Vancouver Canadians president Andy Dunn (left) club owner Jake Kerr, Toronto Blue Jays president Paul Beeston, Rogers Communications vice chair Phil Lind and Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos pose Friday, September 17, 2010 in Vancouver. The two baseball clubs signed a Player Development Contract that will make the Canadians the short season affiliate of the Toronto Club.
Photograph by: Ian Lindsay, PNG files
VANCOUVER - The sun was shining Tuesday so, naturally, Andy Dunn was talking weather. He always talks weather at this time of the year because the Vancouver Canadians are about to embark on another seasons of short-season single A baseball at Nat Bailey Stadium.
This year's version of the C's will assemble next week, have a media day June 12 and begin play on the road two days later against the Tri-City Dust Devils. The home opener is scheduled for Monday, June 17, with the Spokane Indians in town.
The Canadians are two-time Northwest League defending champions and set new attendance records both seasons. Dunn, club president, sees no reason why they can't set another. The Nat's capacity is 5,157 and the team averaged 4,445 in 2012 with one rainout.
“I'm projecting, if Mother Nature helps us out, we'll have a better season than last year,” Dunn said as his staff bustled about The Nat. “I mean, last year, early in the year, I think we had rain 10 of the first 12 days, which affected people coming to the ballpark. So there is always room to improve. We're not quite to the point where every seat is sold every night but that's the goal and we'll just keep working towards it.”
Both titles won by the C's came under the affiliation of the Toronto Blue Jays, who provide the players and coaching staff. Dunn doesn't feel performance issues with the big league team will put any kind of chill on the C's.
“I don't know if we're immune to what's going on with the Blue Jays,” Dunn said. “I mean, we walk the walk with them and they're our partners and friends and when they're struggling, we certainly pay close attention. But I think our fans love to come out to our games because what we're really looking at is the roster of the Blue Jays in, hopefully, five or six years after the kids develop a little bit.
“You saw some of the trades they made in the off-season and without players like Justin Nicolino and Noah Syndergaard, who played here, those deals don't get done. You have to give to get in trades and those prospects were developed and showcased here. So we're part of it.”
The C's have become a well-oiled machine under Dunn, now in his seventh season running the club. In 2011, they were voted baseball's minor organization of the year. Throw in the back-to-back titles and rising attendance figures and there hardly seems a mountain left to climb. That produced a good guffaw from Dunn.
“The minute you say you have a well-oiled machine, the wheels come off,” he responded once he stopped laughing. “We strive to help people in the community and we strive to give people an organization, for our sport, that they can be proud of. At the end of the day, whether we draw 200,000 people or 20,00 people, as long as we hit those goals, I'll sleep well at night.”
On the field, the coaching staff will return intact with Clayton McCullough the field manager, Dave Pano the batting coach and Jim Czajkowski working with the pitchers. The playing roster will again be a blend of prospects coming down from full-season single A Lansing, players coming north from extended spring training in Florida and players taken in this week's major league draft.
The Northwest League itself will have a new-look, too. The Yakima Bears have re-located to suburban Portland, Ore., and are now the Hillsboro Hops. The divisions have changed names with East and West replaced by North and South. The C's are in the North with Everett, Spokane and Tri-City while the Hops will be in the South with Salem-Keizer, Eugene and Boise.
Another new wrinkle is an all-star game to be played Aug. 6 in Everett. The league will take three days off around the showcase event, which equals the three days off the players normally receive for the entire 76-game campaign.
“We're ready to go,” Dunn concluded. “The field is in great shape and we're just looking forward to having a fun night at the ballpark on June 17.”
There are 26 night games on the 2013 schedule with the remaining 12 going at 1:05 p.m. The first 'nooner' is June 19.
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun