By Gregory Strong
THE CANADIAN PRESS
Cuba won 10 straight Pan Am gold medals before Canada ended the streak at the 2011 Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. Canada defeated the United States 2-1 in the championship game.
“I still think about it and I still get chills,” said Canada manager Ernie Whitt, who will handle skipper duties again this summer. “It was a great feeling. For so many years it seemed like we had always come behind Cuba or the United States. In 2011, we were able to put everything together. The breaks fell our way and the kids, they played hard as they always do.
“It was just a tremendous feeling to see it all come together.”
Canada, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and the U.S., will be joined by Colombia, Nicaragua and Puerto Rico in the seven-team round robin this year. The top four teams will advance to the semifinals July 18, a day before the medal games.
All Major League Baseball-affiliated players who aren’t protected on 40-man rosters will be eligible to play. Whitt said he expects to have the roster set by the second week of June.
“We’ll definitely try to get the best players that are available to us, but we definitely want some that have had international experience before,” Whitt said. “These tournaments (are) totally different from playing in a regular season. It’s almost a playoff atmosphere where every game is important.”
The team plans to hold a camp in Cary, N.C., and play three exhibition games there before heading north to Toronto.
“A lot of people overlook us because they think Canada is a country of hockey players, but we’ve got an awful lot of good baseball players in this country too,” Whitt said from Buffalo, N.Y., on a conference call. “We may not have the pool to draw from as the United States or the Dominican (Republic).
“But the players that we do have, they come together, they gel and when they put that Canadian uniform on (there’s) no stopping them.”
The former Toronto Blue Jays catcher said his coaching staff will include Larry Walker, Stubby Clapp, Denis Boucher, Paul Quantrill and Greg Hamilton.
Women’s baseball will make its Pan Am debut at the 2015 Games. Five teams will take part in the inaugural tournament _ Canada, the U.S., Venezuela, Cuba and Puerto Rico _ and all are ranked among the top 10 in the world.
The Canadian team finished fourth at the World Cup last September in Miyazaki, Japan.
“I’m looking forward to leading Team Canada into this historic women’s baseball tournament and it’s even more special because it’s here on home soil,” said Canadian manager Andre Lachance. “Every game will be tough, but we’re hoping to come out on top.”
Canada will open July 20 against Cuba. The gold-medal game is set for July 26 on the final day of the Games.
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