and Moritz Sckaer played at a college in the US. Jendrick Speer leads all selected players with 64 appearances.
The coaching staff surprised everyone by adding the Bundesliga veteran infielders Octavio Medina and Edward Martinez to the roster. Both received a German passport recently and are among the hit leaders in Bundesliga history. But obviously they aren’t the youngest players anymore. Medina came from Mexico to Germany and is 37 years old. Martinez is from the Dominican Republic and 35. Also a surprise is the selection of starting pitcher Manuel Moellerof the MAINZ ATHLETICS, who had announced his non-participation in the World Cup during the winter months, as his exams are this fall.
The German national team will kick off preparations for the Baseball World Cup at the World Baseball Challenge in Prince George, British Columbia against seven other teams, including Teams USA, China and Canada from July 16 to 26.
Complete 40-Man Roster:
Kai Gronauer (Savannah Sand Gnats), Donald Lutz (Cincinnati Reds), Jennell Hudson (Boston Red Sox), Martin Almstetter, Benedikt Antwi, Cedric Bassel, Rodney Gessmann, Ludwig Glaser, Philipp Hoffschild, Christopher Howard, Philipp Howard, Klaus Hopfensperger, Alexander Lauterbach (all Buchbinder Legionaere Regensburg), Sebastian Bernards, Jens Cornelsen, Robin Drache, Enorbel Ramirez-Marquez, Julian Steinberg, Dominik Wulf (all Solingen Alligators), Maximilian Boldt, Nils Hartkopf, Manuel Moeller (all Mainz Athletics), Peter Dankerl, Robert Gruber, Simon Gühring, Andreas Janzen, Markus Winkler (all Heidenheim Heidekoepfe), Martin Dewald, Rene Franke, Sascha Lutz (all Mannheim Tornados), Michael Franke, Octavio Medina, Jendrick Speer, Julius Uelschen (all Paderborn Untouchables), Dirk Fries, Michael Stephan (both Haar Disciples), Tim Henkenjohann (Bonn Capitals), Edward Martinez (Saarlouis Hornets), Moritz Sckaer (US College), Andre Hughes (Mr. Cocker Bussum/Netherlands)
BROOKLYN FOSTER DRAFTED
June 11, 2009
The coaching staff and players of the Prince George Westcana Axemen and the organizers of the 2009 Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines World Baseball Challenge would like to congratulate catcher/third baseman Brooklyn Foster, a former Prince George youth baseball player, for being drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2009 Major League Baseball first-year player draft.
On Thursday, Foster, 18, was taken in the 43rd round, 1,296 overall, by the Diamondbacks. Brooklyn now lives in Langley and is a starter for the Langley Blaze of the Premier League. He has signed a letter of intent to attend Iowa Western Community College in the fall. Brooklyn is due to graduate from Walnut Grove secondary in Langley.
The Axemen and WBC committee also want to congratulate Brooklyn’s proud grandparents, Audrey and Wally Foster of Prince George, and Foster’s family in Langley – father Bob, mom Monique, and brother Kadyn. Wally Foster is in charge of the grounds crews at Citizen Field for the WBC, while Audrey is co-chair of the event.
Brooklyn is the first Prince George product selected in the MLB draft since Ryan Lupul (48th round, 2000, by Texas Rangers), and the third local player taken overall (Simon Stoner, 27th round in 1998 by Anaheim Angels, and 36th round in 1997 by Toronto Blue Jays).
SO, YOU THINK YOU’RE A SLUGGER?
FATHER’S DAY SPECIAL EVENT AT CITIZEN FIELD
HOME RUN DERBY – WINNER TO TAKE ON THE BIG BOYS!
JUNE 21, 2009 – 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Brought to you by X CONDITIONING (www.xconditioning.com)
Think you can tame the monster? Think you can clear the power alleys? Here’s your chance.
The Prince George Westcana Electric Axemen baseball team is inviting everyone – dads, sons, and, yes, ladies -- to come to Citizen Field to try their luck in a HOME RUN DERBY.
Between 1 and 4 p.m., show up at Citizen Field, the fabulous baseball park in Carrie Jane Gray Park. We’ll provide the helmets, baseballs and bats (wood or aluminum) – and the prizes!!!
Contestants will swing at batting practice pitches thrown by Axemen players who will be a part of the World Baseball Challenge, set for July 16-26, 2009. For each entry, contestants get 15 ‘outs,’ with an out being any swing that makes contact with the ball but does not clear the home run fence.
The winner will win a place to compete in the REAL WBC HOMER DERBY, JULY 16, 7 p.m., facing sluggers like Darren Doucette and Adam Norn. Grand prize that day is $1,000.
Entry fee is $10 (for 15 outs), or take three turns for $25.
Concession open, a fun day for families at the park.
June 10, from Tampa Bay Online, by Joey Johnston
Axemen pitcher Scott Rhynold, PG product now in Coquitlam, throws no-hitter
B A S E B A L L C L U B
Member of the Pacific Metro Baseball League
Thursday, June 4th: Scott Rhynold throws a no-hitter ! !
New addition, Scott Rhynold, pitched a no-hitter Thursday night and the Angels beat the Fraser Valley Red Sox for the first time in regular season play. Rhynold finished with 6 strike-outs, 3 walks, and only 1 Red Sox base runner made it past 2nd base. Diego Morales flew out to Shaun Schaefer in centerfield to end the 6th inning, stranding Chris Tibbles at 3rd. Tibbles had reached on a walk.
The Angels bats started quickly as they put up 3 runs in the first off Red Sox starting pitcher, and loser, Corey Parsons. They added another run in the second and threatend to score in the 5th, leaving the bases loaded. Jeff Mitchell had 3 hits and 2 RBI's. Other notables were Scott Tulloch (3 hits, 1 RBI), Kevin Powell (2 hits), and Greg Appleton (1 hit, 1 RBI). 3 other Angels had 1 hit each. The Angels finished with 12 hits on the night.
Scott Rhynold (W) - 7 Innings, 0 Runs, 0 Hits, 6 K's, 3 BB
Team USA adds Hawaiian star to tryout camp
Hawaii freshman All-American Kolten Wong has been invited to try out for the U.S. national baseball team.
Wong was notified by Hawaii coach Mike Trapasso yesterday morning about the tryout on June 15 at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, N.C.
"It's pretty cool," said Wong, who was also named to the Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American team yesterday. "I'm definitely looking forward to it."
The final 22-man roster will be announced June 24, according to usabaseball.com.
The U.S. national team will compete in a series of exhibition games before heading to Japan to compete in the Japan vs. USA Collegiate Championships. At the end of July, the team plays in the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline World Baseball Challenge in Prince George, British Columbia.
Neal to call WBC games
PG CITIZEN, May 21
Andy Neal is counting on nothing but sunshine and blue skies in the 11 days in July when the baseball world comes to Prince George Citizen Field for the 2009 Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines World Baseball Challenge.
Failing that, if the action on the field is weather-delayed, Neal's voice will be getting that much more of workout as he scrambles to fill the airtime.
"Hopefully the rain delays won't happen, but that's Mother Nature's call," laughed Neal.
"There's a lot of time between pitches and it is a bit of a slower game, but that also gives you the chance to go away from the baseball game and talk about things that have been going on around the field. The one-on-one matchups between pitcher and batter is what makes it exciting."
Neal is preparing to tackle all 31 games of the WBC, plus the home-run derby, for streaming video Internet broadcasts on http://www.worldbaseball.ca/.
As public relations director and colour commentator for the Prince George Cougars hockey team, Neal is more familiar with puck broadcasts, but he's looking forward to putting his talents calling the pitches and catches of an international baseball tournament.
"This will be different, for sure, and I'm kind of nervous about the first game but it should be fun," said Neal, 29. "The calibre of baseball is what I'm really looking forward to, it's probably the best I'll ever see live, aside from a Major League Baseball game.
"I was on the U.S. team website and I was laughing that Dustin Pedroia, the American League MVP, was the backup at second base (to current Blue Jays starter) Aaron Hill on the 2003 version of the club that's coming here. It's amazing how far some of those players have come, and are going."
Three of the games will be picked up on FM radio receivers throughout the city as 99 3 The Drive has stepped to the plate to provide audio coverage. The opening game of the eight-team tournament on July 17, featuring the Beijing Tigers of China against the host Prince George Westcana Electric Axemen; the U.S.-Canada game on July 18; and the championship final on July 26 will be heard live on The Drive.
The Pattison Group, which owns The Drive and CKPG television, has a history of involvement in live game broadcasts from local diamonds dating back to the late 90's, with Prince George Grays junior baseball, the 2002 Canadian senior baseball nationals, and the 2006 Canadian senior men's fastpitch championship.
Situated high in the stands behind home plate at Citizen Field, Neal will be put to the test the weekend before the tournament when he calls a three-game series at Citizen Field between the Axemen and the St. Albert (Alta.) Tigers.
Supported by technicians from Telus, the live streaming video broadcasts will allow a worldwide audience for the second time in the city's sporting history, following on the heels of the 2007 RBC Royal Bank Cup junior A hockey national championship.
"Taking this tournament to the world is as important as bringing the world to Prince George," said WBC volunteer Walter Beardwood, who is co-ordinating the Internet feeds. "Andy is not only a baseball player himself, he's a pro and he's very excited to call the games and bring the action to computers around the world. For large markets such as China, Germany, the United States and right here in Canada, offering this program will only serve to promote the tournament, the level of play, and indeed everything the city of Prince George has to offer."
BoSox Bay on board with WBC
Baseball superstar Jason Bay has lent his voice to a WBC promotional advertisement, now being played on The Drive, 101.3 FM The River, and CKPG TV. Before he went on to Major League stardom as an outfielder with the San Diego Padres, Pittsburgh Pirates and Boston Red Sox, Bay played college baseball at North Idaho, where he was a teammates of Axemen first baseman Paul Wilson. Bay, a native of Trail, also played youth baseball with Axemen pitcher Chad Craig.
Thanks to Jason for supporting our efforts!
BROADCAST PLANS IN PLACE
May 20, 2009
The organizing committee of the 2009 Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines World Baseball Challenge is pleased today to announce the broadcast details for the upcoming international baseball tournament (set for July 16-26, 2009, at Prince George Citizen Field).
