Toronto Blue Jays 2019 first-round pick Alek Manoah might pitch again for the Vancouver Canadians in 2021.
The president of the Vancouver Canadians made the local sports radio rounds recently to talk about the team becoming one of the four full-season minor league affiliates of the Toronto Blue Jays.
On The Program with Sportsnet 650, Andy Dunn said it was important for the C’s and Blue Jays to continue their relationship.
“It was really what I thought and should have been our home is to continue with the Jays because the Jays represent the country. They need a west coast presence, they need to market out west. I think we’ve proven over the last decade that we’ve been great partners and helping develop talent both locally that has gone on to Toronto to help the Jays at the big league level and doing the right things in the community. I know that the Jays staff and players love being in Vancouver.
The important part of the player development process is to get these kids up in the country and get them exposed to some of the culture that is in Canada. It’s going to be a great partnernship that we’re very proud to be able to continue and proud to be able to bring more baseball games to the city of Vancouver.”
One person Dunn wanted to credit for helping to keep the Blue Jays-Canadians partnership intact was B.C. Premier John Horgan.
“I can’t thank the Premier enough and I want to say thank you to him for his involvement and effort but there’s so many people that helped get involved to make sure that ownership in Toronto understood how important the relationship was to Vancouver. We weren’t going to leave many stones unturned. Jake (Kerr) reached out to the Premier and he reached out to (Jays ownership). You know what? It’s not a bad thing to have the Premier as a fan and as a friend as someone willing to help you out when you need it and we certainly appreciate all of his assistance.”
Adam Kloffenstein may not have thrown his last pitch in a Vancouver Canadians uniform just yet.
More Top Prospects at the Nat
The one aspect of the Blue Jays-Canadians partnership that Dunn likes is the C’s will not miss out on seeing the Blue Jays top prospects in Vancouver.
“What happened to us is we got caught a couple of times just based on our level. If there was a young kid coming out of the Dominican complex or a kid who was a high draft pick out of college, sometimes he might go to Bluefield and then finish the year and we’re hoping he’s coming to Vancouver the next year. Well, the kid gets on an off-season program and has a strong spring training, they don’t want to keep him in camp because Lansing which was the Low-A club prior was starting in April. (Are they) going to send the kid to Lansing to let him play or (are they) going to sit this kid in the Gulf Coast League and just play on the back fields? We lost out on seeing (Bo) Bichette, we lost out on seeing Vlad (Guerrero) Jr. because they didn’t keep them in camp and send them to Vancouver. They went ahead and progressed them up to Lansing and those guys obviously they had the talent and they went on to have success.
But the great thing now is that being at the High-A level, we’ll skip a lot of that and every major prospect that will come through the Jays system will spend time in Vancouver. I don’t care if he’s a first round pick out of college or a first-round pick out of high school and he has to develop at another place for a year or a year-and-a-half. They will be coming through to Vancouver so our fans will not miss anybody who’s going to be a premier prospect in the system.
We just won’t get leapfrogged and there won’t have to be a decision made whether do I skip this kid a level and leave this kid in the complex for half-a-year or go out and put him out in front of 7,000 people in Vancouver.
By this point … it’s a natural progression. You have to go to Vancouver before you go to Double-A. For me, I think High-A is one of the best levels of baseball, that and Double-A. That’s where you really separate the men from the boys when it comes to a talent standpoint but that’s where the kids really rise to because the biggest jump in baseball is from High-A to Double-A. If you can control the level of which we’re going to be moving to, those kids are going to be on a trajectory to actually get some quality time in the big leagues.”
Continuing on the prospects theme with Sportsnet’s The OT with Caroline Frolic, Lindsey Horsting and Lina Setaghian, Dunn says there is a chance top prospect pitchers Alek Manoah and Adam Kloffenstein could be back again in Vancouver.
