Too often in Canada, baseball gets a bad rap for being a boring game. On the one hand, given hockey’s lofty place in our national imagination and the fact our official national game sport is lacrosse, a critique involving the slow pace of a baseball game is not particularly surprising. On the other hand, curling. But given baseball’s moniker of “America’s game” and Canada’s official slogan: “We’re not America”, instinct would tell us that baseball has been in an uphill battle to remain relevant in Canada since the beginning.
Still, baseball remains very popular throughout the country. You can’t whip a baseball down Robson street without hitting somebody sporting a Blue Jays cap. Further, take a look at any Vancouver park on a sunny summer evening and you will doubtless see youngsters tracking down fly balls and three-quarter length sleeved twenty-to-thirty-somethings engaged in baseball’s drunken cousin, beer-league softball.
Yet Canada currently boasts only one Major League Baseball (MLB) franchise, the Toronto Blue Jays, a team that won back-to-back World Series in the early 90s. The only other Canadian MLB team to date, the Montreal Expos, packed up and moved to Washington, D.C. in 2004, a decade after the ghosts of Montreal’s Olympic Stadium induced owner Claude Brochu to hack up the 1994 Expos. That 1994 team had the best record in baseball until a strike derailed the entire season, thus sabotaging the Expos’ best chance at a World Series title.
As far as MLB-affiliated teams are concerned, Canada has had a long and rich history. Throughout the years, players such as Jason Giambi, Nick Swisher and Jackie Robinson have fought their way to the Bigs through Edmonton, Vancouver and Montreal, respectively. Today, however, Canada has only one MLB-affiliated minor league team: the Vancouver Canadians.
In preparation of the Canadians’ home opener on June 17, I hope you’ll join me in the coming weeks as I briefly examine the history of Major League affiliated professional baseball in Canada, the history of the Vancouver Canadians franchise, and take a closer look at the 2013 Vancouver Canadians squad. But first, this handy how-to guide to enjoying live baseball.
Written by Todd Fanter, contributor to Vancity Buzz. Connect with Todd on Twitter at @toddfanter.
Image: The Library of Congress