Bay, Dempster, Thomson and Ash inducted into Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame
St. Marys, Ont. – The four members of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s 2019 induction class own a combined eight World Series rings, five all-star selections and four Tip O’Neill awards, and together would’ve formed a strong foundation for a professional baseball team.
Former slugger Jason Bay (Trail, B.C.), versatile ex-pitcher Ryan Dempster (Sechelt, B.C.), esteemed coach Rob Thomson (Sarnia, Ont.) and long-time executive Gord Ash (Toronto, Ont.) will be inducted into the Canadian ball shrine in a ceremony to take place on June 15 at the Hall of Fame grounds in St. Marys, Ont.
Sportsnet baseball analyst Jeff Blair will also be presented with the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s 2018 Jack Graney Award. The Hall presents this award annually to a member of the media who has made significant contributions to baseball in Canada through their life’s work.
“Each of this year’s honourees is a proud Canadian that has had a tremendous impact on baseball in this country,” said Scott Crawford, the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s director of operations. “Jason Bay and Ryan Dempster were major league all-stars and are two of the most successful Canadian players of all-time, while Rob Thomson and Gord Ash have seven World Series rings between them and are highly respected in the professional baseball community.” We’re also excited to honour Jeff Blair who is one of our country’s most respected and authoritative baseball analysts and writers”
The induction ceremony will be part of a series of activities that will also include a meet-and-greet with the inductees and other special guests called “The Opening Pitch” in Toronto (June 13) and the Hall’s 23rd annual celebrity golf tournament and banquet (June 14). A complete agenda for the three days of activities accompanies this release.
Born in Trail, B.C. in 1978, Jason Bay played for his hometown squad in the 1990 Little League World Series. A standout athlete in high school, the right-handed hitting outfielder graduated to play two years at Gonzaga University where he earned first-team All-West Coast Conference honours in his junior and senior seasons. His strong collegiate performance convinced the Montreal Expos to select him in the 22nd round of the 2000 MLB draft.
Following two seasons in the Expos organization, he was dealt to the New York Mets and then to the San Diego Padres in just over a four-month span in 2002. After making his big league debut with the Padres in 2003, Bay was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates, and it was in Steeltown that he’d become a star. He assumed starting left field duties for the club on May 7, 2004 and never looked back, hitting .282 and belting 26 home runs in 120 games that season to become the first – and still only – Canadian to win the National League Rookie of the Year Award.
Bay continued to excel for the Pirates over the next four seasons, registering back-to-back 30-home run, 100-RBI campaigns in 2005 and 2006 and earning all-star honours in each of those years. But his game was more than just power, the athletic Canadian swiped 21 bases in 22 attempts in 2005 to lead the National League in stolen base percentage (95.46%). He was also a solid defender, twice finishing second among NL left-fielders in assists (2006, 2007).
After socking 22 home runs in 106 contests to begin the 2008 campaign, he was dealt to the Boston Red Sox at the July 31 trade deadline. In Beantown, he continued to be a power threat, belting nine home runs down the stretch to help the Red Sox to a playoff berth. In the American League Division Series against the Los Angeles Angels, he batted a team-best .412 (7-for-17) to help his club advance to the American League Championship Series. Bay returned to Fenway the next season to club a career-best 36 home runs and register 119 RBI. In the field, he topped AL left fielders in assists (15) and posted a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage. For his efforts, he earned his third all-star nod, a Silver Slugger Award and a seventh-place finish in the MVP voting.
Following that season, he signed a four-year deal with the New York Mets and he would finish his 11-year major league career with the Seattle Mariners in 2013.
Bay ranks in the top 10 in most of the all-time offensive statistical categories among Canadian major leaguers, including fifth in home runs (222), sixth in slugging percentage (.481), on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) (.841), walks (636) and seventh in doubles (240) and RBI (754). His 1,200 hits also make him one of only 13 Canadians to record 1,000 or more hits in the majors.
Over the course of his career, Bay was named the winner of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s Tip O’Neill Award, as top Canadian player, three times (2004, 2005, 2009) and suited up for the Canadian national team at the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classics, He was added to Baseball Canada’s Wall of Excellence in 2014.
“It was a very pleasant and somewhat unexpected surprise to get that call from the Canadian Hall of Fame,” said Bay. “I’m proud and honoured to be recognized with great people who have helped build baseball in Canada in various ways, to the elite level it has become. I’m looking forward to it!”
Born in 1977 in Sechelt, B.C., Ryan Dempster grew up in nearby Gibsons, B.C. The right-hander honed his skills in the North Shore Twins program before pitching for the Canadian Junior National Team in two World Youth Championship tournaments in 1993 and 1994.
