In the sports world, it used to be that Canada was known only for its bizarre football rules and excessive love for hockey. Things are starting to change however—and a closer look reveals that Canada is making strides in another sport, one traditionally known for being "America's National Pastime."
That's right: Canada is becoming a legitimate force in Major League Baseball.
In fact, this phenomenon has been slowly gathering steam—and while the past few years have shown signs of progress, 2007 was really the year where Canadians began making headlines.
Yes, the Blue Jays won two World Series' back in '92, and '93, and it was a big deal to a lot of Canadians. Larry Walker won the NL MVP award in 1997, after having a career year with the Rockies.
But there simply has never been a season when so many Canadians made such an impact throughout the league like in 2007.
Here's a breakdown of how the year looked for Canadians in the MLB:
About half of the Canadians currently in MLB are pitchers. Many are used like any average pitcher, such as in bullpens or as fifth starters.
There are however, some Canadian pitchers with real star power, that have become the "Aces" for their respective teams. The two most well known are probably Baltimore's Erik Berard, and Colorado's Jeff Francis, the latter of which helped carry the Rockies on their magical run to the World Series.
Bedard led a stacked American League in strikeouts until he was forced to miss the last month of the season with an injury. He still managed to finish third in that category however with 221 K's, and an astounding 1.09 WHIP on the season.
Francis, on the other hand, had a solid 17-9 record, and struck out a substantial 165 batters. He was also one of the few Canadians to pitch in a World Series game, let alone be a starter for one.
The big bats of 2007 looked solid for a pair of B.C. boys named Justin Morneau and Jason Bay.
Morneau, fresh off his AL MVP season, kept pace by going deep 31 times and driving in 111 runs. By his previous standards, Bay had an off year—but still managed to hit 21 long balls and drive in 84 runs. Matt Stairs even proved that he might be more than a bench playerm, after he posted a .368 OBP and 21 home runs in only 357 at bats. Furthermore, Jays fans will be the first to tell you that all of Stairs' handy work was being done in very clutch situations.
The future also looks promising for young Canadian talen, with the likes of Joey Votto, Adam Loewen, and Scott Thorman chomping at the bit. The two first base prospects looked strong when Votto cracked the Reds' lineup towards the end of the year, hitting for a .321 average. Thorman meanwhile hit eleven home runs, despite being limited to 287 AB's. Loewen had a tough year because of injuries, but in his six games he was able to significantly improve his ERA, bringing it down to 3.56.
All Around Best
While any of the well known Canadian All-Stars could have taken this title, one of the most truly exciting performances by a Canadian in the MLB has to go to Russell Martin of the LA Dodgers.
It was a banner year for the Montreal catcher, and the accolades came pouring in. Martin was selected to be the starting catcher in the All-Star game, then proceeded to win both the Silver Slugger and Gold Glove in the NL. Martin topped it all off by bringing home the Tip O'Neill Award as the best Canadian player in the game.
And the truly exciting part is that all Martin's success came in only his second year in the league.
Admittedly, in a wild and crazy 2007, maybe the success of these Canadians isn't the "Story of the Year". After all: these accomplishments may seem like a drop in the bucket when compared to American or Dominican baseball fans, who have endless numbers of all-stars and players to cheer on.
But to the Canadian baseball fan, this season was a substantial step in the right direction, as it not only gave fans something to get excited about, but also helped to put a focus on Canada as a legitimate pool for baseball talent.
Remember, it's not winter all the time up north. Sure, Canadians like to play with their sticks and pucks when they can—but when the ice melts and the sun starts to shine, look out, because these guys know how to bring it on the diamond as well.