Canada’s baseball presence on the world stage has improved significantly since Terry Puhl was a Major League All Star back in 1978. The Melville, Saskatchewan native had a successful 15 year career, primarily with the Houston Astros, and left marks on the game that include 1361 hits, a .526 batting average in the 1980 National League Championship Series and the Major League Baseball record for lifetime fielding percentage by an outfielder (.993).
In addition to being the Head Coach of the University of Houston-Victoria’s baseball team, he is currently the Field Manager of the 2008 Canadian Olympic Team. Between Exhibition games against Team USA in Cary, NC, Terry shared some thoughts on the rise of Canadian Baseball and his team a week before the start of the games.
Two weeks ago, Canada had 3 representatives in the MLB All Star game. Canada also had as many as 28 players in the big leagues last year and another 125 player on minor league teams. That’s a substantial jump considering Puhl was one of the few Canadians in the Majors 30 years ago. “I give a lot of credit to the success of the Junior program in Canada, specifically Greg Hamilton,” Puhl noted. “Greg has made significant contributions and has been very committed to growing the program.”
That type of progress has allowed the Canadian Team to enter this year’s Olympic games with nine players who have major league experience. That experience is invaluable as players know how to prepare themselves for International competition and the coaches know the strengths and weaknesses of their players.
Terry is joined by a coaching staff that has major league experience, and includes Rob Ducey and Denis Boucher. Ducey spent most of his career as an outfielder with the Toronto Blue Jays, while Boucher spent the majority of his career pitching with the Montreal Expos. Rheal Cormier a leftie from Moncton, leads the team with 15 years of Major League experience with six teams.
The Canadian Team goes into the Olympics as a strong hitting team and solid bullpen. Starting pitching could be the difference in winning a medal. Puhl was also very pleased with Canada’s ‘team first’ mentality. “The Canadian team is very selfless, with not a lot of individuals, which is an environment that I enjoy,” Puhl stated.
The Canadian Team finished fourth in 2004, narrowly missing a bronze. They know the time to win is now since baseball will not be played in the 2012 games. That means it may be the last opportunity for a generation of baseball players to represent their country and wear the Canadian colors.
When asked for a final comment about the Canadian Team, he stated “I like our heart.”