His strong arm convinced the Texas Rangers to select him in the third round of the 1995 MLB draft, but after just over 14 months in the Rangers organization, he was dealt to the Florida Marlins in June 1996 as part of a package for right-hander John Burkett.
It was in Miami where his big league career would take off. Following parts of two seasons in the Marlins’ minor league system, he made his major league debut on May 23, 1998 and proceeded to toe the rubber for parts of five seasons with the Marlins. In 2000, he posted a 14-10 record and a 3.66 ERA in 226-1/3 innings in 33 starts and was selected to the National League All-Star team and named the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s Tip O’Neill Award winner. He collected 15 more wins the ensuing campaign before he was dealt to the Cincinnati Reds on July 11, 2002. He’d spend parts of two seasons with the Reds before he was signed by the Chicago Cubs in January 2004.
He’d enjoy his greatest big league success during his nine-year tenure with the Cubs. In his first four seasons at Wrigley, Dempster was employed as a reliever and from 2005 to 2007 he registered 33, 24 and 28 saves respectively. The Cubs converted him into a starter in 2008 and he rewarded them by delivering his best major league season, going 17-6 with a 2.96 ERA in 206-2/3 innings in 33 starts. For his efforts, he was named to his second National League All-Star team and finished sixth in the NL Cy Young voting.
He followed that up with three more campaigns in which he logged at least 200 innings for the Cubs before he was dealt back to the Rangers at the 2012 trade deadline. He capped off his major league career by winning a World Series ring with the Red Sox in 2013.
Dempster finished his 16-year major league career near the top of most all-time Canadian pitching categories, including second in wins (132), strikeouts (2,075), starts (351) and innings pitched (2,387). He also ranks fourth in games (579), saves (87) and WAR (22.5).
On top of his tenure with the Junior National Team, Dempster also toed the rubber for Canada at the 2017 World Baseball Classic. His name was added to Baseball Canada’s Wall of Excellence in 2013.
Dempster is currently an analyst with the MLB Network and an assistant to Cubs’ president Theo Epstein. During his career, Dempster was known for his charitable endeavors, particularly for raising awareness for 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome (DiGeorge Syndrome) that his daughter, Riley, suffers from. He formed The Dempster Family Foundation to improve the quality of life for the growing community of those affected by this syndrome.
“It’s always nice when your contributions to the game of baseball are appreciated. But when I got the call from the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame about my induction I was truly humbled! I am proud and honoured to be joining so many great baseball people in the Hall this summer in St Marys,” said Dempster.
Born in 1963 in Sarnia, Ont., Rob Thomson grew up in nearby Corunna. A standout player for the Intercounty League’s Stratford Hillers in the early ’80s, Thomson was recruited by Dick Groch, later a famous New York Yankees scout, to play for St. Clair Community College. The young Canadian suited up there for one year before transferring to the University of Kansas.
In 1984, Thomson was part of the Canadian squad that competed in the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles when baseball was a demonstration sport. The following year, he was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the 32nd round of MLB draft.
The Canuck catcher/third baseman would advance as high as the class-A level before shifting his focus to coaching in 1988. He served as a minor league coach in the Tigers system for two seasons before joining the New York Yankees in 1990. Over the next 28 seasons, the hard-working Canadian evolved into one of the most respected coaches in the professional ranks. After serving in several capacities in the Bombers’ organization, including minor league coach, manager, field coordinator and director of player development, he joined the Yankees’ big league staff as a special assignment instructor in 2004.
Four years later, he was hired as Yankees bench coach and that season, he managed three games in Joe Girardi’s absence to become the first Canadian to manage a major league contest since George Gibson with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1934. From 2009 to 2014, Thomson was the Yankees’ third base coach, and he played an important role on the Bombers’ 2009 World-Series-winning club. He returned to the bench coach role in 2015 and worked in that capacity through 2017. Thomson had also organized spring training for the Yankees since 1998 and secured five World Series rings during his lengthy tenure with the franchise.
In December 2017, Thomson was hired by the Philadelphia Phillies to be their bench coach and he is now in his second season in that role.
“I am humbled and honoured to be inducted into Canada’s Baseball Hall of Fame!” said Thomson. “Growing up in Corunna Ontario, I would have never dreamt that such an honour would be bestowed onto me. Congratulations to Gord, Ryan and Jason! My Canadian pride will be shining at its brightest as I get inducted on the same day with three fellow Canadians who have achieved so many fantastic things in our great sport. I look forward to June 15th to not only share the day with Gord, Ryan and Jason but also with my family and many people that have touched my life and continue to do so!”
