All bow down to Justin James after his performance on CTV

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By: CJ Pentland, Vancouver Canadians

In case you missed it, Canadians RHP Justin James appeared on a CTV News on Sunday evening, taking part in a weekly segment called “Kelcey Versus the Pros.” The series involves CTV sports anchor Kelcey Brade taking on various athletes from the Vancouver professional sports teams, while that athlete then attempts to do his job of sportscaster during that week’s Sunday evening news (the first episode saw Brade take on BC Lions receiver Shawn Gore).

Aside from the basic structure, the segment was for the most part unscripted on the part of James, leaving him free to say as he pleased. And boy did he ever come up with some gems.

(Click here for the link to the video and go to 4:45 for the start of the segment)

James went with a serious demeanour throughout the entire process, and he played it to perfection. He delivered line after line of creative smack talk in his dead-panned voice, each time backing it up with a stellar performance. Not many people can get away with telling someone they look like a “third-grade girl who’s never been exposed to any form of organized softball,” especially when they are telling it to someone who’s holding a bat, but in the context of the segment, it played in perfectly.

For his first time reading the sports live on camera, James also did a solid job. He maintained a steady delivery, and included some fantastic ad-libbed moments during the Carly Rae Jepsen clip. His pitching skills still outweigh his journalistic skills at the moment — in addition to dominating Brade he’s also stymied the Northwest League, compiling a 1.74 ERA over 20.2 innings pitched — but the reliever who took broadcasting classes at Ave Maria University in Florida may have a back-up option in case the pitching thing doesn’t work out. Or he could either become a professional smack-talker.

Some other highlights:

  • James even managed to slip in a RHP Brandon Dorsett reference, continuing to help turn the reliever into a baseball legend. (If you’ve listened to the Vancouver Canadians pregame show on the TEAM 1040 then you’ll know more about this). But Dorsett inf-fact has been somewhat of a leader in the bullpen this year; he has a 1.59 ERA in 2013 over his 11.1 innings pitched.
  • It’s good to see that the fellow CTV broadcasters gave accurate scores when judging their performances. Although James was correct in not singing ‘Call Me Maybe’. This isn’t 2012 anymore.
  • Apparently James has golfed with Wayne Gretzky? He made nearly person in Canada with that statement.
  • James got what sounds like the entire newsroom to burst out laughing during his brilliant Carly Rae Jepsen bit. That’s no small feat.
  • Major props to Kelcey as well. He did a stellar job as a host of the light-hearted segment, showing the ability to laugh at himself without making it too silly, but also still showing that it’s about showcasing the sports.
  • This doesn’t really relate to the video, but further research shows that James had some “sick flow” back in the day. There are many hockey players who are jealous of a mop like that.

2013 Vancouver Canadians Opening Day Roster (July 29 Update)

VANCOUVER, B.C. – The Vancouver Canadians have unveiled their roster for the 2013 season, as they begin their quest for a third straight Northwest League Championship. Led by second-year manager Clayton McCullough, the C’s have nine players returning from the 2012 squad, including RHP Eric Brown, who pitched collegiately at the University of British Columbia.

Vancouver’s pitching staff features RHP Jeremy Gabryszwski, Toronto’s 2nd selection in 2011; RHP Brandon Dorsett, whose father Brian played eight MLB seasons; and RHP Marcus Brisker, a 6th round draft pick from 2008 who has transitioned from an outfielder to the mound this season.

Offensively, the C’s are powered by INF Justin Atkinson, a Surrey, BC native who appeared in two Little League World Series with Whalley; INF Shaun Valeriote, the first OUA player ever selected in the MLB Draft; and INF Jason Leblebijian, fresh off of a stint with the Dunedin Blue Jays (High-A).

LHP Kyle Anderson, LHP Colton Turner, LHP Bobby Brosnahan, C Dan Klein, 1B Jordan Leyland, OF Ronnie Melendez and OF Ian Parmley round out the returning C’s. McCullough is once again joined on the coaching staff by hitting coach Dave Pano and pitching coach Jim Czajkowski, who are both returning for a third consecutive season.

The Canadians open 2013 on the road in Tri-City on June 14 before returning to Vancouver to host Spokane on June 17 at Scotiabank Field at Nat Bailey Stadium. (Now updated as of July 24).

