Stern receives a Clapp

BOB ELLIOTT

, Last Updated: 8:09 AM ET

Adam Stern first heard the name Stubby Clapp when Stern was playing for the Nebraska Cornhuskers in 1999.

Clapp knocked in the game-winning run for Team Canada in the bottom of the 11th for a 7-6 win over Team USA at Winnipeg in the Pan-Am Games.

"Gookie Dawkins, their shortstop, pulled up on the ball," said Stern, who watched the highlights on ESPN on a ball which should have been caught.

"I could have been on that team, but Ernie (Whitt, Team Canada manager) didn't want me," Stern said jokingly.

SMALLER THAN EXPECTED

When Stern was at the Big 12 Tournament he saw Clapp, a Memphis Redbird, up close for the first time.

"He was smaller than I expected -- his name was larger than life," Stern said. "For a guy my size Stubby gave me hope. He was signing autographs and giving away bats to kids."

Clapp of Windsor is listed at 5-foot-8 and Stern of Port Stanley is 5-foot-11.

Stern, like Clapp before him, gave Canadians hope. Stern hit a run-scoring triple, a two-run single and an inside the park homer for four RBIs as Canada upset the USA 8-6 in the World Baseball Classic on March 8.

And at the fifth annual Baseball Canada fundraiser, Clapp presented Stern with the inaugural Stubby Clapp Award last night. The award goes to the player who shows desire, competitiveness and a never-say-die attitude.

"When they phoned to tell me, I said 'you mean you want me to present an award?' but they explained it," Clapp said. "It's quite an honour, much better than a signing bonus."

Clapp played 23 games in the majors with the 2001 St. Louis Cardinals. He's still the face of Team Canada.

He has company in Justin Morneau of New Westminster, B.C., the Minnesota Twins first baseman, voted the American League's most valuable player.

Morneau, a Team Canada grad, made $385,000 US in 2006 and will jump to the $2 million-$3 million range, unless he signs a long-term deal. The first baseman doesn't have to spend on cleaning help this off-season. Stern, his off-season roomie looks after the New West apartment.

"I keep things tidy, he autographs bats for me, it's a good deal," said Stern, a Baltimore Oriole.

Stern didn't meet Clapp until 2003 when Canada qualified for the Olympics in Panama.

"He was larger than life, getting key hits, doing back flips on the field," Stern said. "In baseball Stubby Clapp is known as much as Big Poppy, David Ortiz's nickname."

After being with the Boston Red Sox, Stern is looking for a steady job with the Orioles, who have Jay Payton, Corey Patterson and Nick Markakis in the outfield.

"Being dealt to Baltimore was a good move," Stern said. "For a young guy to break in with Boston was harder."

Besides Stern, special achievement awards went to Eric Gagne of the Texas Rangers and Morneau. Mike Saunders of Victoria, B.C., and Brett Lawrie of Langley, B.C., were the senior and junior national MVP awards respectively.

Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Russell Martin, born in East York, and Olympian Jason Dickson of Chatham, N.B., were presented alumni awards.

Terry Puhl and Whitt were given Team Canada recognition awards.

Jim Fanning of the Blue Jays presented a $20,000 cheque to Baseball Canada and Major League Baseball's Mike Port handed over $50,000 US.

BEST GAME

Yet the top honour was the inaugural Stubby Clapp award ... "and he's still alive to present it," one teammate said jokingly.

Stern looks forward to life with the Orioles but can he ever have a better game than that WBC contest in Phoenix?

"That was probably my best game ever," Stern said.

"The game meant so much, on that stage, against a team with all those Hall of Famers ... Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey and Roger Clemens."

It was a game of Clapp-like proportions.


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