The global presence of the tournament means a world-wide audience will be tuning in at worldbaseball.ca to view LIVE STREAMING VIDEO of all 31 games, plus the home run derby. Thanks to the integral technical support of top-level sponsor TELUS, worldbaseball.ca will be the place to catch all the action with the on-air crew led by experienced broadcaster Andy Neal, an employee of the Prince George Cougars who handles color commentary on WHL radio broadcasts on 99 3 The Drive. Multiple cameras will be used, providing a great vantage point to see some of the best players in the world, without having to be at Citizen Field or in front of a TV.
“Taking this tournament to the world is as important as bringing the world to Prince George,” said WBC volunteer Walter Beardwood, who is directing the internet broadcast program.
“Andy is not only a baseball player himself, he’s a pro and he’s very excited to call the games and bring the action to computers around the world. For large markets such as China, Gemany, the United States and right here in Canada, offering this program will only serve to promote the tournament, the level of play, and indeed everything the City of Prince George has to offer. We can’t think of another situation in which, for example, the people of China or Germany would have had such a great reason to watch something taking place in Prince George.”
The live game feed will be free, with a pay-per-view or DVD purchase option available following the tournament. The program will allow fans of the competing teams, including family and friends, to watch their favorite team/players compete on the world stage even if they can’t make it to Prince George, and to have a video keepsake following the event. Advertising placements are available to sponsors who are interested in getting their message around the globe.
Locally, three key games will be broadcast live on the familiar airwaves of major media sponsor 99 3 The Drive, with Andy Neal providing play-by-play. The radio broadcast and internet feed will be simulcast for the following contests:
July 17, 6 p.m. – Opening night, Beijing Tigers vs. Prince George Westcana Axemen
July 18, 7:30 p.m. – USA National Team vs. Team Canada
July 26, 7 p.m. – Championship final
“This is a great fit for us because of our format – people know that the place to be on the dial for live sporting events is 99 3 The Drive,” said Program Director Ron Polillo.
“We have a history of providing listeners the chance to listen to ball games on the air, dating back to earlier this decade when we aired Grays junior baseball games. In 2002, we carried action during the Baseball Canada Senior Championship, and in 2006 we aired games from the national men’s fastpitch tournament. We’re proud to partner with the World Baseball Challenge, this is a great event for our community and the Jim Pattison Group stations, CKPG-TV and 101.3 The River.”
For more information, contact:
Shawn Rice, Marketing Director, 2009 Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines WBC
Ron Polillo, Program Director, 99.3 The Drive
**JASON BAY TV AD LAUNCHED**
Watch CKPG-TV to see the newly-launched television ad featuring the voice of Boston Red Sox slugger Jason Bay. Two members of the Prince George Westcana Axemen played with Bay in their younger days (Paul Wilson, Chad Craig) and Bay was willing to help promote the event. To see the ad on-line, visit the tournament web-site at http://www.worldbaseball.ca/ and click on VIDEOS.
The tournament committee would like to recognize Mike Clotildes, Rob Mitchell, Mick Harper and Darren Coogan for their work producing the spots. Great job!!!!
Prince George Citizen, May 13/09
Westcana electrifies Axemen; Grand Slam Party announced
The Axemen have been given a much-needed spark.
The host team for the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines World Baseball Challenge will now be known as the Westcana Electric Axemen. The club announced during a Tuesday media conference at CN Centre that Westcana Electric -- a local company owned by the Sherba clan -- has come on board as its sponsor.
"The Sherba family is long-established in Prince George, and Pete Sr., Pete Jr., Scott and the rest of the family and the staff at Westcana truly understand what this city is all about and how important sports is to this community,” said Axemen manager Jim Swanson.
"Westcana Electric has always earned the highest respect in its industry, and the company has an unfailing track record of giving back to the community. As much as the Sherbas and Westcana Electric are helping our baseball team so the Axemen can run things smoothly and professionally, facing the seven fantastic teams coming to Prince George for the WBC, we are equally excited to salute Westcana for their community-first approach."
Westcana Electric will be the name sponsor of the Axemen through the 2011 season.
"This is a perfect way for us to support an event that is great for this city, and for this region,” said Scott Sherba.
"Members of the Axemen have represented Prince George proudly at provincials, at national tournaments in 2001, 2002 and 2007, at the Kamloops International, at the Grand Forks International, and at the inaugural World Baseball Challenge in 2002. We recognize the time, work and effort the players and organizers put into representing Prince George, and what it does to add another positive level in the quality of life in our city."
--- They are dubbed 'Canada's greatest party band,' and they'll set the proper mood for the start of the WBC.
On July 17, the first night of the tournament, Skavenjah will perform at CN Centre during the WBC's Grand Slam Party. The seven-piece band from the Prairies plays a mix of ska, reggae and soul tunes and has been together for 17 years. Skavenjah recently released its sixth full-length album, titled, 'One More Night With You -- Live.'
Tickets are $20 and are available at Ticketmaster. The show is for the 19-and-older crowd.
The band will also perform the national anthem at Prince George Citizen Field earlier that same evening as the Axemen open against the Beijing Tigers.
From Bat Boy to teammate
Former batboy Justin Fillion to line up alongside slugger Darren Doucette
Justin Fillion was a kid. To him, Darren Doucette looked like a mountain in baseball cleats.
Fillion was a batboy for Doucette's Dartmouth Moosehead Dry when the 2002 Baseball Canada Senior Championship was held at Monty Gabriele Park. During the tournament, the six-foot-four and 290-pound Doucette was one intimidating figure, especially in the eyes of opposing pitchers. He ripped four home runs in five games, including two off the host Prince George Axemen.
Jump ahead seven years, and Fillion is all grown up. And, from July 16-26, the 19-year-old infielder/outfielder will be a Doucette teammate. Both will be in the lineup for the Westcana Electric Axemen at the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines World Baseball Challenge.
"Darren Doucette was a man amongst young guys," said Fillion, who was officially added to the Axemen roster on Tuesday. "I remember looking up at him and just seeing, a huge, huge, huge guy. He was a guy who could hit the ball very well. And when he hit it, it went for a good ride -- let's put it that way."
For Fillion, playing alongside the 37-year-old Doucette in the WBC will be a bit of a strange experience.
"It's going to be different but I'm looking forward to just watching him play and watching him hit against professional pitchers," Fillion said. "He's a man who has played very high-calibre ball so I'm sure I can learn a lot from him."
Fillion won't get as much diamond time as Doucette. Instead, he'll see limited duty, and he's just fine with that.
"I'll be placed in spots where we might need a guy," said Fillion, a product of Nechako Little League who played at provincials for the junior-aged BID Construction Grays last season. "It should be a good experience and I'm looking forward to it."
One of the cool things for Fillion will be having Jeremy Kral as a WBC teammate. Fillion and Kral -- a catcher and outfielder -- started playing ball together when they were just seven or eight years old.
"We've had a lot of good stories and hopefully this will be another page to the story," Fillion said.
Fillion is a two-sport star. Last hockey season, he was a defenceman for the Prince George Spruce Kings and won the team's rookie-of-the-year award.
The Axemen also gave details on two other roster moves on Tuesday. They added Scott Tulloch, a catcher from Coquitlam, and announced that Quesnel pitcher Adam Walton will miss the WBC because of injuries and work commitments.
Tulloch is a former NAIA
all-conference catcher who had a distinguished career at Dickinson State in North Dakota. With his potent bat, he has a habit of pounding balls to green spaces in the outfield.
"Tulloch’s addition gives us a right-hand bat to balance Kral and Ryan Nadalin, two left-handed hitting catchers," said Axemen manager Jim Swanson. "Having both Tulloch and Nadalin, who are strictly catchers, allows us the option to use Kral and Kyle Iwata at other positions - they are versatile players, and it’s a must to have those attributes in an international-level tournament with nine-inning games.
"With Walton, injuries are a fact of life and we’ll adjust. We’re sorry he can’t do it. He was slated to play a key role out of the bullpen, late innings, so we are working to evaluate the staff and adjust as needed."
The FreeLance Star, May 13/09
BY STEVE DeSHAZO
The honors keep piling up for Coastal Carolina's Cody Wheeler.
The sophomore left-hander from Spotsylvania High School has been invited to next month's USA Baseball National Team Trials in Cary, N.C. He'll be one of 36 college players vying for 22 roster spots. The team will compete in the 37th annual Japan vs. USA Collegiate Championships and the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline World Baseball Challenge in Prince George, British Columbia.
Yesterday, Wheeler was named Big South Conference pitcher of the week for the third time this year. He allowed one hit in seven shutout innings in an 8-0 victory over VMI Sunday. Wheeler (9-0, 3.04 ERA) outpitched VMI senior Chris Henderson (Colonial Forge) to improve to 15-0 in his college career.
PRINCE GEORGE TO RECEIVE FINANCIAL SUPPORT TO HOST
THE 2009 WORLD BASEBALL CHALLENGE
Vancouver, B.C. (May 11, 2009): Hosting BC(tm) has agreed to support
the World Baseball Challenge Host Society in staging the 2009 Enbridge
Northern Gateway Pipelines World Baseball Challenge. The Society has
been approved for $20,000 from the Hosting BC grant program, which is
funded by the Province of BC and 2010 Legacies Now, with the goal of
promoting the province as a premier sport event destination.
"From July 16-26, Prince George is going to be baseball-crazy, and we
thank Hosting BC for providing funding that will aid us in showing the
world what B.C. and Prince George have to offer," said Jim Swanson,
chairman, 2009 World Baseball Challenge. "Major events like the 2009
World Baseball Challenge provide an economic boost to the province, and
this international-level tournament will be a welcomed shot in the arm
to the Prince George area."
The 2009 World Baseball Challenge is designed for athletes competing on
the international stage of amateur baseball. With support from the
International Baseball Federation, assistance from Baseball Canada and
Baseball BC, Prince George will endeavor to host this event every two
years. It provides athletes, coaches and officials the opportunity for
elite training/scouting and an opportunity for sport development and
awareness on an international level.
Hosting BC community grants are funded through the Province of B.C. and
2010 Legacies Now to support B.C. organizations bidding for or hosting
events at the junior, senior and university levels. This round of grants
will total $94,000 to support the staging of nine national and
international sport events around the province.
Since Hosting BC started in 2004, the province has strengthened its
reputation as a premier sport event hosting destination. "Thirty-four
B.C. communities have received Hosting BC funds, supporting them in
attracting and staging high-performance sport events. The province is
being recognized by event organizers nationally, and around the world,
as offering world-class sport venues, experienced volunteers and the
ability to welcome and host athletes," said Michelle Collens, manager of
sport tourism for 2010 Legacies Now.