Pitchers (15)

#34 ANDERSON, Kyle   LHP   R/L   6-2   205   05/24/90   Woodenville, WA   NDFA 2012   Vancouver Canadians (Northwest)

Anderson is back with the Vancouver Canadians for his second straight season after splitting time with the Vancouver Canadians and the Bluefield Blue Jays of the Gulf Coast League in 2012. The left-hander, who played in the 2002 Little League World Series, went 4-2 on the season with a 4.81 ERA with the Canadians in 2012, compiling 48.2 innings of work and compiling a 1.40 WHIP. Undrafted, Anderson was signed in 2012 by the Blue Jays after completing four years at Cal Poly, where he was nominated for College Pitcher of the Year in 2012.

#25 BRECHBUEHLER, Tim   RHP   R/R   6-8   225   10/21/89   Gillette, NJ   NDFA 2012   2012 Lansing Lugnuts (Midwest)

In June of 2012, Brechbuehler signed with the Toronto Blue Jays as a non-drafted free agent, and last year he split time with the Lansing Lugnuts and the Gulf Coast Blue Jays as a reliever. In addition to his baseball skills, the 23-year-old also piqued the interest of Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, but he declined to instead play baseball and in his junior year of high school he started to focus on pitching. After two seasons attending the University of North Carolina, Brechbuehler transferred to Louisburg Community College, also in North Carolina, and in 2012 he posted an 11-0 record, the most wins of any US junior college pitcher.

#23 BROWN, Eric  RHP   R/R   6-1   185   02/23/89   Thunder Bay, ON   50th Round 2011   Vancouver Canadians (Northwest)

2013 marks Brown’s third go-around with the Canadians, as he is coming to Vancouver after starting the 2013 season with the High A Dunedin Blue Jays. Drafted out of the University of British Columbia, where he still attends in the offseason, Brown has appeared in 37 games for the C’s over the past two seasons. The C’s 2012 Opening Day starter, he has also seen time at Low A Lansing, and over his three years in the Blue Jays organization he has posted a 4-6 record to go along with a 5.12 ERA and 94 strikeouts. He started 2013 pitching at High A Dunedin, where he allowed 3 runners in 2.2 innings pitched.

#46 DERMODY, Matt   LHP   R/L   6-5   190   07/04/90   Norwalk, IA   28th Round 2013   2013 Bluefield Blue Jays (Appalachian)

Dermody, a 22-year-old left-handed pitcher from the University of Iowa, was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 28th round of the 2013 MLB Draft, however the native of Norwalk, Iowa. He was previoiusly drafted in 2012 by Arizona after he posted a 4.50 ERA in 76 innings in college, but decided not to sign. This past season, Dermody lead Iowa in wins, innings pitched and strikeouts, while posting a 7-2 record with a 3.64 ERA. The 68 strikeouts he recorded was the fifth most in the Big Ten. In the one game this season with the Gulf Coast Blue Jays, the former Hawkeye pitched 2.2 innings, allowing one hit while striking out one.

#33 DORSETT, Brandon   RHP   R/R   6-3   200   11/01/89   Terre Haute, IN   NDFA 2012   2012 Bluefield Blue Jays (Appalachian)

After being signed by the Jays in 2012, Dorsett spent the 2012 season pitching for the Bluefield Blue Jays of the Appalachian League, where he had a 3-2 record with a 1.71 ERA in 18 games. In his 31 innings of work, he limited opponents to a .211 batting average, only allowing six runs and collecting four saves. A standout wide receiver in his high school football-playing days, Dorsett opted to focus on baseball and spent four years at Indiana State University, and in his senior year he made 28 appearances and posted a 1.99 ERA. He is the son of former major league catcher Brian Dorsett.

#36 GABRYSZWSKI, Jeremy   RHP   R/R   6-4   210   03/16/93   Crosby, TX   2nd Round 2011   2012 Bluefield Blue Jays (Appalachian)

Last season the right-handed Gabryszwski went 3-0 with the Bluefield Blue Jays with a 2.35 ERA, and in his 46 innings of work he registered 22 strikeouts with a 1.04 WHIP and 0.78 walks per nine innings. In the 2011 season he started with a three hit shutout for Crosby High School in Texas, walking one and striking out nine in the process; overall he went 4-2 with a 2.54 ERA as a senior. He had committed to playing at Lamar University before being drafted in the 2nd round and signed by the Jays in 2011. During his two years in the Blue Jays system he has a 2.10 ERA, and in 2012 he was named to the Appalachian League All-Star Team.

#44 GHYSELS, Chuck   RHP   R/R   5-11   225   11/28/89   Springboro, OH   NDFA 2012   Dunedin Blue Jays (Florida State)

Originally drafted in the MLB First-Year Player Draft by the Cincinnati Reds in 2010, Ghysels did not sign and instead played at Truett-McConnell College in Cleveland, Georgia before signing with Toronto in 2012. He started out with Low-A Lansing in 2013 before moving on to High-A Dunedin, and he came to Vancouver for the start of the Northwest League season. Over his 51.2 innings pitched in the minors in 2012 and 2013, he has 73 strikeouts compared to only 26 walks, and has a 2-4 record with a 4.35 ERA.

