This article was originally published on the Toronto Star website.
Ernie Whitt says he “still gets chills” when he thinks back to 2011 when Canada upset the U.S. to win its first baseball gold at the Pan Am Games in Guadalajara, Mexico.
“For so many years it seemed like we’d always come behind Cuba or the United States,” said the former Blue Jays catcher and longtime manager of Canada’s national team. “In 2011 we were able to put everything together. The breaks fell our way and the kids, they played hard as they always do.”
Back as Canada’s manager once again, Whitt is looking forward to defending the Pan Am title on home soil this summer with the benefit of a supportive crowd. “I’m hoping it’ll be electric,” he said.
The 2015 Pan Am Games’ organizing committee released its full baseball schedule on Monday, which has Canada beginning its title defence on July 11 against the Dominican Republic. The seven-team, round-robin tournament will be played in Ajax at the newly upgraded Pan Am Ballpark and will feature Colombia, Nicaragua, Cuba, Puerto Rico and the U.S., as well as Canada and the Dominican. Among participating countries, Canada is ranked fourth by the International Baseball Federation, behind the U.S., Cuba and the Dominican.
With Major League Baseball still in full swing the tournament is not a best-on-best competition, but all minor-league players not on their major-league team’s 40-man roster are eligible to participate. Rosters will be announced in mid-June.
Despite finishing third in Guadalajara, Cuba is regarded as the Pan Am powerhouse, having won gold in 10 straight tournaments before Canada’s 2011 upset. But Whitt — whose coaching staff will include Larry Walker, Denis Boucher, Paul Quantrill, Stubby Clapp and Greg Hamilton — cautioned against counting the home side out. “A lot of people overlooked us because they think Canada is a country of hockey players,” he said. “But we’ve got an awful lot of good baseball players in this country, too. We may not have the pool to draw from as the United States or the Dominican, the players we do have, they come together, they gel, when they put on that Canadian uniform, there’s no stopping them.”
This year also marks the debut of women’s baseball at the Pan Am Games with a five-team tournament. Canada, which finished fourth at the World Cup in Japan last September, will open their schedule July 20 in Cuba, before taking on Venezuela, Puerto Rico and the U.S.
Canada’s men’s baseball schedule:
Saturday, July 11 vs Dominican Republic at 7 p.m.
Sunday, July 12 vs. Colombia at 3:30 p.m.
Monday, July 13 vs. Nicaragua at 7 p.m.
Tuesday, July 14 vs. Cuba at 7 p.m.
Thursday, July 16 vs. Puerto Rico at 7 p.m.
Friday, July 17 vs. USA at 7 p.m.
*The semifinal will be played July 18, followed by gold and bronze medal games on July 19.
Canada’s women’s baseball schedule:
Monday, July 20 vs. Cuba at 7 p.m.
Tuesday, July 21 vs. Venezuela at 7 p.m.
Wednesday, July 22 vs. Puerto Rico at 3 p.m.
Friday, July 24 vs. USA at 7 p.m.
*The women’s semifinal will be played July 25, followed by the gold-medal game on July 26
For a full schedule and ticket info, visit: http://www.toronto2015.org/0/baseball-schedule