Since 2004, Hosting BC has distributed a total of $2.7 million to
support 197 events, including Canadian championships, World Cups and
qualifying tournaments for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. This round
of funding will support sport events in the following communities:
- Prince George
HUNTER SIGNS WITH HALIFAX, TO BATTLE DOUCETTE AND BAILEY THIS SUMMER
The Halifax Pelham Canadians bolstered their lineup for a run at a national championship on the weekend.
The Canadians, still a few weeks away from the start of the Nova Scotia Senior Baseball League season, announced the acquisition of power-hitting outfielder Brandon Hunter, a standout from the Western Major Baseball League.
“We’re real fortunate —his fiancée lives in Halifax and works with a member of our team,” said Canadians coach Cecil Wright. “That’s how we found out about him.”
The Canadians surprised everyone by qualifying last year for nationals, which Dartmouth Moosehead Dry is hosting at Beazley Field and Mainland Common in August. They rebounded from a 3-0 deficit in the semifinals against the Truro Bearcats and then dumped Dartmouth in the provincial final.
Hunter adds a talented right-handed batter to their lineup.
“He’s a tremendous hitter — he’ll probably be one of the best hitters in the league,” said Wright. “He also runs very well and he’s a very good base stealer. He’s going to bring the total package and we’re really excited about him.”
Hunter won back-to-back titles in the WMBL with Alberta’s Okotoks Dawgs and batted .297 with four home runs and 39 RBI in 2008. Hunter, who is from Prince George, B.C., will play for his hometown team at the World Baseball Challenge in July. Moosehead Dry standouts Darren Doucette and Jason Bailey will be members of the same team.
ENBRIDGE NORTHERN GATEWAY PIPELINES
HITS A GRAND SLAM,
SNARES TITLE SPONSORSHIP FOR WBC
April 8, 2009
IT TAKES A VISION… it takes a plan… it takes the right people to see it through.
That goes for operating a major international sporting event – and it also applies to the ENBRIDGE NORTHERN GATEWAY PIPELINES project, a significant new proposed pipeline development for Northern British Columbia and Alberta.
With those two common visions in mind, the organizing committee for the 2009 World Baseball Challenge is excited to announce today a major partnership with Enbridge. From this point forward, the tournament (July 16-26, Citizen Field) will be known as:
2009 Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines World Baseball Challenge
(Northern Gateway WBC)
“The commitment of Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines to this event, and to a project that will better this community and this region, is second to none, and it meshes perfectly with our committee’s commitment to provide a recurring top-level sporting event that will benefit Prince George and area,” said Shawn Rice, the Marketing Director for the Northern Gateway WBC.
“In addition to the name change, we are pleased to unveil a new official tournament logo, designed by Andrea Rosa of Splash Media Group, which reflects the partnership. We look forward to working with Mr. Roger Harris, the Vice-President, Aboriginal and Community Partners, and his staff to produce a tournament that Prince George can be very proud of.”
Roger Harris is a resident of Terrace and a provincial-level baseball coach who knows the value of sport and sport tourism, and who understands that sporting events are part of the unchangeable culture of this region. Mr. Harris recognizes what a great opportunity it is for Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines to partner with Prince George’s first full international sporting event. Our pipeline goals and the objectives of the World Baseball Challenge are a perfect match; a win-win for both sides,” said Mr. Harris.
“This event will have the complete attention of Northern BC this summer, and every second summer from here onward. We believe in thinking big, we believe in being visionary. Enbridge Northern Gateway’s slogan is ‘We’re building more than just pipelines,’ and the WBC committee is building more than just a baseball tournament. This is something that will become a community celebration and we’re glad to play a part in that.”
The Northern Gateway WBC is also excited to announce the addition of China to the official tournament roster. The Chinese team was recommended to the organizing committee by USA Baseball officials, and will be managed by Xu ZhenXiang. Mr. Larry Seminoff, the founder of the tournament (Grand Forks, 2002) was instrumental in putting the final pieces in place for China to play in Prince George.
China, represented by the Beijing Tigers, replaces Croatia, which recently informed the organizing committee that funding issues with their association, tied to the global economic crisis, were creating a difficult barrier in the way of arranging travel and covering other expenses, such as visas. Many of the Beijing Tigers played in the recent World Baseball Classic.
“We are sorry to get the news from Croatia, we have empathy for their situation, but we are ecstatic to add China to a truly global roster that includes teams from North America, Asia, Europe and the Caribbean,” said Seminoff.
“There were countries that wanted to participate but couldn’t because the roster was full, so finding a replacement did not take long. This event is of interest to so many national programs that are part of the International Baseball Federation, and I’m eager to see the show that will be put on. It will be first-class; the people of Prince George always do things at a high level.”
Find out more about the Northern Gateway project at (http://www.northerngateway.ca/)
Find out more about the Northern Gateway WBC at http://www.worldbaseball.ca/
Four locals added to Axemen roster for Challenge
PG Citizen, April 1, 2009
Jason Peters, Citizen staff
He’ll bring some Prince George pop to the batting order.
Local product Adam Norn, one of the most feared home run hitters in the city, will get the chance to showcase his power during the 2009 World Baseball Challenge. He’ll be a member of the host Prince George Axemen for the eight-team international tournament, July 16-26 at Prince George Citizen Field.
Norn was named to the club on Tuesday. So were three other P.G. boys — Jason Docherty, Ryan Nadalin and Perry Scott.
“It’s huge,” the 29-year-old Norn said of playing in the WBC, which will also feature the Canadian and U.S. national teams, the Reno Astros, Chinese Taipei, Germany, the Bahamas and Croatia. “It’s probably the best level of ball I’m ever going to see. I’m getting to the age now where competitive ball won’t be happening much for me anymore and I think this is a great opportunity for me, especially in front of a home crowd.”
In the Prince George Senior Baseball League, Norn has nabbed the MVP award multiple times. He’s the unquestioned leader of the Inland Control Tigers, who have won the playoff championship three consecutive years.
Norn does swing a mean bat, but he’s also hoping to contribute defensively during the WBC. To get playing time in the outfield, he knows he has to be in better physical condition and that’s something he has been working on. Since December, Norn has shed 30 pounds off his six-foot-four frame and now weighs in at 240 pounds. By opening day of the tournament, he wants to be at 225.
“I want to be effective in a position defensively,” he said. “I have the ability to be fast, so I’m just working on getting myself in better shape so I can help out the ball club the best I can.”
In PGSBL play, Docherty is also a member of the Tigers. He’s an all-star third baseman who will give the Axemen extra depth at that spot during the WBC.
“I’ve been trying for this for a while now — I’ve been wanting to play in this tournament,” said the 26-year-old Docherty, a former junior star with the Grays who also played college ball in Lethbridge.
“I think I’m a solid defensive ball player who can also get hits. This is as competitive as it’s going to get around here so I’ll try to show what I can do and compete against the best.”
Nadalin is a catcher who also suited up for the Axemen in the 2002 WBC in Grand Forks. He’s another former Gray and a guy who spent time at the highly-regarded National Baseball Institute when it was in operation.
Scott is a second baseman whose baseball roots are grounded in the Freeman Park Little League program. He went on to play for the Grays and then set numerous records at Clarke College in Iowa, including career batting average (.435). For the past few seasons, Scott has been doing his diamond duty in Ontario.
With Tuesday’s additions, the Axemen now have 18 local players on their 28-man roster. Docherty is glad there’s so much local content on the club. Most of the out-of-town recruits for the WBC are pitchers.
“We’re going to have way more chemistry and heart out there than there would be if it was just a bunch of random guys selected to the team,” Docherty said.
In Docherty’s view, the only potential problem with having so many local faces on the club is that there may be a lack of hitting.
“We don’t face all that great of pitching throughout the year up here,” he said. “But defensively, a lot of the local players that are on the team have played some sort of international or college baseball somewhere along the line and are very good players. I don’t see why we can’t compete defensively. Just keep some runs off the board and you never know, you might be able to pull out a win.”
Tournament passes are available at Ticketmaster.
PRINCE GEORGE CITIZEN -- March 31, 2009
THE WORLD IS TAKING NOTE
Key figure with the International Baseball Federation tours Prince George, wants women’s worlds here in 2010
by Jason Peters, Citizen staff
Prince George may be a few signatures away from hosting the 2010 Women’s World Cup of Baseball.
The city, with the full backing of Baseball Canada, has submitted a bid for the tournament. Recently, Australia’s John Ostermeyer, secretary general for the International Baseball Federation (IBAF), was in town for meetings and a tour and was left with a positive overall impression.
For sports fans, and for the profile of Prince George, that’s good news.
“We have to go through some official protocols, but hopefully we’ll get an announcement in the next couple of weeks,” said Virginia Sprangers, a 2009 World Baseball Challenge committee member who has been working toward bringing the 2010 women’s championship to Prince George.
“There are a couple of things the local hosting committee needs to do. We have to determine the feasibility of hosting this event from a financial perspective, given the economy. But it doesn’t matter where the world event is going to be, there are going to be those struggles and those challenges.”
The idea of hosting the 2010 Women’s World Cup was first raised by Baseball Canada’s Andre Lachance when he was here last June for 2009 World Baseball Challenge meetings. The WBC is July 16-26 and will bring together eight men’s clubs, including the U.S. and Canadian national teams.
Lachance, who lives in Ottawa, was contacted by The Citizen on Monday. He said Baseball Canada will be nudging the IBAF to make its decision as soon as possible.
“We’re going to press them a little bit to make some kind of an announcement as soon as Virginia and her group are ready to go forward,” said Lachance, manager of baseball operations for the national organization and head coach of the Team Canada women. “It’s about 18 months away from that potential event, so the more time we have for (the host committee) to prepare and for us also to prepare, the better. The host country, we’ve got to make sure we’re ready to perform at a high level. We want to do it right.”
Team Canada won a silver medal at the eight-team 2008 World Cup, which was held in Japan. The World Cup was in Chinese Taipei in 2006 and in Edmonton in 2004.
If Prince George is successful in landing the 2010 World Cup, it will be played at Citizen Field.
As an added bonus for local fans, Prince George’s Amanda Asay is one of the stars in the Team Canada lineup. All things considered, Lachance regards P.G. as the perfect fit for the tournament.
“I’ve been telling (Ostermeyer) about what great people you guys are and how great you have been in the past,” Lachance said, referring to the highly-successful Baseball Canada Senior Championship of 2002, which was held in Prince George.
