When he was a pup with the Minnesota Twins and a Team Canada stud, Justin Morneau always made the January trek from British Columbia to the Baseball Canada fund-raiser.
Now that he has been crowned American League most valuable player for 2006? Morneau hasn't changed. Morneau will make the trip from New Westminster, B.C. to headline the fifth annual fund-raiser at the Renaissance Hotel at Rogers Centre on Jan. 13.
With Team Canada advancing to the next round of qualifications for the 2008 Olympics, 23 Canadians appearing in the majors, the most since 1884, Canada's World Baseball Classic win over Team USA and Morneau's win over Derek Jeter, 2006 was a very good year for Baseball Canada.
Besides Morneau, also scheduled to attend to celebrate 2006 and talk about 2007 will be former Cy Young award winner Eric Gagne, now of the Texas Rangers; Russell Martin of the Los Angeles Dodgers; and Team Canada managers Ernie Whitt and Terry Puhl.
London's Adam Stern, of the Baltimore Orioles and a hero in the 8-6 win over Team USA, will be presented with the first Stubby Clapp award, while Mike Saunders of Victoria, B.C., gets the senior national team MVP award and Brett Lawrie, of Langley, B.C. the junior team honours. Saunders plays in the Seattle Mariners system, while Lawrie is expected to be the top Canuck drafted in 2008.
For further info and silent auction items, see the Baseball Canada website, which is www.baseball.ca
Former No. 1 picks Adam Loewen, of the Baltimore Orioles, Jeff Francis, of the Colorado Rockies and Scott Thorman, of the Atlanta Braves, also are scheduled to attend.
Uxbridge's Chris Begg was impressive while pitching for double-A Connecticut (Giants) in 2006 with a 3.10 earned run average. He finished with a 13-10 record, but had plenty of one-run losses early.
Begg, 27, fared better in the Venezuelan Winter League, starting off with an 0.95 ERA and a 4-0 record for Aguilas in his first six starts. He ended the regular season with a 4-1 mark and a 1.08 ERA. The righty walked nine and struck out 24 in 501/3 innings.
Free-agent outfielder Aaron Guiel, of Langley, B.C., turned down offers from major-league teams to sign a 2007 contract with the Yakult Swallows in Japan.
Guiel hit .242 with seven homers and 18 RBIs in 2006 splitting time between the Kansas City Royals (19 games) and the New York Yankees (44 games). After playing parts of five seasons in the majors, he will receive a $250,000 US signing bonus to go with his $650,000 contract and could earn $1.2 million in 2008. Guiel was so popular at triple-A Omaha that fans created a website (expage.com/aaronguiel) as a tribute.
The San Diego Padres signed righty Derek McDaid, of Barrie. McDaid was 9-3 with a 2.45 ERA for the North Carolina-Charlotte '49ers and pitched this summer for the Barrie Baycats of the Intercounty league.
NEW HANDS ON DECK
The Jays usually turn to the college ranks when drafting and they looked in the same direction for two of their three new scouting hires added yesterday:
Steve Miller, 36, of Derby, Kan., will cover the upper midwest region of the U.S., after three seasons as recruiting co-ordinator and assistant coach at Central Missouri State University. Before that he was an assistant at Kansas State and Nicholls State.
Carlos Rodriguez, 25, of San Juan, P.R., has been assigned the south Florida region after working for the Milwaukee Brewers as part of their advance scouting operations. For three years until 2005, he was an assistant at the University of North Florida.
Tim Rooney, 25, of Boston, will scout central California. Rooney had been looking after the Texas Rangers, minor league facility in Arizona. He also worked with the New Orleans Saints (2004-05) of the NFL.