Baseball fans in Vancouver are praying for the return of baseball of Nat Bailey Stadium.
The Vancouver Canadians and the Eugene Emeralds were to open their seasons tonight at Nat Bailey Stadium for a 7:05 pm first pitch. The Everett AquaSox were to be in Salem-Keizer to face the Volcanoes, the Boise Hawks were to visit the Tri-City Dust Devils and the Hillsboro Hops were to begin the defence of their Northwest League championship in Spokane against the Indians. Those games will not happen thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic as the Northwest League last week announced that the 2020 season has been put on hiatus.
The announcement was not really a surprise as the Canada-U.S. border remains closed to non-essential travel until July 21. The Vancouver Canadians and all of Minor League Baseball are still awaiting official word from Major League Baseball on if they will resume operations but MLB is still trying to resolve its labour issues with the players union to get a 2020 season up and running. It is largely expected that the 2020 MiLB season will be cancelled.
MLB also has to finalize its plans of contracting 42 MiLB teams in 2021 in which short-season baseball will be eliminated. Vancouver is not one of the 42 teams targeted for contraction but Salem-Keizer and Tri-City have been, leaving the future look of the Northwest League up in the air. The Canadians will become a full-season team but it is not a given they will still be affiliated with the Toronto Blue Jays. Each MLB club under the proposed contraction plan will be limited to four full-season affiliates. Steve Ewen of The Vancouver Province—who first raised the possibility that the C’s may have a different MLB affiliate—believes the choice for the Blue Jays boils down to Vancouver or Lansing to join Buffalo, New Hampshire and Dunedin in the Jays minor league nest.
Location-wise, it would make sense for Toronto to stick with Lansing as it is about a five-hour drive but marketing-wise, the Jays should stick with Vancouver to maintain its coast-to-coast presence in Canada.
It appears one Canadian team is set to play ball this year south of the border. The Winnipeg Goldeyes of the independent American Association will be playing all of their games in 2020 in Fargo, North Dakota.
The 2020 Major League Baseball draft was an exciting one for the Toronto Blue Jays. Vanderbilt infielder/outfielder Austin Martin—considered by many to be the best all-around position player in the draft—fell to Toronto with the number five pick.
That would have been an exciting development for Vancouver fans as there was a chance Martin could have made his way to Nat Bailey Stadium. With the 2020 season all but cancelled to this point, Martin may never set foot in YVR. ESPN’s Keith Law believes Martin has the talent to play in Double-A New Hampshire in 2021. If not New Hampshire, Lansing or Dunedin may be where Martin winds up. Martin was a college teammate of 2019 C’s catcher Philip Clarke who were part of the 2019 NCAA Champion Vanderbilt Commodores.
Of course, this may be all moot anyway if the Canadians have a different MLB affiliate in 2021. The Blue Jays-Canadians partnership has been ongoing since 2011. Even though the two sides have a Player Development Contract in place that keeps the two teams together until the end of 2022, the new MLB/MiLB deal is expected to supersede that arrangement.
A number of former Vancouver Canadians were released by the Blue Jays recently. First basemen Christian Williams (2016), Kacy Clemens (2017), Jake Brodt (2018), third baseman Jesus Navarro (2018), Hunter Steinmetz (2018) and left-hander Juan Diaz (2019) were among the 20-plus players to receive their release.
Arizona said goodbye to three former Canadians in outfielder Dalton Pompey (2012), lefty Colton Turner (2012-2013) and Michael De La Cruz (2014). Atlanta released 2014 southpaw Jose Fernandez and Seattle shipped out 2013 designated hitter and Northwest League Playoff MVP Mitch Nay.
The first wave of releases by the Blue Jays back in April included right-handers Andy McGuire (2019), William Ouellette (2017), Joey Pulido (2018-2019), Matt Shannon (2017), left-hander Grayson Huffman (2016-2017, 2019) catcher Brett Wright (2018-2019) and outfielder Roemon Fields (2014).
I reached out to William Ouellette when I learned upon his release. The 2017 closer indicated he spoke with his Vancouver pitching coach Jim Czajkowski after his release.