“If the host committee can afford it and get the people together to host that event, that would be great. Women’s baseball is growing a lot in Canada. In some provinces it’s now 12 to 15 per cent of the membership, which is awesome. And we have a Prince George player on the national team so it’s a slam dunk. Everything is there for a great event.”
AXEMEN ADD MORE LOCAL FLAVOR
March 31, 2009
Time is ticking down on preparations for the eight-team 2009 WORLD BASEBALL CHALLENGE (set for July 16-26, 2009, Prince George Citizen Field), and that certainly includes the recruitment and planning for the host Prince George Axemen.
Added today are four more local players, bringing the total roster size to 28. Most teams will bring 30 or more players; the Axemen will carry as many as 40 in order to have the additional pitching and positional depth needed to compete with these powerful national teams. Named today:
n PERRY SCOTT, 2B, Prince George
n ADAM NORN, OF, Prince George
n JASON DOCHERTY, 3B, Prince George
n RYAN NADALIN, C, Prince George
Scott, a former Grays player and a product of the Freeman Park Little League program, set numerous school records while at Clarke College in Iowa (highest career batting average, .435; career on-base percentage, .493; single-season average, .454). He has been starring in the top competitive summer league in Ontario for the last few years, working for a program that assists brain-injured people. He spent the 2007-08 school year as a high school teacher in Mackenzie and has an opportunity to work with Kalen Kirkpatrick as part of a possible platoon at second base.
Norn is a multiple winner of the P.G. Senior Baseball League’s MVP award, the leader of the three-time playoff champion Inland Control Tigers. He works as a technician for Inland Controls, one of the valued tournament sponsors. Year after year, Norn is at or near the top of home run and RBI leaderboards, and at six-foot-five and 245 pounds, is an imposing figure who loves to hit at Citizen Field.
Docherty is a perennial all-star for the Tigers, a right-handed hitter with gap power who handles his position very well and is respected by his teammates and opponents. The former Gray will be a key depth player at the hot corner.
Nadalin, another ex-Gray, is the son of late baseball legend Angelo Nadalin. Ryan Nadalin played at the National Baseball Institute, and saw significant playing time behind the plate for the Axemen in the 2002 World Baseball Challenge in Grand Forks. Nadalin, first baseman Paul Wilson, shortstop Dustin Bissonnette, pitcher/coach Trevor Strandlund and manager Jim Swanson are the Axemen who are in position to take part in their second World Baseball Challenge.
“This is the first step for these players, making the roster,” said Swanson, pointing to the pre-tournament series with the St. Albert Tigers (July 11-12, Citizen Field) as an important weekend for all roster players to make their mark.
“From here, they earn their field time by proving they are the best option, the best player to be on the field or in the batting lineup. Their play this summer will tell that story. There will be many roles to play, starting or being ready to come off the bench, and the games and workouts between now and our first game, against Taiwan on July 17, will determine how they are used. It’s up to them now to be playing the best baseball of their lives, and be in the best shape they can be.”
Of the current roster total of 28 players, 24 have previously played for the Axemen and 18 are local baseball products. Most of the out-of-town recruits are highly-regarded pitchers.
“That was stated from the beginning, use our quality, legitimate local players as much as possible and add impact players where needed and to give depth and options in case someone is struggling. At the same time, we don’t want to put someone in a no-win situation,” said Swanson.
“We won’t need nametags in team meetings, most of these guys have played together before and are comfortable as teammates. What has been truly impressive is the dedication of so many of our local players to the winter workouts. We’ve been training at the Northern Sport Centre with times that are far from perfect or convenient, but the turnouts have been strong. These players can always get better, and they will as the players have it sink in that we are less than four months from the tournament.
“It now looks like we will add maybe two or three more recruits to help this nucleus. Other local players are in competition to round out the pitching staff and important roles off the bench.”
Most of the local players have committed to be in Kamloops, April 25-26, for their first game-action tests of the 2009 baseball season. “It’s an icebreaker, but we don’t want to be satisfied with starting slowly,” said Swanson.
The World Baseball Challenge has set Wed., April 8, for a major announcement regarding the tournament. The press conference will be held at 6 p.m. at the Coast Inn of the North.
Roster to-date for the Prince George Axemen (28 players):
Manager – Jim Swanson
Position Players (15) – Paul Wilson, 1B; Jeremy Kral, C/IF; Cory Therrien, OF; Darren Doucette, 1B/DH; Dustin Bissonnette, SS/2B; Kalen Kirkpatrick, 2B; Kyle Iwata, C/3B; Bryce Asham, 3B; Charlie Strandlund, IF; Angelo Desantis, OF; Brandon Hunter, OF; Adam Norn, OF; Perry Scott, 2B; Jason Docherty 3B; Ryan Nadalin C.
Pitchers (13) – Jason Cage, RHP; Graham Allard, RHP; Andrew Brock, RHP; Jason Bailey, LHP; Tom Nielsen, LHP; Steve McCrea, RHP; David Ross, LHP; Chad Craig, RHP; Scott Rhynold, LHP; Adam Walton, RHP; Jon Bourassa, RHP; Shawn Schaefer, LHP; Trevor Strandlund, LHP/pitching coach.
Feb. 25, 2009 -- PRINCE GEORGE CITIZEN
St. Albert Tigers to play Axemen in pre-WBC exhibition
By Jason Peters, Citizen staff
Tiger tune-up, then Chinese Taipei.
The Prince George Axemen, the host club for the 2009 World Baseball Challenge, will play three exhibition games against the St. Albert Tigers to help get themselves prepared for the WBC. The Axemen and Tigers will face each other July 11 and 12 at Prince George Citizen Field.
Five days later, on the same diamond, the Axemen will open the eight-team WBC against Chinese Taipei.
St. Albert has one of the elite programs in Canadian senior men’s baseball. The Tigers won the Baseball Canada Senior Championship in 2002, when the tournament was held in Prince George.
“It’s going to be good,” Axemen captain Paul Wilson said of taking on the Tigers. “Every tournament I’ve been in, and everything you hear about them, they put together a good club every year. I think it will be perfect the week before, for the guys to see some high-calibre play and get tuned up.”
The Axemen and Tigers will play a doubleheader on July 11. The first of the two seven-inning games will tentatively start at 5 p.m. On Sunday, the teams will be back on the field at 11 a.m. for a nine-inning contest.
Currently, the Axemen roster has 24 players. The most recent additions, announced Tuesday, are pitchers Jon Bourassa and Adam Walton, who both spent time with the junior Prince George Grays. Both guys are right-handers and will see action coming out of the bullpen.
Bourassa, from Prince George, is currently a closer at Kentucky’s Cambellsville University.
“He’s got a real live arm,” Wilson said. “Having him at university right now, he’s going to be in tip-top shape when he gets here for the WBC.”
Walton, a Quesnel product, was a record-setting reliever at Jamestown College in North Dakota. He has thrown in Canadian junior and senior championships.
“Walton’s college career kind of speaks for itself,” Wilson said. “When he pitched for the Grays, he just got people out all the time. He was kind of the fourth guy behind (Simon) Stoner, (Terry) Bonnar and (Ryan) Lupul and he might have turned out to be one of the best of all them.”
The Axemen, managed by Jim Swanson, may carry as many as 40 players for the WBC. Of the 24 currently in the mix, 15 are locals and 20 have played for the team previously.
The other clubs in the WBC are the U.S. and Canadian national teams, the Reno Astros, Germany, the Bahamas and Croatia, and most of those teams will carry more than 25 players on their active rosters.
The tournament starts with a home run derby on July 16. The WBC champion will be decided the evening of July 26. Tournament passes are available at Ticketmaster.
--- The Axemen, who have been holding training sessions at the Northern Sport Centre, will begin their season April 25 in Kamloops. They will run the bases in the third annual Kamloops Black Sox Icebreaker, an event that will feature the Tacoma Cascades, Surrey Red Sox and the host Black Sox.
--- Volunteers, in various capacities, are needed to help the World Baseball Challenge run smoothly. Anyone interested in helping out is asked to visit the tournament’s website (http://www.worldbaseball.ca/) or send an e-mail to:
Jan. 29, 2009 -- PRINCE GEORGE CITIZEN
HUNTER IN, CANSECO OUT FOR WBCby TED CLARKE
He doesn’t miss -31 C.
And plowing through knee-high snowdrifts to get to work isn’t Brandon Hunter’s idea of a good time. Not when he can avoid it.
He’s doing exactly that right now, sweating it out as a semi-pro baseball player in Australia.
But give him a high-profile summertime baseball tournament in his hometown and a chance to swing a bat with his old buddies and Hunter is in like a dirty shirt.
He’s been given that opportunity to utilize his talents as a centrefielder with long-ball power for the host Prince George Axemen in the 2009 World Baseball Challenge.
In the same week it was learned Jose Canseco won’t be coming to Prince George to play for the host team, the Axemen announced Hunter and pitcher Shawn Schaefer will be joining the Axemen for the tournament, July 16-26.
Hunter, 25, is thrilled about his 10-day homecoming on the diamond at Prince George Citizen Field to play the national teams of Canada, the United States, Bahamas, Chinese-Taipei, Germany, Croatia and the Reno (Nev.) Astros.
“It’s going to be amazing playing against top players like that,” said Hunter.
“All my family’s back home in Prince George and I’ve been playing out of town for three years now and they haven’t seen me play very often. My mom and dad (Cheryl and Phil) are really excited and they’ve been checking out ticket prices for the tournament.”
The WBC will reunite the hard-hitting Hunter with shortstop Dustin Bissonnette, and outfielder Angelo Desantis, his baseball buddies dating back to the start of their Babe Ruth days. Desantis and Bissonnette were named to the team last fall.
“We’ve been playing ball together since we were 13 years old and we travelled together with the Knights and the Grays — it’ll be good to play with those guys again,” said Hunter.
Hunter is now hitting around the .335 mark at the tail end of his first season with the Redcliffe Padres, a team in the Greater Brisbane League, which provides him a part-time salary and a vehicle. Redcliffe is on central eastern coast, just north of Brisbane, where Hunter describes the climate as “hot and humid always, 24/7 you’re sweating.” Hunter latched onto the idea of playing in Australia when he heard of Bissonnette’s experience playing there last season.
“I just thought, ‘I wouldn’t mind doing that, I get to see Australia and I get to play ball,’ so my intentions were to come here and train and hopefully I’ll go to a major league tryout.
“The baseball here is not bad — there are a lot of pitchers signed or have just been released (by pro teams), but the league isn’t as good as I thought it would be. I thought there would be more (college) scouts.”
