Fresh off the Vancouver Canadians third straight Northwest League title, the names Tom Robson, L.B. Dantzler and manager Clayton McCullough come to mind.
Two names that you have never heard of have been a part of the Canadians organization for a combined 52 years – Alan Shimizu and Hans Havas.
You won’t see them on the big screen, or read their names in your program, but it is their love of the city, its people and its sports teams that brings them to work every day with a smile on their face.
Alan Shimizu has been with the Canadians for 19 years now. For many, he is the friendly face who greets them upon entering Scotiabank Field at Nat Bailey Stadium. Shimizu got his start as a volunteer in 1994 and the organization enjoyed having him there so much, that they asked him to come on board full time.
Shimizu reflected on what he enjoys the most about the job: “meeting people, and getting to work for great owners. Having the chance to work in such a fun and family oriented atmosphere is amazing.”
He thinks about his love for the game: “I have been a baseball fan for a long time, since I was six years old, so it has been over 50 years, just getting the chance to work with, and talk to all the kids on the team is special, they’re a great group.” Shimizu also works at Rogers Arena during the Canucks games, and thinks the city could support a Major League Baseball team. “The support has been tremendous since the C’s became affiliated with the Blue Jays,” he said. “We are selling out 15-18 games a year, so I have no doubt.”
Hans Havas has seen it all with the Canadians, after all, he has been with the team since 1980. He recalls how he got started with the C’s: “it’s kind of funny, my wife and I were sitting across the street being cheap (laughs) taking in a little bit of a picnic, brought our radio and were listening to Jim Robson doing the play by play. I heard an announcement that they were looking for housing families [a place for players to stay during the season] and thought why not? So I got involved right from that moment on and I haven’t looked back.”
Most people have a difficult time being in the same job, at the same place for 33 years, so what brings Havas coming back to the Nat? “I love being out here, I love the people, and I love the fans. This new group, the owners, everything from them down it’s a great place to work because they treat you like family.” Havas had the opportunity to see major leaguers such as Sammy Sosa, Rich Harden and countless others during his time with the Canadians and can’t say who he thinks has been the best. However, he is proud of former player in particular – current Blue Jays outfielder Kevin Pillar. “He came up here two years ago near the end of the season and stayed with us,” Hans recalls. “We are in contact with him still. Players come to stay with us, as well as other fans. We don’t do it for the money, and neither do the fans. We do it because we love it. I love the game of baseball, and I love being outdoors. Take a look around, it’s beautiful. I work at both Rogers Arena and BC Place but come summer time this is my home.”
Hans looks into the field and falls into a deep thought. He feels lucky to get the chance not only to do a job he loves, but also simply be breathing. “Six years ago, I had to take a year off for major heart surgery. I had five bypasses done. The Canadians have always been very strong and supportive, the strike out heard disease program has been great. It is great to be alive, and I don’t take it for granted at all. I feel great and lively, and I am going to take full advantage of it.”
Next time you go to a game, take notice of those who are there to help make it possible for you to be in attendance. Thank you to Alan and Hans for always being there with smiles on their face and an infectious attitude that makes it a treat for our city’s sports fans to interact with you.