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Canada opens Pan Am baseball schedule vs. Dominican Republic

Canada opens Pan Am baseball schedule vs. Dominican Republic

Posted by PanamericanWorld on April 20, 2015

The team won't feature any current Major League stars, but expect to see plenty of top prospects in the men's baseball tournament at the upcoming Pan Am Games in July.

Canada begins the defence of its Pan Am title on July 10, opening the tournament against the Dominican Republic at the newly revamped President's Choice Ajax Pan Am Ballpark, which seats 5,000.

Former Toronto Blue Jay catcher Ernie Whitt returns to coach Team Canada. He remembers vividly what it was like to win the gold medal in Guadalajara, Mexico in 2011.

"I get chills thinking about it," Whitt recalls. "I remember the players running onto the field celebrating. For a lot of them, it was their World Series. It was an honour to be a part of it. I'll never forget it."

Any player not on a protected 40-man roster for a Major League club is eligible to play for their country in the tournament. That means some top minor league players should suit up in July at the Pan Ams.

Canada ended Cuba's streak of 10-straight baseball gold medals with an upset win at the 2011 Guadalajara Pan Am Games. The United States will also be a strong team in the field, which Whitt calls "wide open."

Although the ultimate goal for Baseball Canada is to place players on big league rosters, Whitt believes the Pan Am tournament can play a crucial role in the development of future stars.

It can also elevate a player into national folklore as was the case with Canada's Stubby Clapp in 1999, who led the Canadians to an upset win over the U.S. en route to a bronze medal at the Winnipeg Pan Am Games.

Clapp will be serving as a third-base coach for Team Canada, whose coaching staff also includes Larry Walker and Paul Quantrill.

Women's baseball makes debut

The Toronto Pan Am Games also marks the first time women's baseball has been included in the event. Team Canada, coming a fourth-place showing at 2014 World Cup in Japan, is coached by André Lachance.

"I'm looking forward to leading Team Canada into this historic women's baseball tournament," Lachance said.

The Canadians will be led by third baseman Ashley Stephenson and catcher Stephanie Lavoie. They open the tournament against Cuba on July 20, and close out the round-robin with a match against No. 1-ranked United States on July 24.

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