By IAN WILSON
Bob Elliott has released his list of the most influential Canadians in baseball.
The Hall-of-Fame journalist’s list of 110 influencers from 2022 – topped by Rob Thomson, the manager of the Philadelphia Phillies; Alex Anthopoulos, the president and general manager of the Atlanta Braves; and Jordan Romano, the closer for the Toronto Blue Jays – includes a number of links to Alberta.
Here’s a look at some of Alberta’s connections to the Canadian Baseball Network list:
6. FERGUSON JENKINS
The Cy Young-winning pitcher and Hall of Famer hails from Chatham, Ontario, but during his time as the commissioner of the short-lived Canadian Baseball League (CBL), Jenkins ventured to Western Canada. The former Chicago Cub appeared at the debut of the Calgary Outlaws at Burns Stadium in May of 2003 and threw out the ceremonial first pitch. More recently, he was the subject of Glory and Grief: The Ferguson Jenkins Story, an Emmy Award-winning documentary that was shown at the Calgary Underground Film Festival in 2021.
12. PAT GILLICK
Gillick, a minority owner of the Philadelphia Phillies, moves from the 13th spot the previous year to No. 12. The member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame pitched in Alberta in the late 1950s, taking the mound for the Vulcan Elks, Granum White Sox and Edmonton Eskimos. Gillick threw a no-hitter at a tournament in Medicine Hat and struck out 17 batters during a game in Calgary.
15. JOHN IRCANDIA
Ircandia also moved up on the list, climbing from No. 16 to the 15th spot. The managing director of the Okotoks Dawgs received accolades for the outstanding year experienced by the Western Canadian Baseball League (WCBL) summer collegiate squad, as well as the success of Dawgs Academy graduates. From a well-hosted WCBL All-Star Game at Seaman Stadium, to a sixth championship season for the Dawgs, it was a year to remember in Okotoks.
26. BUD BLACK
The manager of the Colorado Rockies has family roots in Western Canada. Black’s father, Harry, was born in Calgary and raised in Edmonton, where he played junior hockey. His mother was born in Melville, Saskatchewan.
27. JUSTIN MORNEAU
The 2006 American League MVP and member of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame was a key part of the Edmonton Trappers during their 2002 postseason run that ended with a Pacific Coast League (PCL) championship for the provincial capital. Morneau went from playing Double-A ball to the Triple-A level that year and batted .400 in five playoff games. The New Westminster, B.C. native now works as a special assistant with the Minnesota Twins and as a broadcaster.
28. CHRIS KEMLO
The 2022 Canadian Baseball Network Scout of the Year has had a hand in getting a number of Canucks into Major League Baseball (MLB) organizations. Kemlo, a scout with the San Diego Padres, put Garrett Hawkins, a Vauxhall Academy graduate, on San Diego’s radar. Hawkins was a ninth-round selection of the Padres in the 2021 MLB Draft.
37. DOUG MATHIESON
As the general manager of the Langley Blaze and a scout with the Milwaukee Brewers, Mathieson has worked with a number of talented baseball players over the years. A long list of Albertans have worn the Blaze uniform, including Mike Soroka, Adam Macko, Matt Lloyd, Clayton Keyes and Shane Dawson.
41. STUBBY CLAPP
The final stop of Clapp’s pro playing career came with the Edmonton Cracker-Cats in 2005 and 2006, where the middle infielder served as the club’s hitting coach in his last year. The coaching bug took hold for the Windsor, Ontario product, who won back-to-back PCL titles as the manager of the Memphis Redbirds before joining the St. Louis Cardinals as the first base coach in 2019.
42. RYAN DEMPSTER
The British Columbian works for the Chicago Cubs and as the host of Off the Mound with Ryan Dempster. Prior to that, he was a veteran of 16 MLB seasons, a pitching career that was helped along by a brief stint with the Calgary Cannons in 1999. Dempster is a member of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.
50. JASON DICKSON
The president and CEO of Baseball Canada not only oversees the operations of the national team programs in this country, but he also had a lengthy professional baseball career. A sixth-round pick of the California Angels in 1994, the London, Ontario native spent 10 seasons in pro baseball, including two games for the Edmonton Trappers in 2000, where he went 0-2 with a 10.13 earned-run average.
