The Montreal Expos and Triple-A Ottawa Lynx have moved on in recent years, but with the Quebec Capitales in the Can-Am League, the Intercounty Baseball League in Ontario, the Golden League (which includes Calgary, Edmonton, and Victoria), and the Northern League (Winnipeg), baseball is alive and well in Canada. This fact was confirmed today, as an affiliation agreement between the Toronto Blue Jays and Vancouver Canadians was announced.
The nation’s last MLB team and the lone affiliated team will work together to grow the game at the professional level. Toronto’s future stars will now hit the field in the Northwest League at Vancouver’s Nat Bailey Stadium. The Class-A Canadians spent the past ten years working in association with the Oakland A’s.
In a press release from the Blue Jays, the team explained their decision to create a working relationship with the Canadians.
“Having always received strong support from the west coast and particularly with British Columbia becoming a hotbed for baseball, this partnership will enhance the success of both organizations.”
Next season, the Canadians will mark their 60th anniversary at Nat Bailey, a wonderful stadium in downtown Vancouver; the connection to the Jays will improve on an already successful business plan. For the past two seasons, the team has set franchise records in attendance, with 154,592 fans taking in the action in 2010.
In a release at the Vancouver Canadians website, team owner Jake Kerr expressed his excitement to begin working with the Jays organization.
“This is something we are all very proud of,” said Kerr. “One of the goals we set out to achieve when we purchased this club (in 2007) was to ensure that baseball fans locally felt like the C’s were their team. I think this pairing with the Blue Jays will bring baseball fans closer together from coast-to-coast.”
The Canadians served as a Triple-A organization in the Pacific Coast League until the end of the 1999 season; the team was then relocated to Sacramento. The Canadians franchise was reborn in the Northwest League as a Class-A team in the Oakland system in 2000. Several MLB players began their journey in Vancouver with the Canadians organization, Rich Harden, Nick Swisher, Troy Glaus, and Tim Hudson to name a few.
Personally, during the twelve years I lived in Vancouver, I made many trips across the Second Narrows Bridge from North Vancouver, heading to “The Nat” in downtown Vancouver. It is a great venue for baseball, and now that the Blue Jays and Canadians are working together, it is a great day for baseball in the city of Vancouver, and a great day for baseball in Canada.