#29 JAMES, Justin   RHP   R/R   6-1   195   03/17/90   Ponte Vedra Beach, FL   NDFA 2012   2012 Bluefield Blue Jays (Appalachian)

After being signed as a free agent in 2012, the 22-year-old spent the remainder of the season in the Appalachian League playing for the Bluefield Blue Jays. He appeared in 12 games, starting 5 of them, and posted a 2-4 record with a 7.36 ERA, striking out 24 batters in 25.2 innings pitched. Before signing with Toronto, James played one year at the Savannah College of Art & Design and three years at Ave Maria University in Florida, being named AMU Male Athlete of the Year in 2012 after posting a 2.99 ERA and 86 strikeouts over 90.1 innings pitched.

#15 PICKENS Garrett   RHP   R/R   6-1   185   04/17/90   Yazoo City, MS   29th Round   2013 Gulf Coast Blue Jays

The Toronto Blue Jays prospect Garrett Pickens is a right-handed pitcher who went to school at Delta State University in Cleveland, MS and was drafted in the 29th round with the 865th pick in the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft. The 23-year-old is 6’ 1” 185 pounds and has appeared in three games for the Gulf Coast Blue Jays this season with a 1-0 record collecting one save. In four innings of work he has given up four hits, one run, and strikeout two. Pickens will be playing for the Vancouver Canadians in the Northwest League.

#35 ROBSON, Tom   RHP   R/R   6-4   200   06/27/93   Ladner, BC   4th Round 2011   2013 Bluefield Blue Jays (Appalachian)

A native of Ladner, BC — a suburb just outside of Vancouver — Robson is spending his first professional baseball stint in his hometown after playing his elementary and high school baseball here. The righty played in the Ladner Minor Baseball Association before spending four years in the Premier Baseball League, while also playing for the Canadian Junior National Team in high school. Selected by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 4th round of the 2011 draft — making him the highest Canadian player drafted that year — Robson has spent the last two years playing for Bluefield of the Rookie League. He’s compiled a 3-2 record over that span, posting a 2.19 ERA, 25 strikeouts and just five walks over his 37 innings pitched.

#31 SILVERSTEIN, Scott   LHP   L/L   6-5   250   05/27/90   Brookeville, MD   25th Round 2013   2013 Bluefield Blue Jays (Appalachian)

In his professional debut with the Bluefield Blue Jays in 2013, Silverstein threw six innings, allowing one run and scattering four hits while striking out two. Taken in the 25th round and 745th overall by Toronto in the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft, the 6-foot-5 pitcher was 10-2 with a 3.15 ERA in 16 starts in 2013 while pitching for the University of Virginia Cavaliers. He spent four years with Virginia, going there after he graduated from St. John’s College High School in Washington, DC.

#21 SPANO, Joe   LHP   L/L   5-10   180   10/27/89   Verona, NJ   NDFA 2012   2012 Bluefield Blue Jays (Appalachian)

Spano signed with the Toronto Blue Jays as a non-drafted free agent in 2012 after attending the University of Notre Dame. He pitched in 65 career games, making two starts, and his 65 appearances rank just outside the top 10 in school history. He posted a 1-8 career record with a 5.11 ERA with the club, recording 45 strikeouts in 61.2 career innings. He missed the 2011 season with Tommy John surgery, but after signing with the Jays in 2012, the native of Verona, NJ pitched for the Bluefield Blue Jays of the Appalachian League, recording 33 strikeouts in 27 innings pitched. Spano is also currently working towards a Masters of Accountancy at Rutgers Business School.

#12 TURNER, Colton   LHP   L/L   6-3   185   01/17/91   Joshua, TX   21st Round 2012   Vancouver Canadians (Northwest)

Last year Turner pitched with the Vancouver Canadians and posted a 4-0 record and to go along with 29 strikeouts and a 1.57 ERA in 34 innings pitched. He was selected by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 21st round of the 2012 MLB draft after playing at Texas State University, and in 2011 he led that team with a 9-2 record in 2011, his first season as a starter. He earned his ninth win of the season in a seven-inning complete game performance against Sam Houston State on May 27 when he limited the Bearkats to two runs.