51. CHRIS REITSMA
The Minnesota-born and Calgary-raised pitcher spent seven seasons with the Cincinnati Reds, Atlanta Braves and Seattle Mariners from 2001 through 2007. These days, Reitsma is a part-time scout and a coach with Webber Academy in the community of Springbank, just west of Calgary.
54. MATT STAIRS
One of the best pinch hitters in MLB history, Stairs remains involved in baseball. The former Edmonton Trapper slugger was a special guest at the WCBL All-Star Game in Okotoks in 2022, where he worked with a number of the circuit’s best hitters and signed autographs for fans in attendance. The New Brunswick product is also a technical director with Fredericton Minor Baseball.
56. ALLAN SIMPSON
The highly decorated baseball writer who founded Baseball America is a member of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and is part of the selection committee. A public accountant and baseball junkie early in his career, Simpson was briefly the general manager of the Lethbridge Expos in the Pioneer League.
60. JAMIE CAMPBELL
The popular Sportsnet broadcaster was diagnosed with leukemia in 2022, but that didn’t prevent him from hosting Blue Jays Central. Campbell was a sports anchor for CBC Edmonton, where he covered the Edmonton Trappers, in the 1990s. He was named the winner of the President’s Award by Sports Media Canada last year.
65. VINCENT IRCANDIA
An original member of the Okotoks Dawgs Academy, dating back to its initial days in Calgary, Ircandia went on to create StellarAlgo, a leading data solutions provider for the sports and entertainment industries. The CEO of the company now has a stable of clients that includes the New York Yankees, Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Vikings, the National Hockey League (NHL) and the U.S. Open Grand Slam tennis tour. StellarAlgo recently entered into a partnership with the National Basketball Association (NBA), as well.
73. LES McTAVISH
The Vauxhall Academy head coach, who also scouts for the Phillies, is starting to see an impressive emergence from his graduates, including the onset of professional careers for lefty pitcher Adam Macko, slugger Damiano Palmegiani, hurler Garrett Hawkins and infielder Ty Penner. His ranking jumped from 82nd the previous year to 73rd for 2022.
75. KEVIN GLEW
He really is a Glew guy. If there’s some sort of development involving baseball in Canada, odds are Kevin Glew has written about it. The journalist is a frequent contributor to the Canadian Baseball Network, he runs his own Cooperstowners in Canada website, and he offers a weekly column entitled But What Do I Know? Glew, who also shares stories through Alberta Dugout Stories, visited Okotoks last year and provided excellent coverage of the WCBL All-Star Game. He received Baseball Canada’s media award in 2022.
86. STU SCHEURWATER
The MLB umpire from Regina, Saskatchewan got the nod for the Braves-Phillies National League (NL) Division series last postseason and worked behind home plate in Game 4 of the matchup. Scheurwater called balls and strikes in Alberta and Saskatchewan in the Western Major Baseball League (the predecessor of the WCBL) prior to advancing to the major leagues.
91. JAKE LANFERMAN
The head coach of the Edmonton Riverhawks grew up playing in the Sherwood Park Minor Baseball program. As an assistant coach under Kelly Stinnett in the Riverhawks’ inaugural season in the West Coast League, he helped guide the team to a 26-28 record. Lanferman also served as head coach of the Canadian College Baseball Conference’s Edmonton Collegiate Hawks, who sported a record of 11-19 last spring.
97. MICHAEL BONANNO
An agent with Ballplayers Agency, Bonanno has a number of Alberta clients. One player of note from this province is southpaw pitcher Erik Sabrowski.
99. SCOTT MITCHELL
Mitchell writes about the Blue Jays for TSN and appears as an on-air personality for the network. He spent five years covering football for the Calgary Sun prior to his departure for TSN.
106. ARASH MADANI
The Sportsnet reporter has become a staple of the sports media surrounding the Toronto Blue Jays. In his travels, he also worked in Cowtown, where the Calgary Flames were one of the clubs he was tasked with doing stories about.
109. SAMMIE STARR
An assistant coach with the University of British Columbia (UBC) Thunderbirds, Starr is a familiar face in Alberta baseball circles. He was a shortstop with the Okotoks Dawgs in 2009 and later ascended the minor-league ranks to the Triple-A level in the Baltimore Orioles system. With UBC, Starr has worked with several Alberta athletes, including Ty Penner, of Lethbridge, and Red Deer’s Branden Woods.
Elliott’s honourable mentions are always filled with names from Alberta. Stay tuned to the Canadian Baseball Network for more information on that list.