Vancouver Canadians manager Brent Lavallee held court with the local media during the team’s Media Day on Monday.
The pride of North Delta, B.C. is back at the helm of the C’s for a second straight season after leading the club to an appearance in the Northwest League final in 2022, finishing with a record of 67 wins and 62 losses.
The following is a transcript of the media scrum with Lavallee on the concourse of Nat Bailey Stadium. It has been edited for clarity.
Jay Janower, Global News – Does it feel like baseball weather here?
Brent Lavallee – It’ll feel like a more in about an hour and a half when we’re outside. But uh, yeah, guys are ready. And then weather, good weather, poor weather. We’re ready to rock.
JJ – What are your expectations for the team this year?
BL – Full expectation to win. No expense at player development, however, but we have a very good team to start. A lot of guys are turning from last year, especially you guys know what to look forward to know what the challenges are. So full expectation to win the first half, go from there.
JJ – I’m curious, strange question, but I know the Blue Jays have changed their stadium outfield configuration. Does that factor into how you guys will play out here or how you might work with some of your outfielders?
BL – Not necessarily because of the big league team, but we will do things differently based on the ballparks we go into. So you know, for example, the field on Everett is pretty unique. Na Bailey’s pretty unique as well. So every field brings its own challenge. Just different things need to work on. It’s more just getting ready for this stadium and then when we go on the road getting ready for each of those.
JJ – We had a really nice conversation with (position coach) Ashley (Stephenson). Of course it was big news when it was announced couple months ago. I said breaking down the barriers but there’s also just being a coach. How do you see her in her position?
BL – She’s a coach, she’s a teacher, she’s a developer. She’s got a ton of experience at the international level, at the high school level. Baseball, hockey, it doesn’t really matter. A coach is a coach and someone who can develop these young men. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from or what you look like, she can help and she’s awesome. We’re excited to have her.
JJ – She’s played the game but she’s also got an enthusiasm. You can see it in her eyes. You can see it in her face. Is that kind of stuff infectious?
BL – Yeah, definitely, definitely. When you have the the positive outlook and vibe to you, it carries on and it’s contagious and players definitely feel that.
Bob Kronbauer, VancouverIsAwesome.com – You said something about winning and development. How do you balance winning and development in this situation?
BL – Our goal here is to get these players to the major leagues and to win games for the Toronto Blue Jays. However, for the next six months we’re wearing Vancouver Canadians uniforms. So we’re ready to do what we have to do to win these players. They enjoy winning. They don’t like coming to the ballpark to lose. So yeah, it’s a development during the day and we attack their goals and their plan and what’s gonna get ’em one step closer to Toronto. But once those light turns on and the first pitch is thrown it, it’s game time and it’s time to win.
JJ – In chatting with with some of the players, they’re gonna have to toughen up because it’s not gonna get warm here for a little while. How do you prepare them for the weekend?
BL – We tell ’em, I mean if you want to go to Double-A, it’s even colder in New Hampshire. You wanna go to Triple-A, it’s even colder in Buffalo and then eventually you want play in the AL East. I mean it’s not warm in any of those ballparks, in any of those cities for the same amount of time. It’s just something they’ve gotta get ready for and everyone deals with the same cold, same temperatures, so there’s no competitive advantage and the other team’s dealing with it as well. So it’s just kinda one of those things. You just gotta block it out and defeat it.
JJ – We talked about you being here last year being a hometown boy. How was it for you last year and how does it set you up for this year?
BL – This opportunity, no matter the first year or down the line, how many years I’m here is special. You can’t compare coaching your favourite team that you grow up watching. But the experience factor is a big deal. Knowing what it takes to win, knowing what it takes to be successful in this league and to get players up to Double-A, Triple-A, the big leagues. So just the more experience there, the better.
Steve Erickson, Sportswave – Was there ever a question that you might go someplace else to coach?
BL – There’s always evolving scenarios and things of that nature, but when I was told I was going back, I was very happy. So family, my friends. This league has some challenges. Us being so far having to be the only minor league team that travels internationally. So I think having someone local that understands those types of things also helps with that process. So very happy to be here doing this job again.
SE – With different rules that have been implemented so far this year. Is that gonna affect your coaching?
BL – I don’t think so. I think a lot of the rules we played with last year. So the big leagues are seeing the changes and we’re watching that on TV now, but all those rules that they have, we had last year. So I don’t think there are any major changes this season. We do have a rules call (Tuesday), but yeah, we’re ready for that. We’ve been practicing with the pitch clock and the disengagement rules and the shifting rules. These kids are pretty prepared for the changes that come with this game.
SE – Parents play a a real key pivotal role for young athletes growing up. A lot of aspire on this level. How essential was it for your parents like mom and dad to help you out with this? Obviously I know knowing your mom and dad, they weren’t pushy parents.
BL – No, they weren’t pushy. Terrific, terrific parents who pushed you and let you figure it out on your own sometimes and then you know, would give you the love when you needed it. Just kind of like coaching, you know, sometimes you gotta let ’em fall. We definitely fell, myself and my brothers, we’ve fallen on our faces a few times but always knowing you’ve got someone there to help pull you up and have your back. Coaching and parenting, it’s all kind of the same thing.
SE – Of course, having Ashley here now you’ve got somebody to talk about hockey.
BL – That’s a huge plus that goes underneath the radar. The only problem is she’s a Leafs fan. So we’ve got a little bit of conflicting interest here, but no, being able to talk hockey and talk juniors and the world juniors and all those types of things is good.
