Walker, Whitt headed to St. Marys

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:33 AM ET

The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame will be inducting the greatest Canadian position player to ever play the game.

Larry Walker of Maple Ridge, B.C., whose long list of accomplishments includes three batting titles and a National League most valuable player award, will join former Toronto Blue Jay Ernie Whitt, Bernie Soulliere and the late Roy (Doc) Miller as the 2009 inductees.

The announcement was made yesterday by Tom Valcke, president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in St. Marys.

Walker was asked about being referred to as the best Canadian baseball player ever.

"It's humbling. But if I am, it's not going to last for much longer," Walker said. "The crop of talent that's coming up behind me. What Matt Stairs, Jason Bay, especially Justin Morneau . . . these guys are going to surpass anything I have done."

Walker is a five-time all-star and 1997 National League MVP.

Whitt played 1,218 games for the Blue Jays.

Soulliere, from Windsor, is a grassroots baseball guy, working amateur baseball for more than 40 years.

The three soon-to-be Hall of Famers have more in common than just an induction. All three will be in Canada's dugout in the upcoming World Baseball Classic.

Miller is another in the long list of Chatham natives who have made an impact in baseball.

Walker could have become a hockey goaltender, but his desire to play hockey ended when he didn't make the Regina Pats.

"They wanted me to play with their junior B team in Swift Current and I went to the town and said, 'No, thank you.' I didn't even go to the ice rink, didn't know anything about it. Something about the town didn't interest me."

So he returned to British Columbia and played fastball on a team with his three brothers and father.

By 1984 he was playing for Canada in the world youth championship and eventually signed with the Montreal Expos organization for $1,500.

Walker was a rarity in the late '80s, a Canadian who had great impact in the major leagues. He played 17 seasons, most of them in Montreal and Colorado.

Now the number of impact Canadians in the major leagues is far greater.

"The coaching is far better now," Whitt said and is a big fan of the way Canadians play the game. "It's the way I always wanted to play the game, the way I thought the game should be played and that's with pride and passion. It's amazing, since 1999 I've been involved with Canada's national team. It's very easy for me to manage. You put the lineup out there and watch the kids play. You don't have to say much to them because they play the game the right way."

When discussions come up about playing the game the right way, it's impossible to ignore the issue of steroids. The issue has dominated baseball headlines the last three years and has exploded yet again with Alex Rodriguez' admission he used them.

"You hate to see it," Walker said. You don't want it to happen. But having played the game you understand why it happens. You see so many guys at the same level as you, or maybe higher, and you want to get yourself up to that level. You try and do things that ultimately you regret. You don't know what you're getting yourself into and it comes back to bite you in the ass and you don't know what to do about it."

Walker believes the admissions taint all players.

"We're all grouped into this thing by association now. There's no getting away from that," he said. "You say you're a baseball player especially if have decent numbers, and right away everybody's going to think you're tainted. I'm right in the middle of that. My MVP year in 97 was right when all this was going on. There's a black eye in the game and unfortunately that black eye is cast over every player as well."

The new members of the Hall of Fame will be inducted on June 20 in St. Marys. There may be another Hall of Fame in Walker's future. He becomes eligible for Cooperstown in 2011. He said it would be an honour just to make the ballot.

"I have said it would be really cool to get some votes. But I don't think I have a chance," Walker said. "Not putting up the numbers and playing where I played."

But he's thrilled about his induction in St. Marys.

"Being Canadian, anything that involves that word is very meaningful to me," Walker said. "It's where I grew up. It's what I am. Although I don't live there, my roots and heart and soul are Canada and it's a proud moment for me. I have the Maple Leaf in my blood."

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HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES

ERNIE WHITT

Played most of his career with the Toronto Blue Jays, playing 1,328 games; also played with Atlanta and Baltimore

Had 3,514 at bats with the Blue Jays, in the Blue Jays' top 10 in home runs, RBI, total bases, walks, and extra-base hits

Coached in the Blue Jays system

Team Canada field manager in 1999 at the Pan American games winning bronze medal finish

Managed in the Olympics and World Baseball Classic

BERNIE SOULLIERE

Won numerous awards, including the 1973 Man of the Year by the Montreal Chapter of Baseball Writers and President's Award from the International Baseball Federation in 1986; honoured by the USA Baseball Federation in 1994 for outstanding contribution to and support of amateur baseball

Sports chair of the Mic-Mac Club of Windsor since 1975 and the sports chair of the Greater Windsor Baseball Association selects program since 1984

LARRY WALKER

Played 1,988 games with Montreal Expos, Colorado Rockies, St. Louis Cardinals

Major league all-star in 1992, 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2001

National League MVP in 1997

Batted .366, with 208 hits including 46 doubles and a league-leading 49 home runs, 130 RBI, stealing 33 bases

Won three batting titles

Won seven Gold Glove Awards

ROY (DOC) MILLER

Played 557 games in the major leagues beginning 1910 with Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia and Cincinnati; 27th in games played by a Canadian

Spent seven years in the minor leagues with 352 games, 1,254 at-bats, 380 hits and a .303 batting average

His .295 career batting average is fourth all-time for Canadians


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