Bob Elliott's 2012 Team Canada lineup
Cubs starter Ryan Dempster pitches to the Reds at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, Ohio, Sep. 13, 2011. (JOHN SOMMERS II/Reuters)
Two things are certain on Canada Day:
Fireworks and right-hander Ryan Dempster getting the ball for our 12th annual Canada Day, Team Canada lineup.
This is Dempster sixth year as either the best Canuck starter or closer. He was also given the ball to start in 2011, 2010, 2002 and on our inaugural team in 2001. Plus, he was the closer in 2006.
The Gibsons, B.C., native was in the rotation behind lefty Erik Bedard in 2009, behind Rich Harden in 2008 and 2004, behind Chris Reitsma in 2003, as well as being in the bullpen in 2007 and 2005.
So, he’s a perfect 12-for-12.
It’s a claim no other Canadian can make.
When this all began it was a ‘wouldn’t-it-be-wonderful’ Team Canada concept way back in 2001.
With the arrival of the World Baseball Classic in 2006, it’s a legitimate argument: Who plays first? Do you start Dempster or go with youth? Who is in the outfield?
Of course, everyone is available — our hall of famer Fergie Jenkins made the ruling at the end of June, as he did a year ago.
And everyone is available, healthy as a thoroughbred, for on Canada Day it is a perfect day to be Canadian.
Dr. Ron Taylor and his staff has everyone in the best shape of their careers.
A total of 19 Canadians have appeared on major-league rosters. That’s an improvement from 2001 when five of the starting nine were minor leaguers and 101 have appeared in the minors, 35 in independent leagues, another seven in foreign lands and 700 in college ball south of the border.
Who will put runs on the board for Dempster in this annual Canada Day look at our best?
n Leading off will be Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie of Langley, B.C. Manager Ernie Whitt, from the Windsor suburb of Clinton Township, Mich., will give Lawrie strict orders NOT to steal third base or home with the No. 3 hitter up.
n Batting second will be Montreal catcher Russell Martin of the New York Yankees. He’ll find that the ball does not leave the Rogers Centre as quickly as it does the new Yankee Stadium.
n In the third spot is former MVP winner Joey Votto, in the running to repeat with the Cincinnati Reds. Albert Pujols signed a set-for-life contract with the Los Angeles Angels and didn’t hit his first home run until the Angels 28th game. Votto signed the largest contract by a Canadian athlete and has flourished. On May 15 Votto owned a 1.036 OPS. Pujols was .536.
n Hitting clean-up is DH Justin Morneau of New Westminster, B.C. and the Minnesota Twins. Morneau appears to have overcome his concussion-like symptoms. He’s already doubled last year’s home run total.
n Batting fifth and playing centre is Michael Saunders of Victoria, B.C. from the Seattle Mariners. It took time for Saunders to find his sea legs with the Mariners, but the Victoria, B.C. native is the every-day centre fielder, Canada’s first since we began this poll.
n Hitting sixth and back from his second concussion is Jason Bay of Trail, B.C. and the New York Mets. Bay may not have enjoyed bounces off the Green Monster at Fenway Park, but the left field corner at Citi Field and Dodger Stadium are even more cruel.
n In the No. 7 spot playing second is Taylor Green of Comox, B.C. The Milwaukee Brewers back-up infielder has made five starts at third and one at second this season, but is comfortable at either.
n Batting eighth is right fielder Adam Loewen of Surrey, B.C., at triple-A Buffalo. Loewen made the transformation from the mound to the batter’s box hitting a homer last September for the Jays against his former team the Baltimore Orioles.
n Hitting ninth and playing short is Newmarket’s Peter Orr, who spent most of the first half with the Philadelphia Phillies before being demoted to triple-A Lehigh Valley.
Pitching coach Denis Boucher of Lachine, Que., will also have Pittsburgh Pirates lefty Erik Bedard of Navan, Ont., Guelph lefty Scott Diamond of the Twins and Jeff Francis of North Delta, B.C., of the Colorado Rockies,
The relievers will be Toronto’s Jesse Crain of the White Sox; North Vancouver’s Blake Hawksworth of the Dodgers; North Vancouver’s Scott Richmond of the Jays; Aldergrove B.C.’s Scott Mathieson of the Yomiuri Giants, Pirates farmhand Chris Leroux of Mississauga, Gatineau’s Phillippe Aumont, of the Philadelphia Phillies; Regina’s Dustin Molleken of triple-A Colorado Springs and Calgary’s James Henderson, at triple-A Nashville;
With the lead in hand, Port Dover’s John Axford of the Brewers will close.
On the bench are catchers George Kottaras from Markham with the Brewers, Vancouver’s Mike Nickeas of the New York Mets and Luke Carlin of Aylmer, Que., formerly with the Cleveland Indians. The infielders are Mark Teahen, whose father is from St. Marys, Ont., of triple-A Syracuse (Nationals), Skyler Stromsmoe of Etzikom, Alta., from triple-A Fresno (Giants) and Laval’s Jonathan Malo with the Quebec Capitales.
Back-up outfielders are Rene Tosoni, Coquitlam, B.C. from the Twins system and London’s Jamie Romak, London, Ont., at triple-A Memphis (Cardinals). One other thing, like the 2006 WBC when Canada beat Team USA ... the Canucks are undefeated on July 1.
And a Happy Canada Day to you too.