Catchers (3)

#26 CONNER, Seth   C   R/R   6-2   205   01/29/92   Rogersville, MO   41st Round 2010   2013 Lansing Lugnuts (Midwest)

Drafted out of Missouri’s Logan-Rogersville High School in Missouri in 2010, Conner has spent the past three years in the Toronto minor league system and is making his first appearance with the Canadians. The 41st round pick started 2013 in Lansing, where he hit .159 with 17 hits in 34 games played. Overall he’s batted .251 over his minor league career with six home runs and 61 RBIs during time split between catcher and both corner infield positions.

#7 HITT, Matt   C   R/R   5-11   190   08/16/89   Fishers, IN   NDFA 2013   Traded to Jays from Phillies (April ’13)

After playing two years at Kishwaukee College in Illinois, Hitt spent the 2011 and 2012 seasons at Eastern Michigan University, leading the team in home runs in 2012 with 7. During the summer of 2012 he played for the Arizona Centennials of the Freedom League (part of the Independent League), where he hit .221 with 10 walks, 1 home run and 5 RBIs in 23 games. On March 6, 2013, the 22-year-old signed with the Philadelphia Phillies, and he was dealt to the Toronto Blue Jays on April 30.

#17 REEVES, Mike   C   L/R   6-1   185   09/16/1990   Peterborough, ON   21st Round 2013   Florida Gulf Coast Univ. (NCAA)

The 21st round draft pick of the Blue Jays in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, Reeves is spending his first year in the Toronto organization. A previous member of the Ontario Blue Jays, a travelling team for high school players, Reeves was drafted by the Jays back in 2009 but didn’t sign. He then went on to play four seasons at Florida Gulf Coast University, where he was third on the team in batting average (.330) in his senior year. Since being drafted again, he was signed by the Jays and sent directly to play for Vancouver.

Infielders (8) 

#9 ARCILA, Dan   INF   R/R   6-1   170   07/04/90   Barcelona, Venezuela   NDFA 2011   2012 Vancouver Canadians (Northwest)

Now in his seventh year in the Toronto system, Arcila has been property of the Blue Jays since he was signed as a 16-year-old out of Venezuela. He spent his first three years playing for the Blue Jays in the Dominican Summer League before playing Rookie ball in 2010 and 2011, and then made his first trip to Vancouver to play for the Canadians in 2012, hitting .176 with three home runs and 13 RBIs in 43 games for the C’s. He started 2013 with the GCL Blue Jays in Rookie Ball, where he played one game and went 2-for-6 with a double.

#22 ATKINSON, Justin   INF   R/R   6-1   210   07/24/93    Surrey, BC   26th Round, 2011   2012 Bluefield Blue Jays (Appalachian)

A native of Surrey, BC, Atkinson played in the Little League World Series in 2005 and 2006 before spending his high school years playing for the Fraser Valley Chiefs and Langley Blaze of the BC Premier Baseball League and the Canadian Junior National Team. He was then drafted right out of high school by the Blue Jays in the 26th round in 2011, and after he signed he played two years for the club’s Rookie team in the Gulf Coast League. After hitting .259 with 23 RBIs in 2012, Atkinson finished off the season with the Bluefield Blue Jays, recording 3 hits in 3 games played.

 #27 DANTZLER, L.B.   1B   L/R   5-11   200   05/22/91   Winter Haven, FL   14th Round 2013   2013 Bluefield Blue Jays (Appalachian)

A left-handed power-hitter, Dantzler was drafted in the 14th round by the Blue Jays in 2013 after putting up stellar numbers over his college career. After spending two years at junior college in Bradenton, Florida, Dantzler transferred to South Carolina University, where in 2013 he led the team in nearly every statistical category, including batting average (.322), RBIs (53), home runs (15), slugging percentage (.617) and runs (46). Dantzler spent one game in the Rookie League with the Gulf Coast League Blue Jays in 2013, where he went 1-3 with one RBI.

#4 FERMIN, Andy   INF   L/R   6-0   185   07/27/89   Santiago, DR   32nd Round, 2010   2012 Lansing Lugnuts (Midwest)

In his third year in the Blue Jays system, Fermin is making his first stop with the Vancouver Canadians. Drafted in the 32nd round by the Blue Jays in 2010 out of Chipola College in Florida, he spent 2010 playing for the Rookie team in the Gulf Coast league where he hit .462 in 7 games before moving on to Auburn to play in the Short Season New York-Penn League. After spending 2011 back in Rookie ball playing for Bluefield, Fermin spent last year playing for the Low Class A Lansing Lugnuts, hitting .258 in 55 games. His father is former major leaguer Felix Fermin.