Wikipedia estimates there are 57,000 baseball players in 5,000 leagues in Australia. The sport grew in prominence earlier this decade when the Australian national team grabbed the silver medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
“Baseball’s not big here, people don’t really come and watch,” said Hunter. “They’re more into cricket or footy (Australian Rules Rugby).”
Hunter spent four years at Thompson Rivers University, where he won Canadian college championships in 2005 and 2006 and played against Schaefer, a lefthander who pitched for Kwantlen College. Hunter finished off his college career in Kentucky, at Campbellsville University, and spent the past two summers with the Okotoks Dawgs of the Western Major Baseball League.
Hunter will return to Canada with fiancee Kristen McCulloch on April 1. He’s had an offer from the Callaghan Canadians senior team in Nova Scotia league where Axemen pitcher Jason Bailey and designated hitter Darren Doucette will play this year. Hunter will also considering his options on a tryout with the Calgary Vipers of the independent Golden Baseball League.
Now working part-time as a bartender at a sports club in Redcliffe, Hunter hasn’t given up on his dream of a pro baseball career.
“I’m 25 years old, I train hard, but I’m living with no money in my pocket again,” said Hunter. “I’m running lots and really putting in an extra effort to get ready for the tournament and the upcoming season, wherever that may be.
“If I can compete there at the WBC, there has to be a chance I could play (pro) somewhere else, maybe Europe. It’ll be a big test for me.”
The Axemen ended negotiations with Canseco this week when it became apparent the tournament committee could not afford the former major league MVP’s asking price.
“We thought we had an agreement, his agent indicated as much in an email, and we were willing to go the distance on it,” said Axemen manager Jim Swanson. “But when we sent the contract with the terms we’d already agreed to, the financial side apparently took the juice and beefed up a lot higher than it was supposed to be.”
Swanson said the Axemen will still consider going after a “name player” to sign for the tournament provided that player fits the team makeup and won’t break the bank.
WBC tournament passes are available through Ticketmaster.
Jan. 13, 2009 -- The Pendulum, Elon University newspaper
Long-time Elon coach appointed to USA Baseball staff
Mike Kennedy, the head coach of Elon University’s baseball team, was named as a member of Team USA’s collegiate coaching staff. Kennedy will assume the role as the team’s pitching coach.
His new position with USA Baseball is a familiar one— he spent four years as Elon’s pitching coach before his promotion to head coach in 1997.
Kennedy is the most successful baseball coach in Elon’s history, racking up more wins than any other coach during his 13-year tenure. He credits Elon’s program for his success and the present and future players who made it so strong. He said that this opportunity with USA Baseball was a reflection of the program’s strength.
“I am very excited about this opportunity with USA Baseball,” Kennedy said in an E-net article.
Last season, Kennedy coached Elon to the Southern Conference regular season and tournament titles. The team finished third at the Baseball Championships Cary, N.C. Regional.
“It’s an awesome feeling to be a part of an organization that represents your nation. It’s an honor,” he said.
Team USA’s head coach Rick Jones from Tulane University appointed Kennedy to his staff position. The two have a long history together.
Jones was Elon’s head coach from 1985 to 1989, and during that time Kennedy was the team’s catcher.
Kennedy identified Jones as one of the most influential instructors he’s ever had.
“He was a great mentor,“ Kennedy said. “What I learned about college baseball I learned from him.”
During his time as Elon’s skipper, Jones achieved a winning percentage of .743, accrued four NAIA District 26 titles and earned three trips to the NAIA World Series. Now the two join forces again in an effort to bring the United States an international title.
“I am grateful to the staff at USA Baseball and especially to Coach Rick Jones for entrusting me with this position,” Kennedy said. “I have always wanted to work alongside of Coach Jones, and to do so on this stage is a dream come true.”
Team USA will compete in the USA vs. Japan Collegiate Championship Series in Japan. Then the team will head to Prince George, British Columbia to compete in the World Baseball Challenge in July.
Many consider Team USA to be the favorite in this competition. The team went undefeated this past summer and took the gold at the FISU World University Baseball Championships in July.
“We are certainly shooting for the same goal [in the World Baseball Challenge],” Kennedy said. “It’s phenomenal what they accomplished. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Kennedy and Jones are joined by assistant coaches Rob Cooper from Wright State and Dan McDonnell from Louisville.
International events highlight 2009 for Canadian baseball
(Dec. 23/08 PG Citizen)
The Canadian Press
To varying degrees, there was disappointment in the performances of the Olympic team, the national junior squad and the Toronto Blue Jays for Canadian baseball fans in 2008.
Five one-run losses at the Summer Games left a Canadian team built around offence a stunning 2-5 and nowhere near the podium in Beijing; a 2-1 upset quarterfinal loss to Australia forced the juniors to settle for sixth at a world championship played in Edmonton; arguably the best pitching staff in the majors was wasted by an inept lineup as the Blue Jays’ lengthy post-season drought continued.
Really, it was only the fantastic individual seasons put up by players like Justin Morneau and Ryan Dempster that really stood out last year, and that offers some hope for better things in 2009.
A big highlight of the coming year for baseball fans should come in March with the start of the second World Baseball Classic and Toronto set to host one of the four opening-round groups. The inaugural edition in 2006 was a great success with fans and players alike, as both were taken by the passion and zeal the tournament’s games were played with.
“In international baseball, you’ve got to play like it’s the seventh game of the World Series,” said Greg Hamilton, Baseball Canada’s director of national teams.
Prince George will be the site of the 2009 World Baseball Challenge, an event won by Cuba in 2002 when it was played in Grand Forks. The eight-team, round-robin tournament will be at Citizen Field and headlined by the U.S. national team, Chinese Taipei, Team Canada, Germany, Bahamas, Croatia, and both the Reno Astros and host Axemen. Passes for the tournament, slated for July 16-26, are available through Ticketmaster.
The major-league calibre Classic featured many of baseball’s top stars representing their countries in the sport’s first best-on-best style event, and Canada left its mark by upsetting the United States 8-6. Canada, the U.S., and Mexico each finished the first round at 2-1 but a tiebreaker left the frustrated and bewildered Canadians on the outside looking in. The format has been changed to a double-elimination for the ’09 tournament, something the Canadians appreciate.
“Now it doesn’t matter if you win by one run or 10 runs, where before it did,” said manager Ernie Whitt.
Morneau is the first player officially named to the team, but several others have already been granted approvals: catcher Russell Martin; first baseman Joey Votto; infielders Stubby Clapp, Peter Orr and Chris Barnwell; third baseman/outfielder Mark Teahen; and outfielders Jason Bay, Matt Stairs, Adam Stern and Mike Saunders (pending health clearance).
On the mound, Jeff Francis, Scott Richmond and Jesse Crain are on board while Ryan Dempster, Rich Harden and Eric Gagne are all very interested.
The 28-man roster must be finalized by Feb. 22, with Canada opening training camp at the Blue Jays’ minor-league facility March 1 in Dunedin, Fla.
The team will work out March 2 and then play exhibition games versus the Blue Jays (March 3), at Clearwater against the Philadelphia Phillies (March 4) and at Tampa with the New York Yankees (March 5).
Canada, the U.S., Venezuela and Italy, the other teams in the group, will work out at Toronto’s Rogers Centre on March 6 before play begins March 7 with a Canada-U.S. rematch.Morneau can’t even imagine what beating the U.S. at home would have been like.
“That might have been a little out of control there,” he said. “I know Steve Nash was at that game and they showed him up on the big screen, all the boys were happy to see him out supporting us. ... To see guys that support us and everyday baseball fans and Canadians coming out, I’m sure it would have been unbelievable.
“Hopefully we can do that again, I know we’ve got them first game off the bat and it should be a lot of fun.”
As excitement builds for the Classic, concern over the fate of the Blue Jays in 2009 continues to grow.
Coming off a disappointing 86-76 season that was only good enough for fourth in the AL East, the Blue Jays appear to have fallen even further behind their divisional rivals so far this winter.
Company-wide belt-tightening around owner Rogers Communications Inc., trickled down to the club, leading to a reduction in payroll spending.
That kept the team from making an all-out effort to re-sign starter A.J. Burnett - who opted out after an 18-10 season and received US$82.5 million for five years from the Yankees - and from pursuing a comparable replacement.
Combined with injuries that will sideline Shaun Marcum all season and Dustin McGowan until May at the earliest, a starting rotation that was once the team’s strength is now very thin.
Louisville (KY) Courier-Journal
University of Louisville head coach Dan McDonnell has been selected by USA Baseball as an assistant for the 2009 national team.
McDonnell joins USA Baseball head coach Rick Jones (Tulane head coach) and assistants Rob Cooper (Wright State head coach) and Mike Kennedy (Elon head coach).
McDonnell is entering his third season in Louisville after leading the Cards to the 2008 Big East Tournament title, which resulted in the program's second straight NCAA Tournament appearance.
In his first season in Louisville in 2007, McDonnell took the Cards to the College World Series for the first time in school history.
The national team will participate in the annual USA vs. Japan Collegiate Championship Series in Japan and then compete in the World Baseball Challenge in Prince George, British Columbia.
Elon baseball coach to join USA Baseball staff in summer
December 16, 2008 - 2:18 PM
Bob Sutton / Times-News
Elon University coach Mike Kennedy has a summer baseball job.
Kennedy will be an assistant coach with USA Baseball's national collegiate team.
Former Elon coach Rick Jones, who's the coach at Tulane, is the head coach for the U.S. team. Wright State coach Rob Cooper and Louisville coach Dan McConnell also will be on the U.S. staff.
Kennedy will serve as pitching coach. He handles that role with Elon as well.
Kennedy said working alongside Jones, who has maintained ties to the Elon program, will be a treat. Kennedy's selection also offers a statement about the status of what's happening with Elon baseball.
"I believe this honor is a reflection of where our program at Elon is and I hope that my coaching staff, as well as our current and former players, take pride in this honor," he said.
Kennedy, who's entering his 13th season as head coach at his alma mater, is a former minor league catcher. He has directed Elon to the NCAA Tournament three times at the Division I level.
"He has continued to take the Elon program to new levels, and his experience as a college and professional player will help our players prepare for their future transitions," Eric Campbell, general manager of the USA Baseball national team, said in a release from the organization.
USA Baseball is based in Durham with training facilities in Cary. The U.S. national team, which posted a 24-0 record last summer, will participate in a series in Japan and compete in the World Baseball Challenge in Canada at Prince George, British Columbia.