Born in 1951 in Toronto, Ont., Gord Ash began his career with the Toronto Blue Jays working in the ticket office in 1977. He would serve in several positions as he rose through the organization’s ranks, including assistant director of operations from 1980 to 1983 and player personnel administrator from 1984 to 1988, before he was promoted to assistant general manager in 1989.
In his five years as assistant GM with the club, Ash performed much of the behind-the-scenes work on player contracts, including working on those for key free agent signings like Dave Winfield, Jack Morris, Paul Molitor and Dave Stewart who helped the club secure back-to-back World Series titles in 1992 and 1993. When legendary Blue Jays general manager and Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Pat Gillick departed following the 1994 season, Ash was named his successor, which made him just the fourth Canadian to be a GM in the major leagues.
During Ash’s seven-year reign as general manager, the Blue Jays drafted future stars Roy Halladay (1995), Vernon Wells (1997), Michael Young (1997), Orlando Hudson (1997) and Alex Rios (1999). His finest season as GM came in 1998 when the team finished 88-74 and if the current post-season format had been in place, the club would’ve claimed the second wild-card spot in the American League.
After he was relieved of his duties as GM for the Blue Jays following the 2001 season, Ash worked as a baseball analyst for TSN before he was hired to be the assistant general manager of the Milwaukee Brewers under fellow Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Doug Melvin (Chatham, Ont.). Ash served in that role for 12 seasons and helped build the roster of the 2008 Brewers that advanced to the post-season, ending the club’s 26-year playoff drought. He also assisted in constructing the 2011 Brewers club that finished with a franchise record 96 wins and won the National League Central Division title. Since 2015, Ash has worked as the vice-president of Baseball Projects for the Brewers.
In all, Ash has spent more than 40 years in professional baseball. During that time, he has also served as a respected voice on several important MLB committees, including those that have helped shape the collective bargaining process and minor league facility standards. He is one of just six Canadians to serve as a big league general manager. The others are George Selkirk (Huntsville, Ont.), Murray Cook (Sackville, N.B.), Doug Melvin (Chatham, Ont.), Alex Anthopoulos (Montreal, Que.) and Farhan Zaidi (Sudbury, Ont.).
Ash is involved with the Special Olympics Canada Foundation and donates annually to various charities in Ontario and Wisconsin.
“I am a lucky man!” said Ash after being told he was being inducted. “When Scott Crawford called to let me know I had been selected for induction into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame I was overwhelmed with emotion. So many baseball memories flashed vividly through my mind, including the people I have met and worked with, the places the game has taken me and the experiences I have had the good fortune to enjoy all came back to life. Baseball was not a career for me but for parts of five decades and over 40 years and it was rather a way of life and I enjoyed every minute. I am humbled and honoured with this opportunity to be included with a group of legends of baseball in Canada and I look forward to induction weekend. Special thanks to the selection committee and congratulations to the other 2019 inductees.”
Jeff Blair – 2018 Jack Graney Award recipient
Born in Kingston, Ont., Jeff Blair grew up in Morden, Man., and attended the University of Manitoba where he started his career in sports journalism when he became sports editor of the school’s newspaper.
After he graduated, he worked for the Winnipeg Free Press for five years, followed by two years with the Calgary Herald. In 1987, he joined the Montreal Gazette, where, for over the next decade, one of his primary assignments was covering the Montreal Expos. After 10 years in Montreal, Blair was hired by The Globe and Mail where he would write about baseball and the Toronto Blue Jays for more than a decade prior to joining Sportsnet in 2010.
While with Sportsnet, he has evolved into one of the network’s most recognizable personalities. He hosts the popular weekday morning program, The Jeff Blair Show, on Sportsnet 590 The FAN and also serves as Sportsnet’s leading baseball analyst. He is also the co-host of Baseball Central alongside Kevin Barker and is a regular contributor to Blue Jays Central.
Despite his busy schedule, he also found time to author Full Count: Four Decades of Blue Jays Baseball, an extensive book about the history of the Blue Jays that was published in 2013.
In all, Blair has spent close to four decades in sports journalism and he has also covered multiple Olympics, World Series and Stanley Cup finals.
“It’s an honour to be part of a group of people I’ve watched, listened to, and read for a long time – people who have taught me what I know about the sport I love in the country I love,” said Blair when informed he’d be receiving the award. “We’re a small community who have shared planes, press boxes and, yes, sometimes grudges. But we’re all proud of our sport, and proud to be in the company of Jack Graney. Thanks to the selection committee and board of directors for considering me worthy of this honour.”