#41 HARRIS, David   3B   R/R   6-1   190   08/10/91   Houston, TX   36th Round 2013   Southern Arkansas Univ. (NCAA)

Harris is heading to Vancouver after being drafted out of university by the Blue Jays in the 36th Round of the 2013 MLB First-Year Playoff Draft. After transferring to Southern Arkansas from Lamar University in Texas, Harris posted a .358 average during his senior year and led his team in home runs with 12, RBIs with 65 and slugging percentage with a .679 clip. His first stop in the Blue Jays minor league system will be with the Canadians.

#10 THON, Dickie   INF   R/R   6-2   185   11/16/91   Dorado, PR   5th Round, 2010   2012 Bluefield Blue Jays (Appalachian)

Ranked as the Toronto Blue Jays’ #27 prospect after the 2012 season, Thon is spending his third year in the Toronto system after being drafted out of high school in the 5th round of the 2010 draft. After two years of rookie ball, one with Bluefield and one with the Gulf Coast League Blue Jays, and missing the 2011 season with a rare kidney disease, Thon is moving up to spend his first year in Vancouver. Committed to attend Rice University before being drafted, he has posted a .222 batting average, .349 on base percentage and 13 stolen bases over the past two seasons. Thon, who also played on the Puerto Rican volleyball national team, is the son of former major leaguer Dickie Thon Sr. who played 15 MLB seasons and was named to one All-Star team.

#14 VALERIOTE, Shaun   INF   R/R   6-1   200   01/22/90   Guelph, ON   39th Round, 2012   2012 GCL Blue Jays (Rookie)

The first ever draft pick from the Ontario University Athletic (OUA) conference, a part of Canadian university sport, Valeriote was drafted out of Brock University by the Blue Jays in the 39th round of the 2012 draft. An attendee of the University of Miami (OH) and Yavapai College in Arizona, Valeriote hit .519 in 2010 after transferring to Brock – a school record – won the OUA’s triple crown in 2011 and led the team to a OUA Championship. After being drafted, Valeriote spent last season playing for the Gulf Coast League Blue Jays, where he hit .227 in 27 games with 2 home runs and 12 RBIs. 

#24 VASQUEZ, Christian   SS   S/R   5-10   170   09/11/89   Humacao, PR   19th Round, 2013   2013 Bluefield Blue Jays (Appalachian)

Christian Vasquez, a switch-hitting infielder, was selected by the Blue Jays in the 19th round of the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft with the 565th overall pick. He was drafted out of Lubbock Christian University in Texas, where he spent one year after transferring from New Mexico Jr. College. During his freshman year at New Mexico he posted a .392 average, and he followed that up with a .408 clip and 34 RBI in his sophomore campaign. During his only year at Lubbock Christian in 2013, he started all 61 games, hitting .402 while leading the team in hits (97) doubles (23) total bases (137) and runs scored (63).

Outfielders (4) 

#18 FRANK, Chaz   OF   L/R   6-0   190   10/18/90   Lexington, NC   20th Round 2013   University of North Carolina (NCAA)

Frank comes to Vancouver after being drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 20th round of the 2013 MLB Draft out of the University of North Carolina. The left-handed outfielder just finished four years at UNC, where he was a mainstay at the top of the Tar Heel lineup thanks to his speed on the base paths. During his senior year in 2013, Frank hit .292 with 15 doubles, five triples and one home run to go along with 24 stolen bases in 28 attempts, helping his team reach the College World Series. The native of Lexington, NC attended Central Davidson High School before going to hometown UNC, hitting .432 over his prep career and twice earning All-American honours.

#3 GARCIA, Melvin   OF   R/R   175   09/17/91   Bronx, NY   33rd Round 2010   2013 Bluefield Blue Jays (Appalachian)

After spending the first part of his minor league in Rookie ball, Garcia is making his first trip up to Vancouver to play for the Canadians. Drafted in the 33rd round in 2010 out of Monroe High School in New York, Garcia spent 2010 and 2011 playing for the GCL Blue Jays and Bluefield Blue Jays, and didn’t play in 2012 after he was listed as ‘restricted.’ He started 2013 in Bluefield, where he hit .250 with one double in eight games played. During his three years played in the minors, he’s hit a combined .199 with two home runs and 22 RBIs in 74 games played.

#20 KALFUS, Brendan   OF   S/R   6-0   190   08/22/91   Temecula Valley, CA   23rd Round 2013   St. Mary’s College (NCAA)

Kalfus is starting his minor league in Vancouver after being drafted by the Blue Jays in the 23rd round of the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft. The switch-hitter spent four years with St. Mary’s College in California, compiling a .381 batting average in his senior year that was the best in the West Coast Conference. He also had a 36-game hit streak in 2013, and earned First-Team All-West Coast Conference Honors in both his junior and senior year. Kalfus proved to be an adept student as well, being named a WCC All-Academic in 2013.