“What’s going to be interesting now is we’re going to have some of the same kids back that we had two years ago. Like I wouldn’t be surprised to see both of those guys (Manoah and Kloffenstein) come back through Vancouver because of what happened (this) year with not being able to have a season and some guys doing the program of the off-site situation like every organization had but we’re going to have some kids back in town and wearing the C’s uniform right now which will be twice in their career at different levels and that’s going to be good to see. It’s going to be good to see some of the guys come back to Vancouver but you’re going to see a much different player when they come back through than you saw the first time around.”
A High in Vancouver, A Low in Lancaster
Dunn along with Vancouver Canadians co-owners Jake Kerr and Jeff Mooney experienced a whole range of emotions with the Major League Baseball-Minor League Baseball arrangement. Their Vancouver affiliation with Toronto is going ahead but their team in the California League, the Lancaster JetHawks, finds itself on the outside looking in after landing on the contraction list of communities losing affiliated baseball.
“Our club in California unfortunately was one of the 42 that is not going to survive it looks like. Initially our team in California, everybody in the market knows that you’re on the list. The same thing happened to the guys in Tri-City. The same thing happened to the guys in Salem-Keizer and all across North America. So all of a sudden, these markets and communities – their shoulders went up to their ear lobes, just ‘Why us? Why us? What’s wrong with us?’ And then at the same time, you’re trying to negotiate a deal from whether it’s player welfare or travel or amenities and all these other things … It’s been a stressful time because the markers have changed a little bit as to ‘We thought it was going to be this but now it’s this. We thought it was going to be this type of program but now it’s the type of program. Whether it’s from the business aspects or the marketing programs to the travel, clubhouse sizes and facilities.
It’s been a very long process, it’s been a very stressful process because when you really look at it, you worried about your community, you’re worried about your team in your community but when you really look around, you’re really worried about the people that you have working for you and these organizations that have dedicated and given up so much of their life to be a part of this. And at the end of the day, you just want to make sure that they have an opportunity and a place that they can continue to call home and work.
(Thursday) was an exciting time for us in Vancouver but it was a real tough time for us with our team in California and it’s tough because I’ve got one gentleman on our front office in California, he’s been there since Day 1 of the organization started from its 26 years and we’ve had some very gut-wrenching conversations.
It’s not just about getting a team and complaining or being happy about what level. This situation has really impacted people’s lives to a point where I don’t ever want to have to go through another one of these again because there were a lot of decisions that were made, very tough that were made. But when you actually see the impact of what it’s doing to someone’s income and life and livelihood and how they have spent so much of their lives and their career, it’s really a tough process.”
When Can Fans Come Back?
As for when fans will be allowed back in to Nat Bailey Stadium, Dunn says that remains up in the air due to the ongoing pandemic.
“It’s interesting because even our fans and even our staff is like, ‘What are we going to do with this? And what are we going to do with this? And what about this?’ The one thing we have to do is we’re going to have to be patient.
There are still a lot of things that are going to change. If you look at what’s going on with the virus and what’s coming up with some of the vaccines and how those vaccines are going to be implemented. Are we going to be able to host games? Are we going to be able to host games with a limited capacity and the social distance-type situation? A lot’s going to change between December and April or May whenever we look to get started.
We have to figure out when the spring training camps are going to open, what’s that going to do to the timeline of what would be a traditional schedule versus what we may be looking into this year as a one-off type situation with the later start. We just don’t have that information yet but I’m telling everybody and I’m telling our staff and everyone, ‘Let’s be patient. Let’s find out what we’re looking at when the time is right.’
Anytime you try to speculate on these type of situations, you’re never going to be right. You’re always going to miss it because there’s going to be a hiccup somewhere in the system but let’s just be patient. One thing we want to do is we want to have baseball in Vancouver. Not having any games last year at the Nat was tough on a lot of people but you know the first thing we have to do is make sure that we’re going to do it in a safe environment for both the players on the field as well as the people that hopefully we can have in the stands.”
Dealing with Mother Nature
Speaking with TSN 1040’s Matt Seekers and Blake Price, Dunn said the one big challenge of the full-season schedule for Vancouver will be the wet weather during the months of April and May.