AXEMEN BEEF UP BULLPEN,
ADD DEPTH FOR 2009 WBC
Dec. 10, 2008
The Prince George Axemen baseball program is pleased to add a quality pitcher with extensive international experience, and a versatile, top-end hitter, and two local pitchers and an outfielder to the roster for the eight-team 2009 WORLD BASEBALL CHALLENGE (set for July 16-26, 2009, Prince George Citizen Field).
n David Ross, LHP, Edmonton
n Charlie Strandlund, IF/RHP, Victoria
n Chad Craig, RHP, Prince George
n Scott Rhynold, LHP, Prince George
n Angelo Desantis, OF, Prince George
Named today is LHP David Ross, a native of Edmonton who has served as the closer for Canadian national teams in many major tournaments. Ross is a hard-throwing lefty with intimidating mound presence. The 40-year-old, six-foot-two and 260 pounds, was drafted in the 22nd round (558th overall) in the 1989 Major League Baseball draft by the Philadelphia Phillies, and was 4-1 with two saves in his final year of pro baseball, for the Chicago Cubs organization, throwing for Peoria in the Midwest League in 1991 and striking out 65 batters in 60 innings. Ross pitched for Martinsville in 1989 and Batavia in 1990.
Ross, a paramedic, is a former Prince George resident who now pitches for the St. Albert Tigers, the amateur program that captured the 2002 Baseball Canada Senior Championship at Monty Gabriele Park in Prince George. Ross has pitched in eight national championships, won three Canadian titles, spent a year as a player/coach in Austria, and has been a key pick-up by the Seattle Studs for both the Grand Forks International and National Baseball Congress (Wichita, Kansas) tournaments. His top international accomplishment was closing out a Team Canada win over Cuba at the 1999 Pan-Am Games in Winnipeg with a perfect ninth inning. He also registered a save against the United States as Canada went 4-0 in pool play. Ross is married with two young daughters.
“Building a bullpen is very important for a tournament like this, and Dave gives us the best foundation we could have at this level,” said Axemen manager Jim Swanson. ‘There isn’t a situation that he hasn’t been in before, and hasn’t succeeded in. Having Dave here will give the rest of our pitching staff so much confidence, and is a perfect starting point. Situations will dictate with how we use Graham Allard, Jason Cage, Tom Nielsen and Steve McCrea, who we’ve already named to the team, plus others, but we are well on the way to having the kind of diversity you need in a pitching staff.”
A player familiar to people in Prince George is Charlie Strandlund of Victoria. Strandlund, 27, who is literally able to play all nine positions, was named top hitter of the 2008 Baseball Canada Senior Championship in Brandon as the Victoria Mavericks won the national title. Strandlund played outfield and took the mound and threw a complete game, but he’s very capable of catching or playing any infield position. For the Axemen at the 2002 Baseball Canada Senior Championship at Monty Gabriele Park, Strandlund both pitched and caught – he’s been a member of the Axemen at four previous tournaments, and is well-known to local players. He is the nephew of Trevor Strandlund, the former pro pitcher who will be pitching coach and active on the roster for the Axemen at the WBC.
“Charlie is a quality player and one of those guys who a manager can put anywhere and know he’ll do the job,” said Swanson, adding that Strandlund, 6-0/190, was the NAIA Region 1 player of the year and an NAIA All-American in 2005 while at Daytona Beach Community College. He also played at College of Southern Idaho and has represented Canada at the World University Championship.
“His best position is probably third base, but he’s among the best catchers in the province and is quick enough to play centre field, and has the arm to play in right field. If local player Brandon Hunter isn’t available for that spot, Charlie is an option to play centre field. Charlie also can get hitters out, and I wouldn’t hesitate to use him on the mound, and that includes starting or closing a game.”
Others added to the roster are LHP Scott Rhynold and RHP Chad Craig, and OF Angelo Desantis, three local players who have proven their commitment to the program and their ability to contribute to the team at a high level. Craig, who will be 31 when the tournament arrives, is player/coach for the local Panago Predators and grew up playing minor baseball with Jason Bay of the Boston Red Sox – they played together on the host team for the 1995 Babe Ruth World Series in Trail, and Craig, 6-3/225, went on to play college baseball in North Dakota. Craig, who will be used out of the bullpen, had a strong start for the Axemen at the 2008 Grand Forks International, getting the ball in the opening game.
Rhynold, who will turn 23 in March, ranks right up there with Ryan Lupul among the best left-handers this region has produced. Rhynold, 6-3/185, played all his minor and junior baseball in Prince George, and has experience at nationals. He threw two years of college ball at Douglas College, and was on provincial all-star teams in his teens.
Desantis is a former college player and a key member of the Inland Controls Tigers team that has won the league title three years in a row. Desantis, a right-hand hitter, had one of the more promising arms in youth baseball, but a shoulder injury forced him to concentrate on hitting, using his speed, and tracking down fly balls. Desantis will be in the mix in the outfield and his skills used strategically to add needed depth.
“You need players like Angelo, and pitchers like Scott and Chad, to be successful at this level – guys who are ready, aware of situations, and able to raise the tempo of the game,” said Swanson.
“Scott is a candidate to start a game for us on the mound, let’s see how his season goes. Chad’s instruction is to be ready to come in and pound the zone with strikes, ready for tough situations, and Angelo’s bat and smart baserunning can be an invaluable asset. With the pitching we’ll see at WBC, flexibility is an absolute must for us to manufacture runs when the opportunity presents.
“The teams coming in will have 30 players, complete pitching staffs and deep benches. We have to be able to match that depth – with as many as nine games in 10 days, playing nine-inning games at that level, we have to have fresh people ready at all times.”
Roster to-date for the Prince George Axemen (20 players):
Manager – Jim Swanson
Position Players (10) – Paul Wilson, 1B; Jeremy Kral, C/IF; Cory Therrien, OF; Darren Doucette, 1B/DH; Dustin Bissonnette, SS/2B; Kalen Kirkpatrick, 2B; Kyle Iwata, C/3B; Bryce Asham, 3B; Charlie Strandlund, IF; Angelo Desantis, OF.
Pitchers (10) – Jason Cage, RHP; Graham Allard, RHP; Andrew Brock, RHP; Jason Bailey, LHP; Tom Nielsen, LHP; Steve McCrea, RHP; David Ross, LHP; Chad Craig, RHP; Scott Rhynold, LHP; Trevor Strandlund, LHP/pitching coach.
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Tournament passes – Ticketmaster, http://www.ticketmaster.ca/
Dec. 9, 2008
PRINCE GEORGE CITIZEN
by JASON PETERS, Citizen staff
Croatia is famous for soccer.
But, the collection of Croatian athletes who arrive in Prince George next summer won't be kicking a ball around. At least, they hope not.
The Croatian national baseball team was confirmed on Monday as the eighth and final entry in the 2009 World Baseball Challenge, scheduled for July 16-26 at Prince George Citizen Field. While the sport of baseball doesn't have the same prestige in Croatia as soccer, it was born in 1984 and has experienced steady growth since the early 1990s. Currently, the Croatian Baseball Federation has a nationwide professional league. The top four clubs in that loop also compete internationally.
The seven other teams in the WBC are the Canadian and U.S. national teams, Chinese Taipei, Germany, the Bahamas, the Reno Astros and the Prince George Axemen.
Jeff Calderone, head coach of the Croatian national team, isn't about to predict tournament gold for his club. But, at the same time, he expects the team to challenge for victories.
"The national team right now, from here going forward, will actually be working to play well in this tournament," said Calderone, an American with a long pitching career in Europe and a guy who became the Croatian coach last year. "Do I think (Croatia) can go up there and win a seven-game series against Chinese Taipei? No. But can we beat Chinese Taipei? Yes.
"I don't know anything about the Axemen," Calderone added. "I've played against Team Canada several times in the past. And I played with several guys from the Canadian national team as well. And I would say that, talent-wise, the Croatians are as good as anybody. They run well, they've got good arms, they've got a good idea about hitting. It's just the baseball instinct things they're gathering."
Calderone, who grew up in Houston, Tex., and currently resides in Dallas, will likely even pitch for Croatia during the WBC. That in itself should bring some extra colour to the tournament.
Calderone began throwing in Europe in 1992 and, over the years, picked up the nickname 'Psycho.'
"I was a closer and very intimidating -- a very mean sort of guy," the 42-year-old Calderone said with a chuckle. "I'm nice now.
"It would not shock me a bit if I pitch some in this tournament. I'm mid-80s (for speed), a slider guy, changeup. I fill the plate up with strikes, and I pitch inside."
The WBC committee is happy to have Croatia in its tournament lineup.
"We are excited to welcome Croatia to Prince George," said WBC marketing director Shawn Rice. "More and more players are making their way to pro baseball there from North America, including right-handed pitcher Gary Tongue, who pitched for the Axemen at the nationals in Prince George in 2002.
"We expect Croatia to surprise teams at Citizen Field."
The WBC will begin with a bash -- a home run derby -- on July 16. Round-robin play will start the next day, with the host Axemen stepping to the plate against Chinese Taipei. In total, fans will be treated to 31 games, including playoffs.
Tournament passes are currently on sale through Ticketmaster. Main grandstand packages are $149. More than half of those seats have already been claimed.
AXEMEN SIGN PLAYERS FOR 2009 WBC
Sept. 9, 2008
The Prince George Axemen amateur baseball program is pleased to be able to confirm the commitment of more quality players for the 2009 WORLD BASEBALL CHALLENGE (July 17-25, 2009, Prince George Citizen Field).
Included in those named today are three local products, and all are players who have worn the Axemen jersey in past tournaments. A total of 15 players are now on the roster, and further Axemen signings will be released leading up to the tournament. Named today:
n Dustin Bissonnette, 2B/SS, Prince George
n Kyle Iwata, C/IF, Langley
n Kalen Kirkpatrick, 2B, Prince George
n Bryce Asham, 3B, Prince George
n Tom Nielsen, LHP, Sutherlin, Oregon
n Steve McCrea, RHP, Burnaby
Dustin Bissonnette, who grew up in Prince George, ranks as one of the best players in the history of the college baseball program at Louisiana State University-Shreveport, where he set the school records for hits and stolen bases. Bissonnette has starred in the Western Major Baseball League the last few seasons, and is excited to return to the city where he played Little League, Babe Ruth and junior baseball.
“Dustin fits this roster perfectly – local player, high-end skill, and a baseball-first attitude,” said manager Jim Swanson. “He was very good for us at the Grand Forks International. We can use him at either middle infield spot, and he can hit in one of the top spots in the lineup.”
