This past week Canadians Justin Bay and Jason Morneau played in the 2009 All Star game in St. Louis. Canada has come along way with respect to success in baseball. In recent years, Canadians have won the MVP, the Cy Young award and have earned spots on rosters all through out the Majors. There have also been more Canadians getting College scholarships and being drafted. In Baseball circles, one of the key reasons for that success would be due to the Director of the Canadian National teams Greg Hamilton. Former Canadian Major Leaguer and Olympic Baseball Coach Terry Puhl stated that Hamilton deserves a lot of the credit in the recent successes.
Hamilton was born in Toronto and grew up in Peterborough, Ontario. He is a graduate of Princeton University where he was a member of the Princeton Tigers hockey team in his freshman year. Hamilton was also a pitcher in the Tigers baseball program.”. Hamilton was on the Ivy League champions in 1991. He also was assistant coach two years at Princeton. In 1992, Hamilton was hired as pitching coach for Team Canada. He got a job as pitching coach and GM of the Barracudas de Montpellier of Division Élite in France in 1993 and helped the team to three titles in a row, their most successful run to date (as of 2007). Part of his success came from his recruitment of Jeff Zimmerman, who became the most notable player to emerge from the French league in the 20th Century. He was pitching coach for the French national team in 1994, making him pitching coach for two senior national teams on different continents.
Hamilton left Team Canada in 1996 to become head coach of the Canadian junior national team, leading them to a Bronze Medal in the 1997 World Junior Championship. He was named Baseball Canada Coach of the Year that season. It was also his last year as Montpellier’s coach and GM.
Hamilton was an assistant coach at the University of Maine in 1998, taking a break from coaching the junior Canadian national team. He returned to his role as junior national team coach in 1999. Hamilton also coached for Team Canada’s senior team in the 2004 Olympics, 2007 Baseball World Cup, 2008 Final Olympic Qualification Tournament and 2008 Olympics. Hamilton has been the Director of the National Teams since 1999.
According to Hamilton, there are more opportunities for the kids in the 15-18 range.” Kids are now playing year round and focused on only one sport.” They’ve also seen the success of Canadians such as Bay and Morneau and have several former players involved in the program such as Jeff Zimmerman and Jason Dickson. Those players have taken the torch from former Major League MVP & All Star Larry Walker, Hamilton stated.
Their recent game against an older U.S. team contributes to that development.” Hamilton commented, “While we always play to win, we’re really looking for small victories and progression. It’s a tremendous opportunity to play against this level of competition. The speed of the game helps the players develop.”
When asked how the current National Team looks, Hamilton predicts that at least 4-5 will be playing in the Major Leagues some day. The future of Canadian baseball continues to look bright.
Article sources include Team Canada Media Guide and other materials on the Baseball Canada website.