The road to the 2013 World Baseball Classic will be a tough one for the Canadian men’s baseball team.
Canada, including outfielder Tyson Gillies of Kamloops, has to qualify for the main draw this time around. A 16-team qualifying round begins today with the top squad from each four-team pool locking up a spot in next year’s Classic.
The Canadian team was relegated after failing to record a victory at the 2009 WBC. Canada is to open the modified double-elimination qualifier today against Great Britain at the Armin-Wolf Baseball Arena in Regensburg.
The Czech Republic and host Germany round out the pool.
With the major-league season entering the stretch drive, the Canadian team is loaded with minor leaguers. It still is favoured to advance and should be a confident bunch with 14 players back from the squad that won gold at the 2011 Pan Am Games in Mexico.
“I like the unity that these players have,” manager Ernie Whitt said. “We have a style of play that we play the game hard, we play it with pride and passion and we play the game the way it’s supposed to be played.
“We will do whatever it takes to win a ball game.”
Whitt is joined by a veteran coaching staff that includes hitting coach Larry Walker, pitching coach Denis Boucher and coach/team director Greg Hamilton. The team was named earlier this month and the players held a short training camp in St. Petersburg, Fla., before flying to Germany on Monday.
Gillies, a centre fielder with great defensive skills, spent this season with the Class AA Reading, Pa., Phillies. The 23-year-old Gillies finished at .304, stroking 84 hits in 276 at-bats. That included 13 doubles, eight trips and four home runs. He scored 59 runs and drove in 24.