Kyle Iwata, 23, has played for the Axemen in three tournaments. The right-hand hitting catcher/third baseman is quick on the basepaths and is one of the best defensive catchers in the land. Iwata was recently named top catcher at the national championship in Brandon, helping B.C. capture its first gold medal in more than 20 years. Iwata, who was on the 2007 Team B.C. Selects squad that finished third at nationals, plays for the Coquitlam Angels after college time at Kwantlen and two years in the Western Major Baseball League with Melville.
“He plays hard, and pitchers love throwing to him,” said Swanson. “We have many other options potentially at catcher but most seem to be left-hand hitters, so he gives us that choice for the order. He’s a scrappy player with a high on-base percentage, and he can shut down a running game with his arm. Kyle is very strong at third and second, which gives us depth and options as the tournament dictates.”
Left-hand pitcher Tom Nielsen is a former farmhand in the San Francisco Giants organization who pitched in the 2002 WBC in Grand Forks. The 32-year-old can start or get valuable outs late in games, and had a strong outing for the Axemen at the Grand Forks International, facing the Seattle Studs.
“Quality pitcher, quality person, and a player our younger guys can model themselves after,” said Swanson. “Tom takes a professional approach to getting hitters out, and he can be trusted to take the ball and make tough pitches when the game is on the line.”
Kalen Kirkpatrick and Bryce Asham are infielders who played for the BID Construction Grays program this past season, also joining the Axemen in tournament play. Both add quality depth to the team both in the field and at the plate. Kirkpatrick, the all-star second-baseman in the P.G. Senior Baseball League last season, is playing college baseball this winter at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, while Asham is a former college volleyball player who was named top hitter in the P.G. Senior Baseball League this past season.
“They have shown a commitment to the program, and both had good showings at the Grand Forks International, and important test for both young players,” said Swanson. “They are eager to play in the tournament, for good reason. This event will only do good things for them, giving them experience to be leaders of the future.”
Steve McCrea is a right-handed pitcher from the Burnaby Bulldogs senior baseball program. The six-foot-three, 230-pounder started the bronze-medal game for the B.C. Selects at nationals in Quebec City in 2007, and held Lewis and Clark State College to one run over eight innings in Grand Forks two weeks ago.
“Steve gives us needed depth either as a starter or working out of the bullpen for WBC, a valuable right-hander,” said Swanson. “Batters rarely seem to get their timing down with his mix of pitches. He fits in well with our group, and he’s excited about being in the WBC.”
Roster to-date for the Axemen (15 players):
Manager – Jim Swanson
Position Players (8) – Paul Wilson, 1B; Jeremy Kral, C/IF; Cory Therrien, OF; Darren Doucette, 1B/DH; Dustin Bissonnette, SS/2B; Kalen Kirkpatrick, 2B; Kyle Iwata, C/3B; Bryce Asham, 3B.
Pitchers (7) – Jason Cage, RHP; Graham Allard, RHP; Andrew Brock, RHP; Jason Bailey, LHP; Tom Nielsen, LHP; Steve McCrea, RHP; Mike Parkin, RHP.
For more information, contact Jim Swanson, Axemen manager, at 250-613-7492.
AXEMEN ADD FOUR MORE ROSTER PLAYERS FOR 2009 WBC
Two local players join two Eastern recruits on international tourney lineup
Aug. 6, 2008
The Prince George Axemen baseball program is pleased to be able to confirm the commitment of four more top-end players for the 2009 WORLD BASEBALL CHALLENGE (July 18-25, 2009, Prince George Citizen Field).
Named today are two local products, and two players who are excited to get another chance to play on Prince George soil. Two are pitchers, one is a bonafide longball threat every time at the plate, and the other is a versatile prospect who is among the best young players this city has produced.
Further Axemen signings will be released leading up to the tournament. Named today:
n Jason Cage, RHP, Prince George
n Jeremy Kral, C/IF, Prince George
n Darren Doucette, 1B, Dartmouth, NS
n Jason Bailey, LHP, Dartmouth, NS
Jason Cage, 35, was named top pitcher in the Prince George Senior Baseball League two years in a row (2006-2007), and continues to prove he can get batters out at high-level tournaments. Cage, who also brings the versatility of being able to pinch-run, handle a defensive spot in the outfield and work his way on base if sent up to hit, has shown he is committed to the program. Normally a starter, the member of the Westwood Pub Royals has been tested in relief roles, and has done the job when called upon.
“Jason battles every pitch, and finds ways to win by making batters have to hit his best pitch,” said Axemen manager Jim Swanson. “He is one of the hardest-workers in our league when it comes to being in top-level condition, and his success reflects that. Jason has shown a real mature side to his pitching and has earned a spot on this pitching staff.”
Jeremy Kral, 18, is a recent graduate of Duchess Park secondary and is in the process of finding a college baseball home for the fall. Kral, a standout with the Knights in the Babe Ruth program, is now one of the lethal bats in the lineup for the junior Grays.
“Jeremy is all-ball and can do many things for us in the WBC,” said Swanson.
“He can catch, he can play almost anywhere in the infield, and he has played in the outfield. He has one of the best arms in town and could even take on a relief appearance if needed. His best asset is his work ethic, and it’s impressive to see a player so young take such a professional approach to his plate appearances. Jeremy will only get better by facing the kind of competition we’ll see at WBC.”
Anyone who was at Monty Gabriele Park for the 2002 Baseball Canada Senior Championship will remember Darren Doucette, who won the tournament home run derby and smashed four home runs in five games, including two off the Axemen in a round-robin game that eliminated Prince George from playoff contention. Doucette, 37, is a former draft choice of the St. Louis Cardinals organization (three seasons, 18 home runs) who stands six-foot-four and weighs 290 pounds – because of his size, he’s been described as a left-hand hitting version of Mark McGwire. Doucette, an all-American while at Ulster Junior College in New York, played four seasons of independent pro baseball for the Adirondack Lumberjacks of the Northeast League, and had his number retired by that organization. He now stars in the Nova Scotia Senior Baseball League with the Dartmouth Moosehead Dry, leading that team to two national championships.
Expect to hear about a special WBC home run derby in which Doucette will be a key figure.
“Darren is so excited about this, it’s hard to describe,” said Swanson.
“He’s the pre-eminent power hitter in Canada, and has been for years. We needed to add a bopper like him in the middle of the order. He’ll likely DH for us, and can play first base. His memories of being in Prince George for the 2002 nationals are very fond, he had a great time even though his team did not make the playoffs – he calls this one of the best cities he’s ever played in because of how the whole community got involved, the stands were full, and the atmosphere was electric. And that was in our OLD park, not this new one – he can’t wait for July to get here.”
The fourth player named today is the team’s first lefty pitcher. Jason Bailey is 9-1 at national tournaments going back to 2000, a crafty veteran who beat the Axemen in the semifinal of the 2001 Canadians in Kentville, NS, then led Dartmouth to the 2004 title in Moncton and the 2005 championship in Kamloops – named the tournament’s top pitcher both times. Five times, counting his junior days, Bailey has been named the top hurler at a Baseball Canada tournament. In the 2007 season, Bailey was a combined 11-0 (regular season and playoffs) with seven saves and won his start at nationals in Quebec City, sitting down a talented New Brunswick team with relative ease.
In 1996, Bailey was named Canada’s amateur player of the year
“Bailey is a control pitcher who never takes his team out of the game – the late movement on his pitches frustrates hitters to no end,” said Swanson.
“There are teams who have traditionally had trouble with lefties on the international scene, and we’re glad to have secured one of the best in Canada. I expect Bailey to give us a quality start at WBC, and help us with our goal of being in the playoffs and seeing what happens from there. I’ll be carefully choosing which team he’ll go against.”
Roster to-date for the Axemen:
Manager – Jim Swanson
Position Players (4) – Paul Wilson, 1B; Jeremy Kral, C/IF; Cory Therrien, OF; Darren Doucette, 1B/DH.
Pitchers (5) – Jason Cage, RHP; Graham Allard, RHP; Andrew Brock, RHP; Mike Parkin, RHP; Jason Bailey, LHP.
For more information, contact Jim Swanson, Axemen manager, at 250-613-7492.
AXEMEN ANNOUNCE FIRST FOUR ROSTER PLAYERS FOR 2009 WBC
Four college players among those signed
July 18, 2008
With exactly one year to go until opening pitch, the Prince George Axemen Baseball Program is pleased to introduce the first five players who have secured host team roster spots for the 2009 WORLD BASEBALL CHALLENGE (July 18-25, 2009, Prince George Citizen Field).
“The core of any championship baseball team is top-flight pitching, and beyond that it’s important to give the pitchers quality defence – defence wins championships, and make no mistake that it’s our goal to win this at home,” said Jim Swanson, the tournament chairman who will also manage the Axemen at the international baseball tournament (www.worldbaseball.ca).
“It won’t be easy, but the work and effort is all worth it. The first priority is pitching. The players we are announcing today have shown a dedication to the Axemen program with the kind of team-first attitude that will allow us not only to be competitive, but to reach our goal of contending against a very good field. Competing against Team Canada, USA, Taiwan and perhaps teams like Cuba and Japan will be the test of a lifetime.”
Further Axemen signings will be released over the next 12 months. Named today:
n Graham Allard, RHP, Prince George
n Paul Wilson, 1B, Prince George
n Cory Therrien, OF, Prince George
n Andrew Brock, RHP, Burnaby
Graham Allard, 23, is the top pitcher in the nine-team Prince George Senior Baseball League, hurling this season for the Barry Yip Remax/Moxie’s Gladiators, and has pitched collegiately at Thompson Rivers University – where he also showed his well-rounded athletic skills by starting for the CIS varsity volleyball team. His PGSBL numbers this season are eye-popping – with help from a 19-strikeout game (seven innings, 21 outs), Allard has 81 Ks in 37.2 innings pitched and has allowed just eight hits – opponents are batting .063 against him, leading to a 6-0 record and 0.37 ERA. He has walked just 14 hitters.
“Graham is a power pitcher who is coming into his own, virtually unhittable when he’s commanding the zone,” said Swanson. “He has shown the ability to either start or close, and that versatility will come in handy during the one-week tournament. Graham was a no-brainer for inclusion on the roster, far and away the best in our league, a legitimate addition to any team at any level. He’s got pro stuff, and I’m excited to see him go up against quality hitters at WBC.”
