Major success

ADAM WAZNY

, Last Updated: 8:53 AM ET

The flip side to minor league baseball dying in this country is the fact there are more Canadians on the diamond across North America than ever before.

According to Baseball Canada, there were 11 Canucks playing in 2002. Five years later (as of June 25) that number has doubled to 22 -- suggesting the game, in terms of the on-field contribution, is doing just fine.

"Having a presence in terms of minor league teams would result in a spike in registration is terms of young kids wanting to play the game because there's an identity created," said Greg Hamilton, manager and director of the national program for Baseball Canada.

Though the minor league experience in drying up in Canada, Hamilton says children are still holding an interest in the game simply by watching a Justin Morneau or a Jeff Francis at home.

"What's really replaced it for a kid is every night he turns on the TV, he sees a Canadian superstar," Hamilton said. "It's not just one or two players anymore, like Larry Walker or Corey Koskie. Now it's like eight or nine guys -- having major impacts on games."

Reed Eastley, 23, plays for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers in the Midwest League (Single-A). The Brandon, Man., product echoes what Hamilton was saying.

"I followed Koskie in the papers, checking the boxscores everyday," said Eastley, who was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in 2005. "You hear that he didn't develop into a baseball player until later on, that he didn't really start excelling at the game until he was a lot older. That's an inspiration for me, maybe I'll grow into the player I think I can be. Guys like him, and Walker and Morneau...they show (kids) it's not an impossible thing."

CANADA'S PASTIME

As of June 25 2007...

- Canadians in MLB: 22

- Canadians in the affiliated minors: 61

- Canadians in the independentw minors: 46

- Canadians playing college ball: 682

Back in 2002...

- Canadians in MLB: 11

- Canadians in the affiliated minors: 102

- Canadians in the independent minors: 38

- Canadians playing college ball: 570


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