#1 PARMLEY, Ian   OF   L/L   6-0   175   12/19/89   Maltby, WA   7th Round, 2012   Vancouver Canadians (Northwest)

In his second year in the Blue Jays system, Parmley will be spending his second year with the Vancouver Canadians. Drafted in the 7th round by the Jays in 2012, Parmley hit .201 and had a .359 on base percentage to go along with 12 stolen bases and 52 walks last season with the C’s while patrolling the outfield. He played his collegiate years at Bellevue Community College in Washington and Liberty University in Virginia, where he hit .314 and led the team in runs scored in 2011 with 48.

Disabled List (1)

#19 BROSNAHAN, Bobby   LHP   R/L   6-0   175   06/02/89   Ann Arbor, MI   NDFA 2011   Vancouver Canadians (Northwest)

Brosnahan is in his second season with the Vancouver Canadians. The 23-year-old went 2-2 on the season in 2012 with a 4.50 ERA, and in his first game he came in and pitched three perfect innings to earn the victory in a 9-1 win against the Tri-City Dust Devils. In his college career Brosnahan pitched for the University of Michigan and had 9 career wins with 116 strikeouts. After undergoing Tommy John surgery, he went 5-4 with a 4.38 ERA as a freshman, striking out 61 batters in 71 innings of work. In 2010 he was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman team and the All-Big Ten Tournament squad.

Throwback Thursday: LHP James Heuser

By Jeremy Knight, Vancouver Canadians

Back in 2006, the Vancouver Canadians were looking to make the playoffs for a third consecutive year, riding the arms of current Red Sox RHP Andrew Bailey and a southpaw from Illinois who made an immediate impact, LHP James Heuser who took the Opening Day start. Since then, Heuser toiled around in the Oakland Athletics minor league system, spent some time in Lancaster, PA, and then it seemed as though he had called it quits on his professional career. For a guy who went from being drafted out of obscurity, to being a star with the AA Midland Rockhounds, it was a shame.

Then, as so many minor leaguers aspire to one day do if it doesn’t work out in North America, he headed to Japan with hopes of just playing the game he loves. Well, instead he reincarnated his career, and is now a key pitcher on a team laced with big league prospects, the Rakuten Golden Eagles. In this edition of Throwback Thursday, the former roommate of Arizona Diamondbacks ace Trevor Cahill caught up with us about his thoughts on Japan, and how the Nippon Professional Baseball league is different from what he was used to in Canada and the United States.

Jeremy Knight: The atmosphere in Vancouver is unlike most other minor league ballparks, and now you find yourself in a league that prides itself on have intense crowds every night (in the NPBL). As a player what is that atmosphere like?

James Heuser: The game atmosphere is completely different. Instead of always having electronic noise makers and songs between innings, the crowd chants with drums and trumpets. They’re all in sync with each other too. As far as being on the mound is concerned, it’s still pitching. It’s fun.

Knight: What’s the biggest difference between the NPBL and minor league systems?

Heuser: They’re very difference. In terms of the game, the hitters here are much better at making contact, whether that is by fouling off balls or by slapping little bloopers. There isn’t as much power through the lineup as you would find in the States. There are also a lot more bunts and sacrifices in the first inning, and teams play for one run at a time rather than going for a big inning and swinging away. The travel is great here though, they have trains that go everywhere instead of sitting on a bus for 14 hours.

Knight: Was there a part of your game you had to adapt or make adjustments to once you got to Japan?

Heuser: I had to change my approach and pitch sequences. I’m not going for strikeouts as much as I am weak contact. Also, it’s just finally putting together everything I have learned over the years. As a young kid in the States, you learn so much that it’s difficult to understand it all and put it together, especially the mental part of baseball. Now, it’s being more focused and in control on the mound.

Knight: You’re playing right where the devastation from the 2011 Japan Earthquake was the most visible, has the community been rebuilt already?

Heuser: Closer to the shore you can still see signs of the tsunami, and some buildings have signs of the earthquake but for the most part it’s cleaned up. The real focus has been coming together and moving forward. You can feel the energy at the games that people are getting back to their normal life. It’s a real privilege to be a part of that.

Knight: Are you able to keep track of some of your former teammates who are either in the Major Leagues or still on the path to get there back in North America?

Heuser: It’s been difficult to communicate with most of them, but I try to keep an eye on them. I just saw [Trevor] Cahill get an RBI single and pitch well the other day, and I bet he’d get a laugh knowing I watched it on Japanese TV. As much as I dislike Facebook, it’s a nice way to see where everyone is and how they are doing.

Knight: Do you still dream of playing in the Majors, or are you content with having fun in Japan and staying there for the time being?

Heuser: There’s no doubt I still dream of pitching in the big leagues, but playing over here has been great and they are the ones who gave me a chance. I think that there are a lot of great players here that could perform well in a minor league system so every day is a challenge. All I can do is keep working hard and enjoy playing day by day. Wherever baseball takes me next, I will enjoy the ride. As my former teammate and coach Benny Winslow would always say, ‘Just keep living the dream’.

Whether he makes it back to North America to play baseball again remains to be seen, but for now Heuser is thriving in Japan with a 1-2 record and 3.24 ERA through 46 appearances. At 28 years old, his journey is far from over, and hopefully his comeback is just beginning.

Wacky Wednesday: Support Your Meme!

By Andrew Forsyth, Vancouver Canadians

On the eve of the Canadians’ return to the NWL Championship Final we wanted to find a new way to cheer on the C’s and use the infinite power of the world wide web.  How you might ask?  What better than creating our own meme?  We’ve already got the hash tag #beatboise.  Now we’re calling on the fans to chime in.  Simply post, tweet or share your meme photos everywhere on the internet along with the hash tag #beatboise and make some internet noise for our boys!

Here’s an example.  In the spirit of ‘Where’s Waldo’ we want you to photograph your Dancing Grounds Crew Bobble Head with the phrase “Watch Archie …” doing something day to day and supporting the Canadians.

Watch Archie helping Angela at the box office. #beatboise

“Larry is the man!”
Watch Archie chill with Larry at Guest Services. #beatboise

“Fresh to death!”
Watch Archie chilling with the prize! #beatboise

“El Commandante for the win!”
Watch Archie check the lineups! #beatboise

“Nice hit bro!”
Watch Archie hang during BP. #beatboise

Watch Archie party rocking a foam finger! #beatboise

Watch Archie eat some awesome playoff themed confectioneries! #beatboise

Clayton’s Corner: Championship Edition

By KP Wee, Vancouver Canadians

KP Wee gets the answers that Vancouver Canadians fans are looking for with the C’s coming off a two-game sweep over the Everett AquaSox in the Northwest League West Division Finals.

The C’s will be playing in the Northwest League Championship Series for the second consecutive year, looking to repeat as NWL Champions in 2012.

The best-of-three Championship Series will begin tomorrow, Thursday, September 6th, with Game One happening at Scotiabank Field at Nat Bailey Stadium in Vancouver.

The C’s will take on the winner of the Yakima-Boise series, which wraps up tonight at Yakima County Stadium. That series is tied 1-1 going into the third and decisive game of the best-of-three.

Trivia Tuesdays: Episode 6

By KP Wee, Vancouver Canadians

My apologies for posting this video late – and I actually had to shoot a brand new one today – but unfortunately, the last segment I had with Vancouver Canadians pitching coach Jim Czajkowski and hitting coach Dave Pano that was shot in Keizer, Oregon, was erased off the camera by one of our interns here in the department! Yikes.

Not to worry, because now that the team is back in town following the series sweep over Everett in the Northwest League West Division Finals, Czajkowski and Pano had some time to do some different NFL questions for our one-day-late Trivia Tuesdays here at Canadians Clippings. Enjoy!

P.S. The Shaun King question caused some laughter because Czajkowski had asked me beforehand if I was going to help Pano out by tossing a few Tampa Bay questions – since Dave is a big Buccaneers fan. Czajkowski is a 49ers fan so the follow-up question evened things out.

Wacky Wednesday: National Anthem Edition

In a tradition founded by former Manager Rick Magnante (Oakland), Canadians players lead their fans in the singing of ‘O Canada’ on the last regular season game of the summer.  For a few players like Nick Purdy, they’ve been singing it all their lives, for a few recent additions from Bluefield, they’ve only heard it a few times so far this summer.  How do you think they did,Vancouver?

Manager Mondays: Episode 6

By KP Wee, Vancouver Canadians

KP Wee gets the answers that Vancouver Canadians fans are looking for in the sixth edition of this one-on-one feature with C’s manager Clayton McCullough.

This time, McCullough talks about the great fans at Vancouver’s Scotiabank Field at Nat Bailey Stadium, C’s catcher Santiago Nessy, and second baseman Christian Lopes.

