Two Windsor players to represent Canada at World Baseball Classic
It's an understatement that Evan Rutckyj and Jacob Robson are excited to be named to Team Canada at the World Baseball Classic.
Rutckyj, a 31-year-old left-handed pitcher and Robson, a 28-year-old outfielder, both from Windsor, will suit up for Team Canada when Pool C action begins in Phoenix, AZ., on March 11.
"It's an absolute honour," Robson said. "I remember seeing the WBC in high school. It was a crazy environment. Once I played in the minors, I realized there are opportunities to play on that senior team. Watching it in 2017 was crazy. So as soon as they asked, I jumped on board. I'm very grateful for the position."
Robson, who played in the Detroit Tigers system, including four games with the big club, is now a free agent. Last season, he played with the Kansas City Monarchs of the independent American Association of Professional Baseball. He's not only proud to be wearing the maple leaf on his jersey; he also sees this as another opportunity.
"You're obviously going into it with the mentality of helping the team any way possible. We are there trying to win the tournament," Robson said. "Playing in a tournament this large with a lot of eyes, who knows what can happen? There are teams from leagues around the world watching. It's a great opportunity as a free agent."
With that said, he is willing to do whatever it takes to help Team Canada win.
"I've been playing long enough to know I've had different roles on different teams," Robson said. "I'll be happy to take over whatever role is mine."
Robson said he and Rutckyj prepared for the WBC by playing this winter for the Melbourne Aces of the Australian Baseball League.
"It was a lot of fun," Robson said. "Evan and I never played together when we were younger. It was a great opportunity to really get to know each other. He was a great arm for us there. He was the guy."
It's something Rutckyj hopes continues, heading into the WBC.
"I'm looking forward to pitching against the best players in the world," Rutckyj said. "We have the USA in our pool, which is basically a Major League all-star team. Anytime you get to play against the best players in the world, you get geared up for that. To test my stuff against those guys, if I still have it."
Rutckyj, who played in the New York Yankees system for seven years, before pitching around the independent minor league circuit with a number of teams, will play for the Niigata Albirex of the Baseball Challenge League in Japan this coming season. He's also just happy to be doing what he loves at the highest level.
"It's legit my dream. My favourite thing to do in the entire world is to throw a ball," Rutckyj said. "For me and my family, it's been a great experience. The places I've been able to go, the people I've been able to meet. It's surreal."
Team Canada is in Pool C with the United States, Mexico, Colombia, and Great Britain. Pool action is from March 11-15, at Chase Field, home of MLB's Arizona Diamondbacks. Canada faces Great Britain on March 12.
"If I have a prediction, we will be fighting for that second spot to move on to the quarter-finals with Mexico and Colombia," Robson said. "But the great thing about baseball is anyone can beat anyone on any given day."