On Sunday night, the Vancouver Canadians, the Blue Jays single-A affiliate, won their second consecutive Northwest League title with a dramatic come from behind win over the Boise Hawks. While Toronto has suffered through an unprecedented number of pitching injuries en route to another disappointing season for its fans, the team's farm system continues to thrive — especially in Vancouver (via The Vancouver Sun):
"Our partnership with the Blue Jays could not have gotten off to a better start," said a hoarse Canadians GM Jason Takefman in a phone interview following the victory. "We can get used to this championship thing. Oh man, it's amazing. We're raising the trophy down here and we've got non-alcoholic champagne going. It's organized chaos right now. It's a great celebration."
(Vancouver Province)Since 1999 when the Canadians came into existence, minor league baseball has done quite well in Vancouver. For the fifth straight season attendance is up at iconic Nat Bailey Stadium and just last year the team was honoured with the Bob Freitas Award which recognizes minor league baseball's best run franchises.
Baseball has a long and storied tradition in Canada (and depending on who you ask, the game was even invented in Ontario). According to Baseball Canada, dating back almost 150 years, no less than 75 Canadian cities and towns have been home to minor and major league teams. In 1913, 24 minor league teams operated north of the 49th parallel.
Today however, only one major league team and four minor league teams call the Great White North home. Despite some very passionate fans who hope to see an MLB team return to Montreal and a report that says it's plausible, the rebirth of the Expos is highly unlikely. Expansion, however, is coming in the form of another minor league team.
On September 6, the mayor of Ottawa, Jim Watson, announced that an agreement has been reached with the Eastern League to bring a double-A team to the city in 2014. We still don't know which major league team the club with be affiliated with, but we do know it won't be the Blue Jays.
Alex Anthopoulos (Getty)The city had hoped that extensive renovations to Ottawa Stadium and proximity to Toronto would convince the Jays to relocate their double-A team from New Hampshire. But in May, GM Alex Anthopoulos announced an extension with the Fisher Cats through 2014. Earlier in the year, Anthopoulos gushed about the partnership:
"We're thrilled with New Hampshire," Anthopoulos said in a February interview with the National Post. "They have the best ballpark in the Eastern League, unbelievable ownership and unbelievable management. It can't get any better for us than New Hampshire."
While an affiliate in Ottawa would have cut down on travel time for call-ups (the Jays have a penchant for skipping triple-A altogether with their pitching prospects), reports/rumours are circulating that Toronto is in talks with the Buffalo Bisons about relocating their triple-A affiliate from Las Vegas — a move that Toronto fans and the team's travelling secretary would surely welcome with open arms, not to mention how unkind Cashman Field is to pitchers.
So while Canada will likely never play host to the 24 minor league teams it once had, adding a team in Ottawa and another on Toronto's doorstep in Buffalo is definitely a step in the right direction.