Manager Mondays: Special Edition with Boise’s Mark Johnson

By KP Wee, Vancouver Canadians

Boise Hawks manager Mark Johnson chats with me on this special “early” edition of “Manager Mondays” on Sunday afternoon, the day after the Hawks clinched the Northwest League Eastern Division second-half pennant with an 8-6 victory in Vancouver and a Yakima Bears loss against the Everett AquaSox.

The Hawks’ playoff berth marks the second consecutive year that they have made it to the Northwest League postseason.

In 2011, they were swept in the best-of-three Eastern Divisional Playoff by the Tri-City Dust Devils, and are looking to redeem themselves in this year’s postseason against first-half pennant-winning Yakima.

Note: The regular edition of “Manager Mondays” with C’s skipper Clayton McCullough will be posted on Monday. Check back then!

InSider Profiles: Colton Turner

By Andrew Forsyth, Vancouver Canadians

Ask Colton Turner if he remembers his first baseball experience and he’ll tell you, with a bit of an embarrassed smile, “I was in T-ball, I was a right-fielder and my mom has videos of me going out there and picking flowers in the outfield.  I didn’t pay much attention but I would always stand in the outfield and enjoyed running the bases.  I actually ran them in opposite order one time.”

Asked who got him started with his ‘green-thumb’ baseball experience in right-field, Colton credited his family, his father in particular, for having encouraged him on to his professional career.  “My dad is a huge baseball fan and taught me to always work hard.”  Baseball, Colton explained, runs through the Turner family with much of the family having played or been lifelong fans.

“My dad grew up following the Texas Rangers and the Boston Red Sox.”  Two very different teams with Colton eventually becoming more of a Red Sox fan.

“I think I was around six years old and my dad took me to a Rangers game and we sat right behind home plate.  We had great seats and the thing I couldn’t get over was that everyone was so big and I was just this little guy.”  It was an experience that would reaffirm his early love for the game.

But family and baseball always went hand-in-hand and his parents worked hard to give him the opportunity to play his way.  “Both of my parents own a business and they would have to alternate driving me to my practices in Weatherford, Texas.”

Those practices were an hour’s drive from the family home and, as Colton explained, they were three times a week.  His parents would take turns driving him after school and the family often wouldn’t get home until 10:00 or 11:00 at night.  “They were always there to support me there, or at state tournaments, I could always hear them out there, cheering in the stands.”

That family sacrifice made this year’s entry draft all the more special for the Turner family.  “I’d spoken to scouts a few weeks before the draft and I figured it was going to be the Blue Jays” Colton said of Toronto because of the interest the team had showed.  “They called just about everyone I’d played baseball for to find out about my background and my history and once the scouts started taking a closer look I started to look into what the Blue Jays were like as an organization.”

And so when draft day came, Colton was able to share the experience with his family.  “My mom started crying and my dad started jumping up and down.”  He remembered his mother, between joyful sobs, managing to say congratulate him saying that she always knew that that day would come.

Asked what the biggest adjustment has been since that day that he was selected, Turner spoke about the atmosphere in Vancouver both on and off the field.  “You’ve got guys out here that love this game and, although you get that at college, everyone comes out here to work and try to make it to the big leagues and we all feed off of that energy.”

Turner also credited the Canadians’ coaching staff for pushing the team of developing players.  He mentioned, in particular, having worked closely with pitching coach Jim Czajkowski to improve the mechanics of his pitching which has helped both his stamina and velocity on the mound.

Those adjustments have certainly yielded some impressive results with the young left-hander excelling in the middle relief role in 2012, having given up only six runs in his 32 innings of work thus far.

That combined with the strength and conditioning program that the Blue Jays organization has developed has taken him a long way from wandering aimlessly around the outfield.  “Everything has been so different, the organization, the weight lifting, the hours that you spend at the field.  Here it’s an all day thing and you treat it like you’re job but I enjoy every minute of it.”

But the thing that has impressed Colton the most so far in his baseball experience has been the atmosphere at Scotiabank Field.  Like so many of his teammates who came from college, the difference between a couple of hundred fans and the energetic crowds at ‘The Nat’ has been one of the reasons the team has come to love Vancouver.  “It makes a huge difference having that kind of support,” Turner said.  “Especially when you travel on the road you see the other team’s fan base.  This is by far the best in the league.”

But at the end of the day, Colton is just excited to be playing a game that he has loved all of his life.  “I don’t know what I would do without this game.  Who can complain about having to wake up and play a game everyday,” he said when asked about the best part of being a professional.

“Just being around a group of guys like what we have here who want to come out everyday and have fun is a dream come true.”  It is a big step for sure and, hopefully, Colton Turner will be able to chase his other dream all the way to Roger’s Centre.

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