“I’ve tracked (the weather) the first few years I was in town just because there were discussions about Triple-A and I’ve always been concerned about the weather. Some years you have drier springs, some years you have wetter springs. There are some years we have wet Junes. We’ll just play it by ear. We want to make sure the field is in a situation where it can drain properly and have the right things. This is what we’re offered, this is what we’re going to be tasked with providing. Trust me when I tell you that we’re going to do everything we can even on nights when we have some weather challenges to continue to provide and give fans a great night of entertainment.
Obviously there’s going to be challenges. These are challenges that are faced in the Eastern League, these are challenges that are faced in Tacoma and the Pacific Coast League. Are there challenges you like to avoid? Absolutely, but you work with the hand you’re dealt with … You can’t fight Mother Nature sometimes but I think that’s the biggest challenge you’re going to have and that’s going to be out of our hands. We’ll make sure the field is as dry as it can be and just try to get in as many games as possible.”
Dunn adds he’s not so sure Vancouver will get any help from the schedule makers to have more road games at the start of the year.
“I think the guys in Everett are going to want to do the same situation. I think the guys in a lot of clubs in the league will be looking for some of the same thing. Everett does have a turf field and you got Spokane which might be a little drier, Portland’s going to be a little wet but again, we’re all are going to go in this together.
Right now we’re still finalizing year one. If the league schedule maker traditionally will be doing it or the schedule will be made out of the offices of Major League Baseball. We just don’t know that yet. I don’t think we will get too much help like that. I think they’re going to give us the schedule and we’re going to try to operate with it and see how it goes for the first season. That’s all we’re going to be able to do.”
Here’s hoping things will begin on schedule in 2021.
Toronto Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro commented on his team’s affiliation with Vancouver in a story from Kaitlyn McGrath on The Athletic (subscription required for full story).
“With Vancouver, it was weighing what an incredible impact that affiliation and that partnership has meant to this organization. Historically, there has been something incredibly powerful about our young players going there and getting their first taste of what it means to play in Canada and to play for Canada’s only team. It’s also given a connection to our presence out west that obviously is incredibly rooted, and we see firsthand when we go play the Mariners at the major-league level. There were some logistical challenges, moving that to a full-season team and considering what that could mean to us operationally that we had to weigh before just saying that’s definitely where we want to be. In the end, the net was that those operational challenges (weather) should be overlooked and could be overlooked for the net benefit of having one of our four affiliates be in Canada.”
The Boise Hawks believe the aging Boise Memorial Stadium is what led to its demise as an affiliated minor league team. The Idaho Statesman looks at the future of baseball in that city which will host Pioneer League baseball at the independent level.
I had been aiming to pay a visit to Boise Memorial Stadium if only to see where the Vancouver Canadians won its 2012 Northwest League championship. It was on a rainy Sunday night in Vancouver when I listened to Rob Fai’s call on the radio when the C’s completed the C-peat. That would turn into a 3-peat when the Canadians upended the Hawks again, rallying from a 1-0 series deficit to win the final two games at the Nat. Vancouver survived a nail-biting Game 2 before Tom Robson spun six solid innings and L.B. Dantzler broke a 0-0 tie with a two-run double in the winner-take-all Game 3.
Around the rest of the Northwest League, the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes were also dumped as an affiliated minor league squad. Former San Francisco Giant Tony Torcato spoke out against MLB’s decision to drop Salem-Keizer in an interview with KGW8 in Portland. Their baseball future remains in limbo.
The Tri-City Herald looks at the Dust Devils new affiliation with the Los Angeles Angels. In the article, Dust Devils president and co-owner Brent Miles expressed his disappointment about the Northwest League losing a quarter of its teams.
“Quite frankly, we thought the Northwest League should stay an eight-team league, So in that aspect, we’re disappointed.”
The Daily Herald in Everett focuses on the Everett AquaSox having to share field time at Everett Memorial with local high school teams and Everett Community College. The Eugene Emeralds—who will also face the question of diamond time with the Oregon Ducks—won the coveted Freitas Short-Season award from Baseball America. The Em’s new affiliate is now the San Francisco Giants as they replace the Chicago Cubs.