Former UBC Thunderbird Mark Hardy hoping World Baseball Classic leads to MLB spot
Former UBC southpaw has fingers crossed that exposure at World Baseball Classic will boost his career
Former UBC Thunderbirds ace left-handers Jeff Francis and Mark Hardy aren’t in cahoots.
It only seems a tad that way.
Hardy, 24, the Campbell River native who has been a San Diego Padres farmhand since they drafted him out of UBC in 2010, was one of the late additions last week to Team Canada for the World Baseball Classic. The tournament kicks off for Canada March 8, in Scottsdale, Ariz., with a game against Italy. They face Mexico and then the Americans the following two days in Phoenix.
Canada was looking for another southpaw because Francis, 31, declined to play, focusing instead on securing a roster spot with the Colorado Rockies. The North Delta product, who dynamited a spot for UBC on the baseball map when he went ninth overall to Colorado in the 2002 draft, has been battling injuries the past few seasons and only signed a one-year, incentive-ladened deal with the Rockies in December.
“It’s kind of funny,” Hardy said of the circumstances.
“I was working out with UBC a couple of days later and told Terry [McKaig, the head coach] to give Francis a call and say ‘Thank you’ for me.
“It’s definitely a plus for my career. Hopefully I can get out there and maybe get on TV and somebody from the Padres organization will watch me. I’m such a low draft pick that I bet there are people high up in the organization who don’t really know who I am. Maybe they’ll be like, ‘Hey, we should give him a look,’ after seeing me there.”
Lefties being crafty and clever is one of sport’s well-worn cliches. It also fits for Hardy, a 43rd-round draft pick three years ago. The 6-foot-4, 200-pounder gets by largely on location and movement, and neatly mixing up a fastball that’s generally in the 86-88 m.p.h. range, with a slider, a curve and a change-up.
He went 11-10, with a 2.78 earned run average in 27 appearances in 2011 with the Fort Wayne TinCaps of the Single A Midwest League.
He had shoulder troubles last year and that played a role in him going 3-6 with a 4.71 ERA in 22 games at four different levels, but the Padres still thought enough of him to promote him to their Triple A Pacific Coast League Tucson Padres at the end of the year, although he never got into a game there.
“I am really excited for Mark to get this opportunity on the world stage, surrounded by Canada’s top professional players,” said McKaig. “Experiences like representing your country can only help young professional players focus and push to one day make the big leagues.
“I hope Mark can use this to continue his ascent up the San Diego Padres organization.”
Canada has named all but one of its 28 players for its provisional roster. Twelve of them are from B.C., led by Justin Morneau, a first baseman from New Westminster with the Minnesota Twins, and Brett Lawrie, a third baseman from Langley with the Toronto Blue Jays. Among big leaguers, there’s also Michael Saunders, an outfielder from Victoria with the Seattle Mariners, and Taylor Green, an infielder from Comox with the Milwaukee Brewers.
As well, there’s Kamloops outfielder Tyson Gillies (Phillies Double A), Surrey outfielder Adam Loewen (Blue Jays Triple A), Vancouver pitcher Trystan Magnuson (Blue Jays Double A), Aldergrove pitcher Scott Mathieson (Japan), Vancouver pitcher Scott Richmond (Korea), Port Coquitlam outfielder Rene Tosoni (Brewers Double A) and Richmond first baseman Jimmy VanOstrand (Nationals Double A).
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