“I heard from Cy. He said, ‘You’re a guy who signed for nothing and you have to win your job in Spring Training. No Spring Training this year means the Jays don’t have any money invested in you and sadly that means you’re getting the short end of the stick.’
I do plan on continuing to play, I have a couple of offers in the Mexican League and I plan on continuing my career there until I get signed back to an MLB team!”
I wish William and all the others who were let go all the best in their future endeavours.
I was surprised about the release of Huffman as he was in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery and was throwing his fastball in the mid-90s, reaching 97 miles per hour.
The release of Roemon Fields was also a sad one for fans who saw him play in Vancouver. The Northwest League All-Star from 2014 made it to Triple-A Buffalo and was deserving of a call-up to Toronto in 2017 but never got one despite hitting .291 with Buffalo with 43 stolen bases. Fields was deserving of a major league cameo like 2011 Canadian Jon Berti, who was summoned to Toronto in the final week of the 2018 season. He parlayed his success with a solid season for the Miami Marlins in which he hit .273 and stole 17 bases in 20 tries.
Fields saw his stolen base total fall from 50 (43 with Buffalo, 7 with New Hampshire) to 25 and 16 the last two seasons. I’m not sure if there was an injury involved or perhaps the Jays philosophy of not utilizing the running game to full effect, something that was evident with Vancouver in 2019 with the lack of steals. Of course, the team did not get on base often enough but I digress. Anyways, I hope somebody in MLB gives Fields another shot.
June 17 was circled in the calendar of my brain as I counted down the days for Opening Day. I was really looking forward to Opening Day 2020 to get behind the microphone again as the public address announcer to begin my second full season after debuting in a pinch-hitting role in 2018.
I was excited about working with all the talented folks in the press box again. DJ Jay Swing—who stepped into the shoes of the legendary DJ Sincro—was my wingman spinning the tunes for the year and was a pleasure to work with despite his constant insults of my Maple Leafs fandom.
Stephanie Williams was the one who kept me on track telling me when to speak and when to shut-up but in the nicest way possible. She made me feel welcome and comfortable from the day I started and has a pretty impressive contact list on her phone from her years at ESPN and at the SkyDome.
Good guy Steven van Vooght gave way to another good guy in Thomas Bourhill in working with Stephanie in tandem to ensure the Game Day Operations duties were pulled off without a hitch.
The duo of K.P. Wee and Mike Hanafin would be to the left of Stephanie and Thomas to keep track of the balls and strikes and official scoring respectively. I am already missing their lively arguments already.
K.P. is also an accomplished author. The 1988 Dodgers and John Cangelosi – The Improbable Baseball Journey of the Undersized Kid from Nowhere to World Series Champion are among the written works that can be found on the back of his baseball book card. Please check those out wherever fine books are sold!
I was looking forward to seeing C’s Media Relations Assistant Jordy Cunningham again. He’s basically the reason a lot of the content on this website exists as he worked tirelessly to arrange the player interviews I had last season. He’s a clutch performer who came through for me time and time again.
The season also allows me to say hello again to the visiting play-by-play announcers in town. Tri-City’s Chris King, Spokane’s Mike Boyle and Everett’s Pat Dillon may be Northern Division rivals but they are good dudes to talk baseball with.
I’m also sad I’m not getting to see or hear Rob Fai adding to his 1,000 games-plus total as the team’s broadcaster. Rob was the one who took a chance on me to fill in as the PA announcer in 2018 before offering me the full-time gig for 2019. Before that, he extended me press pass privileges beginning in 2014 with Batter’s Box before this blog got up and running officially in 2017. Rob allowed me to get a look behind the curtain of what goes on behind the scenes with a professional baseball club.
I just hope everyone associated with the Vancouver Canadians organization and the fans are staying safe and let’s hope for a quick return to the game we love sooner rather than later.
Here are the latest round of C-Tweets from C’s players past and present, organization members and other persons of interest. The range of topics include Black Lives Matter tweets, the COVID-19 crisis and select interviews and observations.