Paul Wilson, 32, is a former NCAA Div. 1 standout and Prince George product with a left-handed stroke that drives the ball to gaps and often out of the yard. Wilson accomplished a PGSBL first last week by hitting a walkoff home run for his club team, the Westwood Pub Royals. Wilson played college baseball and summer league with Jason Bay (North Idaho College, Kelowna Grizzlies), and in his junior year at Southwestern Oklahoma State University set the school record with 65 runs batted in, while batting .443. As a senior transfer at the University of Central Oklahoma, he batted .424 with 45 RBIs.
“Paul is a veteran run-producer who has hit at every level, and his defensive play at first base is an important component for our infield,” said Swanson. “’Willy’ is being called on to be a leader for this team, and will act as team captain – he’s a player others naturally follow on and off the field, and I am challenging him to help mould this team into a winner for WBC.”
The third local member named is outfielder Cory Therrien, who grew up in the Prince George minor system – Nechako Little League and P.G. Babe Ruth. Therrien, a member of the Inland Control Tigers in the PGSBL, can play either corner outfield spot of be used as a DH.
“Cory’s dedication to the program, and his success at the plate in high-level tournaments, earned a spot on this team – he brings character, the right attitude, and a right-handed bat that can turn a game around,” said Swanson. “Cory produces, he’s a solid outfielder who makes the right play, and he works hard. Those are all Axemen qualities for the WBC, and he provides the depth this team has to have, in the starting nine or off the bench, to compete over nine innings.”
Andrew Brock, 25, will enter his senior year at College of Idaho, where he has been a go-to guy for the Coyotes. A crafty competitor who relies on location and changing speeds, Brock is considered by many to be the top amateur pitcher in B.C. at this point. He has been to the last two national tournaments as a member of Team B.C., and has been added by the Victoria Mavericks for this year’s event in Brandon. Brock, who was named top pitcher at the 2007 Kamloops International Baseball Tournament, has been an Axemen on four occasions, confirming his commitment.
“Andrew has a bounce-back arm, and led the New West Royals to the provincial title in 2006 at Citizen Field, so he’s very comfortable throwing in our cozy park,” said Swanson.
“With the dimensions of Citizen Field, we have to have quality right-handers who can neutralize power bats on the right side. Beyond that, he’s someone who has fit in well with our program, a player our local guys have come to respect for his ability to keep runs to a minimum and throw strikes. He keeps his defence on its toes, keeps the ball down, and gives his team a chance to win every time he takes the ball. No one battles harder.”
For more information, contact Jim Swanson, Axemen manager, at 250-613-7492.
From the site of the San Francisco Seals baseball club...
Seagulls Opener Set for May 30th!
On Friday, May 30th the San Francisco Seagulls Baseball Club will travel to Reno, Nevada to take on the Reno Astros in their 2008 season opener.
The Seagulls are coming off their second straight 20 win season, as the 2007 club finished with an overall record of 22-12-1. Heading into 2008, the Seagulls will return 9 hitters from a team that finish up with a .308 batting average in 2007. Also, the Seagulls pitching staff returns a combined 16 wins from a staff that finished 2007 with a 4.22 team ERA.
With a 34 game schedule on the forecast for 2008, the Seagulls are shooting for their third straight 20 win season. The season is highlighted by the season opener in Reno, against an Astros team that has won 10 world level Semi-Pro baseball championships, a 4th of July trip to Santa Maria, California to take on the historic Santa Maria Indians, as well as a trip to Carson City, Nevada to take on the Nevada Big Horns for the third straight season.
This will be the second time in as many seasons that the Seagulls have made the trip to Reno to face the Astros. In 2007, the Seagulls got swept in a 3 game series, by the scores of 5-3. 18-10 and 9-6. In two of the games, the Seagulls had the Astros on the ropes but blew a lead late and couldn't fight back en route to getting swept.
The three game series will kick off with a single game on Friday, May 30th starting at 7:00 P.M. followed by a twilight doubleheader on Saturday, May 31st which is scheduled for 2:00 P.M. Tickets will be sold at the box offices of Moana Stadium. All general admission tickets are $5.
July 30, 2007
by JASON PETERS
The 2009 World Baseball Challenge, which will step to the plate at Prince George Citizen Field, has received word that Taiwan plans to be in attendance.
Larry Seminoff, the tournament founder and a 2009 board member, contacted Chinese Taipei officials via e-mail late last week about playing in the event and got a reply on Sunday.
“Understand this, that 2009 is still a couple years away and they won’t find space on their calendar until next year for the year after, but as they identify the opportunities for the following year, I have been told that the World Baseball Challenge will be a priority for them,” Seminoff told The Citizen Sunday night from Grand Forks.
“Unless something really drastically changes, I cannot see them not coming to Prince George.”
The 2009 WBC, scheduled for July 21-26, is currently shaping up as a five-team tournament. Team Canada has been confirmed as a participant, and a host club, the Prince George Panago Axemen, will also compete. An all-star team from the United States is also expected to swing the lumber, while Japan is another likely entrant. The latter two countries have not yet confirmed trips to Prince George. Seminoff, however, said he expects to get a commitment from Japanese officials by the end of this year.
Seminoff, meanwhile, considers a U.S.-based team as a natural fit for the WBC. But, the U.S. club that steps onto Citizen Field may not be the actual national team.
“With this WBC tournament (planned for) July, that could be a factor — I’m just not too sure what (the U.S. national team’s) schedule is like,” Seminoff said. “But (Team U.S.A.) CEO Paul Seiler will be talked to first to see what effect a July world tournament would have for him. He’s the guy who makes the call, it’s as simple as that.”
If Team U.S.A. can’t travel to Prince George, Seminoff said the U.S. representative would still be strong. As was the case for the 2002 WBC in Grand Forks, the U.S. club would likely include former professional players and former national team members.
“The gentleman who would bring (a U.S.) team to Prince George, his name is Matt Konoposis,” Seminoff said.
“Matt’s guys were in Holland last year, wearing Team U.S.A. uniforms and were very, very competitive. This guy just recruits from all over the country. He had a cup of coffee in the majors with the Cleveland Indians so he’s got connections and contacts all over the place.”
The possibility exists for the WBC to feature more than five teams. In mid-August, Baseball Canada president Ray Carter will be in Germany for International Baseball Federation meetings. Carter is expected to take WBC invitations with him, invitations provided by tournament organizer Jim Swanson.
“As I told Jim, let’s just wait and see how that hand plays itself out,” Seminoff said.
The 2002 WBC in Grand Forks was a one-time event, essentially held as one last bash for volunteers in that community who had helped run the Grand Forks International tournament for two decades. Teams in the 2002 WBC included Canada, the United States, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Taiwan, Russia, Italy and Samoa.
“We found out that Grand Forks, as big as that (WBC tournament) was, Grand Forks was perhaps a little too small a community to revisit a tournament of that nature,” Seminoff said.
Here in Prince George, the plan is to hold the WBC every second year after 2009. Seminoff sees Prince George as a perfect host city.
“I’ve been there, I know the people there, and you’ve got the important ingredients to make it a successful recipe for this tournament,” he said.
“The volunteers come first, and I’ve seen them work. With my involvement with B.C. Senior Baseball for over 20 years, I’ve looked through that window which is Prince George, and the efforts have just been unparalleled when it comes to work and commitment. And I would think with the larger community, the opportunity of raising dollars with regards to advertising and the promotional end of things certainly is increased considerably from the size of what Grand Forks has to offer.”
World Baseball Challenge coming to P.G.
July 24, 2007
PRINCE GEORGE CITIZEN
From Prince George to Major League Baseball.
The ties to make that connection will be set in place in 2009 when the World Baseball Challenge (WBC) international tournament comes to Prince George Citizen Field. The calibre of the teams will be the highest the city has ever seen, likely including players on their way up to the professional level.
At the 2002 WBC, pitcher Jose Contrares wowed the crowds in Grand Forks pitching strikes for the Cuban national team. By the end of the year, Contrares had joined the New York Yankees and he’s now a starter for the Chicago White Sox.
The perennially-strong Cubans are on the list of invited countries for the WBC, along with Japan, Chinese-Taipei, Dominican Republic, the United States and Samoa. Canada and the host Prince George Panago Axemen are the two teams already confirmed for the five-team tournament, July 21-26, 2009.
“I would expect nothing but the most elite level of play you’re going to see in this nation,” said David Laing of Burnaby, expected to be the Team Canada manager for the 2009 WBC.
“If you look back at the 2002 event in Grand Forks with all the national teams there, Contrares was playing for Cuba, and there were ex-major leaguers playing for the Dominican team.”
Laing, a player-coach for the Axemen in 2002, made the trip from Burnaby on Monday and joined a crowd of about 50 for the announcement of the tournament at Citizen Field.
“It’s going to generate a lot of excitement and it’s a real boon to the community,” Laing said. “It’s going to hopefully energize the youth of the community to stay in the game and it’s certainly going to make the senior program in Prince George better.
“Based on what happened in Grand Forks in 2002, when a team like Chinese-Taipei rolled in with 40 guys, that’s going to be an event wherever they go in town. When they show up at the park, it will be a can’t miss event.”
The city is unique in Western Canada for its baseball facilities all in close proximity at Carrie Jane Gray Park. That will be enhanced with the completion of the Charles Jago Northern Sport Centre at UNBC, which will give the teams an indoor practice option in the event of rain.
“With these two parks alone, we have advantages here most cities in Western Canada can only dream of,” said tournament organizer Jim Swanson. “We’re going to use UNBC housing for teams and the Northern Sport Centre will be open, so teams can use the workout and weight training facilities there.”
The tournament will have a round-robin format, with each team playing every other team at least once. Swanson said the Axemen team will have as many local players involved as possible, as well as some of the better provincial-class players. The Axemen went winless in three games at the 12-team WBC in 2002 but the team was tied or ahead after seven innings in all three of those games. Prince George finished ninth.
“Prince George will get to measure itself against every team at the tournament so our players won’t go to the tournament and only get to watch a team like Cuba or Japan from the stands,” Swanson said. “We could have eight teams or 12 teams here and have it separated by pools, but we don’t see the point.”
Cost to bring the tournament to Prince George is estimated in excess of $200,000. The Citizen has committed itself as a major sponsor, as well as the Jim Pattison Broadcast Group (PGTV, 99.3 The Drive, 101.3 The River), Prince George Motors, BID Construction, and Splash Media Group. The City of Prince George, Initiatives Prince George and the Prince George Senior Baseball League have also pledged support, and a tournament site is set up at www.BallCharts.com/worldbaseball.