While January doesn’t generally make one think of baseball—especially with all the snow and ice and torrential rain of late—there is one local winter tradition which will bring back happy memories of the ballpark.
Now in its seventh year, the Scotiabank Vancouver Canadians Hot Stove Luncheon serves up healthy portions of inside baseball and camaraderie this coming Friday (January 20), with proceeds going towards a number of great causes.
“It started out with a few guys out at the Oakridge Community Centre having a cup of coffee,” recalls Canadians co-owner Jake Kerr of the event’s humble beginnings, “and it’s now grown to 750 people coming to lunch at the Hotel Vancouver in two ballrooms.”
With a number of special guests attending, the lunch promises to be a real treat for any baseball fan—especially those who root for the Canadians’ parent team, the Toronto Blue Jays.
“We’re thrilled to have Paul Beeston, president emeritus of the Blue Jays, back. He’s one of the icons of Canadian baseball and was the first employee of the Jays back in the ‘70s. We also have Charlie Wilson, the Jays’ director of minor-league operations, and relief pitcher Joe Biagini, who played in the Canadians’ league before he made it to the majors.”
Clearly, however, the gregarious Kerr is most excited about all the charitable benefits the luncheon will help bring about.
“Jeff Mooney, my partner, has been instrumental in putting together The Vancouver Canadians Foundation, and this event is for its benefit. The foundation has welcomed more than 1500 underpriviliged kids to Nat Bailey in the summer—we try to teach them a little bit about baseball, life, and winning and losing. Everyone gets a bag with a bat and a glove and a ball and a uniform. It’s a joint venture with the Boys & Girls Club, The Sports Exchange, and Scotiabank, and it’s a project we’re very proud of.”
Kerr also notes that some proceeds go towards UBC baseball scholarships.
“We’ve given twenty so far, they allow UBC to recruit baseball players who normally would go to the U.S. UBC’s baseball program has really been first-class for the past 15 or 20 years, and we’ve had a number of major-league guys drafted out of UBC.
“We were also really pleased to build the first Challenger baseball field in Canada,” Kerr continues happily, noting the opportunity for children with cognitive or physical disabilities to play ball in HillcrestPark right next to the Canadians.
“It was a joint venture of the Variety Club, the Parks Board, the Blue Jays and ourselves, and the turf that they have there is fantastic—it’s better than Nat Bailey!”
Of course, a conversation with Kerr can’t help winding around to the Canadians, and the team’s fortunes for the upcoming season.
“It was all very well that [former Jays GM] Alex Anthopolous traded for some great names and great people,” he remarks, acknowledging that the Canadians’ roster is subject to the vagaries of the Jays’ head office. “But he also traded away some great prospects.”
“We were at the winter meeting with [Blue Jays President and CEO] Mark Shapiro and their general manager,” Kerr says, “and they tell us we should have a better team here by far then we had the last couple of years. and the level of talent we get this year should be substantially improved. So, we think we’re going to have a great season!”