During a global pandemic, we have seen sports leagues that have had to adjust to different league divisions, different schedules and a whole new format of approaching coming to the rink, stadium or field.
One of the local sports teams that were affected the most over the past 18 months has been the Vancouver Canadians.
The Canadians are a minor league affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays and recently moved up to high-A after spending years in low-A summer ball. This season, the Canadians were given some of the Blue Jays’ top prospects and have a history of consistently developing MLB talent.
After struggling badly at the plate in the minors in 2019, Hagen Danner came to the realization a position change was in order. The Toronto Blue Jays prospect has thrived since moving to the mound. (@ShiDavidi)https://t.co/Nc58kwUYMd
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) November 26, 2021
With the COVID restrictions on cross-border travel, the Canadians were forced to migrate down to Hillsboro, Oregon this past summer. With all of their opponents in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, it was the easiest way for the Canadians to not cancel their season and still be able to continue developing the Blue Jays’ prospects.
The team had to share Ron Tonkin Field with the Hillsboro Hops and had many #BattleOfTheBoro nights when the two teams matched up throughout the season.
The worst part about the experience down in Hillsboro had to be a year lost out at Nat Bailey Stadium.
When it comes to ballparks, The Nat is an iconic baseball stadium in the lower mainland. The ballpark is well known for having one of the best sports atmospheres in Vancouver as well as minor league baseball across the world.
Vancouver was the recipient of the John H. Johnson President’s Award back in 2013. The John H. Johnson Award honours a “complete” baseball franchise that has demonstrated franchise stability, and significant contributions to its community, league and the baseball industry.
Jake Kerr of Vancouver Canadians, which just won minor league franchise of the year, praises Vcr Park Board as "great partners to work with"
— Rod Mickleburgh (@rodmickleburgh) November 5, 2013
The ballpark does an amazing job of creating a fun environment where it’s more about having a day out with friends than going to a baseball game. On occasion, you’ll get to see some future MLB players make some great plays on the diamond but it’s more about the three-foot hotdogs and Hey Y’all porch that makes The Nat so special.
As the team was situated in Hillsboro last year, they were still partnered with Sportsnet 650 here in Vancouver and did broadcast all of their games on the radio station or on the alternate stream on the occasion that the Blue Jays were playing at the same time.
Listeners and followers of the team got to watch the evolution of some of the top prospects in the Blue Jays’ system.
This includes starting pitcher Adam Kloffenstein. They call him Kloff and he struck out 107 batters over 23 starts this season for the Canadians. Kloffenstein is the Blue Jays’ second-best pitching prospect according to the MLB website.
He was a team leader last season and made tough pitches throughout the season as he develops his arm for the next level of baseball that he will play in.
CJ Van Eyk is the fourth-best pitching prospect in the system and he struck out 100 batters in 19 starts last season with the Canadians. Van Eyk had some amazing performances throughout the season including four of his nineteen starts having a minimum of eight strikeouts in a game. In late July, Van Eyk struck out nine of the 19 batters he faced over five innings of work.
Both of these two top prospects are expected to make their way to the majors someday and the experience of watching such live arms is worth the price of admission to a Canadian’s game.
The top prospect to play with the Canadians last season was shortstop Orelvis Martinez. According to the MLB website, Martinez is the 44th best prospect in baseball and had a solid season with the Canadians last year.
Martinez smacked nine home runs in 27 games with the Canadians last season. Many sources project that he will begin next year with the Canadians and that is good news for local baseball fans.
He’s here and he’s perfect.
Orelvis Martinez hits his first @vancanadians homer – and 20th of the year – to make it 5-0 C’s.
Only took him *checks watch* 3 ABs…! pic.twitter.com/mhyrcbdesq
— Tyler Zickel (@tyler_zickel) August 4, 2021
The best news about the Canadians is that after a year away from The Nat, they are coming back bigger and better than ever.
The C’s will play a full high-A season next year and will feature better prospects, with more games than they had in the season before the pandemic hit.
Baseball is coming back to Vancouver and the stadium is expecting a triumphant return to their Ontario Street location.
The crack of the bat echoing through the stands, the smell of popcorn and hotdogs filling the summer air—there’s not many better atmospheres in sports than what you find at a ball game.
One of the most exciting parts about next season is the movement from low-A to high-A. Now, instead of playing approximately 75 games, the Canadians are excited to play almost double that.
They recently announced their 2022 schedule on their website.
“The Vancouver Canadians Baseball Club has announced its 2022 Schedule that includes all home and away dates. It features 66 home games at Nat Bailey Stadium as part of a 132-game season slate, headlined by Opening Day on April 19 and Canada Day on July 1.”
150 Days until a Sushi Race #AtTheNat
Who will win on April 19th? pic.twitter.com/JmvYGnMVhF
— Vancouver Canadians (@vancanadians) November 21, 2021
After a summer without baseball in Vancouver, the Canadians should have no problems filling Nat Bailey Stadium this summer. It is expected to be much easier to cross the border for them and their opponents by then and those who I have spoken with in the Canadians’ organization are extremely excited to get back to Vancouver and play in front of their great fans.
By the time that the Canadians return to Nat Bailey Stadium for their home opener on April 19th, it will have been 963 days since the Canadians played a professional game at The Nat.
It is expected to be a massive event when pro baseball returns to the lower mainland and if you know anything about the Canadians, and how they operate their organization—I’d expect April 19th to be a show that you do not want to miss.
The Canadians have one of the best sporting environments in Vancouver and are the place to be for a famous Nooner at The Nat.
We will see you there this summer!