Agenda of 2019 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Events
*All times in Eastern Standard Time (E.T.)
Thursday, June 13
Event: The Opening Pitch at Left Field Brewery in Toronto, which will feature a meet and greet with the 2019 inductees, plus Fergie Jenkins, Paul Beeston, Don McDougall, Murray Cook, Hazel Mae and Jeff Blair. Food will be provided by Sportsnet Grill. The new Left Field Brewery Beachville Cream Ale will be unveiled with part of the sale proceeds being donated to the Hall of Fame.
Time: 6:00 to 9:00 pm
Cost: Event is SOLD OUT.
Friday, June 14
Event: 23rd Annual Celebrity Golf Classic and Banquet
Time: Registration at 10 a.m., Tee-off at 11 a.m., Dinner/banquet starts at 5:00 p.m., Program and awards will immediately follow the dinner.
Location: St. Marys Golf and Country Club, 769 Queen Street East, St. Marys, Ont. Banquet will be held on Hall of Fame grounds, 386 Church Street South.
Cost: $1,500 per foursome or $300 per individual player. You can also purchase tickets to the banquet only for $80 each. Doors open for the banquet at 5:00 p.m. To register for the golf tournament or purchase tickets to the banquet, please call (519) 284-1838 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
The registration fee includes 18 holes of golf, a continental breakfast, lunch, a dinner banquet, hole sponsorship, a gift bag and the opportunity to golf with a celebrity. Individuals (who pay $300) will enjoy the same perks, with the exception of the hole sponsorship. If you cannot make the tournament but wish to register your company as a hole sponsor for $350, please let us know.
Celebrities for this event will include: 2019 inductees: Jason Bay, Ryan Dempster, Rob Thomson and Gord Ash; plus Canadian Baseball Hall of Famers: Fergie Jenkins, Steve Rogers, Allan Simpson, Murray Cook, Bill Humber, Ray Carter, Doug Melvin, Jeff Francis, Tim Leiper, Pete Orr and Chris Leroux. Former major leaguers Jesse Barfield, Duane Ward, Larry Landreth, Greg O’Halloran, Pierre-Luc LaForest, Jesse Litsch, Billy Atkinson and John Upham will also be in attendance, as will ex-NHLers Terry Crisp, Merlin Malinowski, Walter Tkaczuk and Mark Bell.
Saturday, June 15
Event: Induction Ceremony for Ryan Dempster, Jason Bay, Rob Thomson and Gord Ash. It will be emceed by Sportsnet’s Hazel Mae.
Induction Day Schedule:
9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. – Inductee press conference inside the museum (386 Church St. S.) (media only)
10 a.m. to 8 p.m. – Baseball games will be played on the Hall’s diamonds. (See schedule of specific games below)
11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. – Museum open to public for regular admission fees.
During the day, come out and meet the Toronto Blue Jays mascot ACE and the J Force squad.
1:00 pm to 3:00 p.m. – Induction Ceremony for 2019 inductees on the Hall of Fame grounds (386 Church St. S.)
3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. – Autograph session* (Please read rules below) with the 2019 inductees Ryan Dempster, Jason Bay, Rob Thomson and Gord Ash, plus Fergie Jenkins, Allan Simpson, Murray Cook, Bill Humber, Ray Carter, Doug Melvin, Steve Rogers, Pat Hentgen, Howard Starkman, Larry Landreth, Pierre-Luc LaForest, Billy Atkinson, Jesse Litsch, Jesse Barfield, Duane Ward and other special guests.
Cost for Autograph Session*(Please read rules below): Members should bring their membership card. Members $10 each to enter, non-members $20 each to enter the autograph session.
*Hall of Fame 2019 members will enter the autograph line first.
*Autograph session is 90 minutes long.
*Autographs are limited to one item per person per inductee/special guest.
*Autographs will be signed on a first-come first-serve basis.
*Hall of Fame staff reserve the right to cut the autograph line at any time.
*Autographs are not guaranteed.
*NO posed photos.
Induction Day Games Schedule – June 15
Cement Field – Ontario Nationals games 10 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 3 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
Rotary Field – Ontario Blue Jays 14U Feijo vs East York Bulldogs 14U at 10 a.m. and St. Marys Bantam games 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.
King Field – Kitchener Panthers 12U AA vs Brantford 12U (Minor Peewee) AA at 12pm and Ontario Blue Jays 14U Feijo vs East York Bulldogs 14U at 3 p.m.