An athletic therapist from Steinbach says getting another opportunity to work with Canada at the World Baseball Classic was a fantastic experience.
Dave Blatz was part of the team in Phoenix that finished with a record of two wins and two losses, failing to reach the knockout stage. Japan won this year's Classic by a score of 3-2 over the United States.
Blatz says what made this year's event so special for him, was that he was able to have his family there with him. He notes Baseball Canada does a great job of striving to get families involved.
"They want family to be there," he says. "Baseball Canada is family."
Blatz says he was able to bring his family into the dugout and clubhouse, introducing them to Canadian baseball icons like Freddie Freeman, Larry Walker and Russell Martin.
"Having my wife and the kids there was absolutely the best thing ever," he adds.
Even though Canada did not advance to the quarterfinals, Blatz says the future looks bright. He says it was "awesome" to see some of the young talent mixed with veterans like Freeman and Tyler O'Neil.
"We picked up a lot of things and I think in three years we're going to see this team mature and grow and we'll be really competitive in the world market at that point," adds Blatz, referring to the next World Baseball Classic in 2026.
Blatz says he arrived in Phoenix on March 6th, which marked his first time seeing Larry Walker since being inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Blatz says he may be a hall of famer, but he is still the same Larry.
"He hasn't changed one bit," says Blatz. "Guys love being around him and he gives all these little pieces of knowledge to the players, little things that they can take into the batting cage and things like that with them."
He notes it was also a special experience to work with Freddie Freeman, the MLB great, who honoured his mother's heritage by playing for Canada.
"Guys were just in awe of him, his worth ethic, his professionalism, his leadership, Freddie is a star," says Blatz. "He's a major league star and he brought that into the clubhouse, and he taught a lot of the young guys how to deal with different situations."
Meanwhile, Blatz says the game of baseball is always strongest in Canada when the Toronto Blue Jays are having success. Similar to how soccer takes off when Canada plays in the World Cup, or how basketball became more popular after the Toronto Raptors won the NBA title, Blatz says as the Jays go, so too does baseball development in our country. And, with the start of the MLB season now less than a week away, Canadian fans do not have to wait much longer to find out how good this year's team might be.
With files from Dave Anthony