BK – At what point in the last season if you think Addison Barger was going to go up?
BL – I knew it probably from the year before when I first saw him. You see his physicality and just the bat speed and the arm and you start just kind of subtracting and being like, ‘Well what things can’t he do?’ And I think I made a phone call early into the season, like ‘This young man’s gonna surprise a lot of people’ to some of the front office. And he did just that and maybe it wasn’t a surprise but how well he did and continued to do after he moved on from here. So it’s not surprising to anyone who sees the work, who knows the young man himself personally. He is driven and ready to conquer that challenge whenever it comes up.
BK – Who do you see this season as the sort of front line players?
BK – This is a good team, this is a really good team. I’m gonna stay at shortstop. I think Josh Kasevich coming from the University of Oregon, the PAC 12. He knows this coast and he knows what it feels like to play here in the northwest so I think he’s probably ready for a big season. Blue Jays fans and Canadians fans should get to know that name, but there are a lot of names here that will be leaving the Canadians soon. Andrés Sosa, he was in the major league camp caught with us all last year. He’ll be a name that makes the noise. Rainer Nuñez, Dasan Brown. I mean there are so many of ’em. On the mound, we’ve got a bunch as well. But yeah, I don’t anticipate having this team for long.
SE – Last year when you went down to Seattle when the Jays were in town, what did you take away from that? And will you do that again this year?
BL – No, I don’t have the ability to do it this year. I took my recovery vacation days down there. (Former Blue Jays manager) Charlie Montoyo had asked me to come down and just spend a couple days in the life and the biggest takeaway was how much our work scales to what they do. And I walked away from there thinking that if Addison Barger were to get called up to the big leagues, his day and his work and his preparation wouldn’t change at all. And that really kind of doubled down on what type of preparation we do here and how we’re preparing them for what their work looks like when they get to the big leagues. And I was very satisfied as a coach to coach what our preparation, our practice looks like for them getting to that goal.
SE – You’re not going down this year?
BL – Not this year. Changing my recovery days to go back home and see my family a little faster. That was tough waiting that amount of time last year, but I think we’re not in Everett when the big league team is in Seattle, so that was a big part of it too. It was only 45 minutes down the road here.
C’s Plus Baseball – Opening day starter. Have you decided yet?
BL – Adam Macko. And it’s not because he’s number one or number two (in the starting rotation). It’s just the way it all slotted out during spring training. He pitched with Everett last year. He’s also a North Van boy, I believe. If he’s anything like the Adam we had to face last year, Spokane’s in a little bit of trouble. But yeah, we’re very happy to have him here and he’s gonna be a fun one to watch.
CPB – What is it that you like about Adam Macko?
BL – Well, last year I didn’t like him too much, but he attacked us with four different pitches – left-handed, right-handed. You had no idea what was coming. It was all quality stuff and it was just locked in. So we’ve seen that in spring training and looking forward to him getting his taste of Nat Bailey Stadium and the Vancouver crowd and for the crowd being on his side this time versus against him. But yeah, good competitor. Looking forward to getting him the ball.
CPB – The schedule. The way it breaks out this year. You guys started on the road last year, but this time you start at home. How do you like the schedule with 15 games here (in April)?
BL – Yeah, we love it. We love it. Shoot, anytime we’re playing ball and we’re getting to do this, it doesn’t matter. Home or road or which stadium, but opening up here, getting the first week and a half and then even our road trip, the first road trip’s only to Everett, so it’s almost like the first month of April we’re all pretty local, which, you know, in consideration of how much travel we just did, it’ll be nice to kind of set some roots here and then I believe in May, we’re on the road for all but like six or nine days. So May is gonna be kind of the opposite. But yeah, I like the schedule and how it shapes up for us.
CPB – As far as the roster goes. How do you compare it? I know you haven’t played yet but how do you compare it to last year’s?
BL – I believe we’re possibly a little bit more mature. I think we did a really good job in the draft last year and those players, when they got drafted, went to Low-A, they had a great year, won the second half and made the playoffs. So yeah, I’m just excited for players that know how to win. It’s not a slight on the guys before, but just from the little bit we know about the guys we’ve got right now, they know how to prepare, they know how to compete and win and it’s just a really, really fun challenge.
CPB – You mentioned Josh Kasevich as a player to watch, anybody else?
BL – Oh gosh, I mean Rainer Nuñez was the rookie of the year in the Dominican Winter Ball League. He was in big league spring training and spent a lot of spring training in Double-A camp. So Rainer will be one to watch. I mean, I think we’re gonna have the best team in our organization to start the season. Just an abundance of talent and competitors. So I’m really happy with what we’re gonna be rolling out here to start the season.
CPB – Going back to last season, (reaching) the championship (final), how much does that drive you heading into 2023?
BL – Eugene was an incredible team last year, all year. I mean, you look at their record, first half, second half playoffs, they were very good. The challenge was great. The mistakes we made or, the reasons that we didn’t win the series have been addressed and we’ve learned a lot from ’em. We’re looking forward to seeing them again. They’re good. They play the game the right way. They play hard and that’s what you want to go up against, win or lose. You want to either lose to the best or beat the best. It just didn’t go our way there in the end.
Opening Night for Lavallee and the Canadians is Friday night when they host the Spokane Indians. Game time is 7:05 p.m. Tyler Zickel will have the play-by-play on CanadiansBaseball.com and MiLB.TV.