By IAN WILSON
Baseball Canada has announced its roster for the upcoming Pan Am Games Qualifier and the squad has received an injection of Alberta talent.
The 24 players and the coaching staff selected for the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) round-robin tournament in Buenos Aires, Argentina from June 16-21 includes a number of prominent former Okotoks Dawgs hitters and Alberta-trained pitchers.
Mike Johnson, who was recently inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame, is on the Canadian coaching staff. The former draft pick of the Toronto Blue Jays was born and raised in the Edmonton area and pitched for the Baltimore Orioles and Montreal Expos. His career included stops with the Medicine Hat Blue Jays, Edmonton Trappers and Edmonton Capitals. Johnson represented Team Canada at the Olympics in 2004 and 2008 and won a Pan Am gold medal in 2011.
Alongside Johnson and Manager Ernie Whitt will be Dustin Molleken, another former pitcher with the national team. Molleken – who attended Lethbridge Community College before he broke through in Major League Baseball (MLB) with the Detroit Tigers – played for Prairie Baseball Academy and later worked as a coach with the southern Alberta program. This year, he served as a pitching consultant with the Moose Jaw Miller Express of the Western Canadian Baseball League (WCBL).
Jordan Procyshen will suit up behind the plate after serving as Canada’s bullpen catcher at the 2023 Word Baseball Classic (WBC). The Calgarian, who played for Dawgs Academy and the Okotoks Dawgs in the WCBL, has climbed the minor-league ranks over a nine-year professional career. The 30-year-old has split this season between the Double-A Frisco RoughRiders and Triple-A Round Rock Express, hitting a combined .360 in nine games.
A pair of current American Association players from Alberta are also on Team Canada’s roster.
Third baseman Matt Lloyd, who was the 2017 WCBL Canadian Rookie of the Year as a two-way player with the Okotoks Dawgs, has been tearing up the independent pro league. Through 23 games with the Sioux City Explorers, the former Baseball Canada Junior National Team member is batting .349 with seven homers, 25 RBI and 24 runs.
Lethbridge pitcher Landen Bourassa, meanwhile, has been pitching in the American Association for the Winnipeg Goldeyes since 2021. In that time, the 6-foot-4 righthander appeared in 30 regular season and playoff games for the club, going 12-7 with a 3.74 ERA and 105 strikeouts through 163.2 innings. Bourassa was excellent as a member of the Lethbridge Bulls in 2017 – he went 4-1 with a 2.13 ERA and 45 Ks in 38 frames.
Bourassa, who is representing Canada for the first time, joins a pitching staff that includes another prominent WCBL alumnus. Southpaw Andrew Albers was a Rookie of the Year as a member of the Saskatoon Yellow Jackets in 2004, when the circuit was called the Western Major Baseball League (WMBL). Albers has a distinguished international and MLB career. He pitched at the 2023 WBC and with five different American League clubs in the majors.
Current fans of the Okotoks Dawgs will recognize the addition of Elijha Hammill to Team Canada. The Oakville, Ontario product has been playing out of Seaman Stadium this summer. Through seven contests, the outfielder is batting .360 with eight runs batted in.
Before departing for Argentina, Canada will host a training camp in Dunedin, Florida from June 10-13. Their first action in Buenos Aires will take place against Panama on June 16th.
Canada and Panama join Argentina, Peru and Honduras in the five-team tournament, with the winner claiming a spot in the 2023 Pan Am Games in Santiago, Chile from Oct. 21-27.