This past weekend I was in Grand Forks, British Columbia as a member of the Langley Senior Blaze (Affiliate with the high school team of the Blue Jays Brett Lawrie) playing in the Grand Forks International Baseball Tournament. To my surprise, this tournament (in its 33rd installment) has a long storied history:
In 1984 the tournament increased to 12 teams, but it wasn't until 1987 when the true "international" flavor was added as Grand Forks welcomed Japan for the first time and in 1988; Taiwan. Since then, squads from China as well as Russia have participated, with Russia once again joining the GFI’s roster this year.
Over the years, the Grand Forks International has welcomed some of the world’s best amateur and semi-professional players with many going on to play in the ranks of Major League Baseball. A quick glance at a list of some of the names of those who have played on the hallowed grounds of James Donaldson Park could easily make up a World Series champion team. For instance, 2-time Cy Young Awards Winner and current San Francisco Giant Tim Lincecum played at the GFI in 2004 with the Seattle Studs. 2003 MLB World Series Most Valuable Player and current Los Angeles Dodger Josh Beckett played at the GFI with the Houston Astros in 1997. Brendan Ryan, current New York Yankee, played with the Lewiston Truckers in 2001, while retired Candians left fielder and Trail, British Columbia product Jason Bay, the winner of the National Leagues 2004 Rookie of the Year award played with Trail Orioles at the GFI. Starting pitcher, Jeff Francis, of the Oakland Athletics pitched for Team Canada in 1999 and former Chicago Cubs outfielder, Kosuke Fukudome, played for Japan in 1997.
Two other familiar names are 2-time World Series champion with the Toronto Blue Jays and 1993 American League batting champion (.363), John Olerud, who played with the Washington State Cougars in 1987 and 1988 and Maple Ridge, British Columbia’s very own Larry Walker who won the 1998 (.361), 1999 (.371), and 2001 (.350) National League Batting titles and was the National League home run leader in 1997 with 49, and was also named the National League’s Most Valuable Player in that same year. Walker played in the GFI in 1984, and is a future Major League Baseball Hall-of-Famer.
(Excerpt taken from http://www.grandforksbaseball.com/history.html)
Suffice to say, I was playing in a tournament with a relatively storied past. Our team ended up going 2-2 in tournament, despite having copious amounts of talent on our roster. On a cold Friday night, I pitched in a weather shortened 5 inning game against the Parkland (Alberta) White Sox, going the short distance for a 3-0 win.
GFI 2014 - Game 13 (via whatsupgf)
I didn't have an exceptionally strong outing, but I did manage to make pitches when I had to. The game was started at 9pm after 4 consecutive games on the field beforehand, so as you can imagine the mound was not at its peak condition. I struggled out of the full wind up to the first hitter of the game (a 5-pitch non-competitive walk...ugh), and decided to stay away from the wind-up for the duration of the tournament, so as to simplify my movements on the mound.
I take the mound at 1:51 in the video, and at ~48:00 (NSFW WARNING) there is in fact a streaker that jumps the right field beer garden fence, and proceeds to slide feet first into 2nd base, jump up butt-naked, run into the outfield, and jump over the LF fence and into obscurity. The tournament was full of memorable experiences.
The 5th and final inning begins at the ~1:18:00 mark. With the rain coming down hard and the mound in exceedingly poor condition, I tried to get through the inning as quickly as possible to get 5 innings and guarantee an actual game played. At 1:19:50, I picked off my first of two runners at 1st base in that inning, ensuring the game would count as a completed game (the video games on for a while, but no more baseball is played).
The next game I pitched was against the Everett (Washington) Merchants. This was an elimination game we would eventually end up losing, though not without a fight. Our coach asked me if I could pitch with one day of rest. With our tournament hopes on the line, I got the call and toed the rubber in the 5th inning trailing 6-2 (1:12:30 mark).
GFI 2014 - Game 21 (via whatsupgf)
I pitched 4 innings (5th through 8th), and tried to give our team a chance to claw back. Unfortunately, we weren't able to. I'm thinking going forward the next couple of weeks, it's probably in my best interest to take a break for a few days and let my arm rest after 9 innings across 3 days and two appearances.
If you lasted this far, thanks for reading, thanks for watching, and I hope your Blue Jays off day is made a little less boring by watching/reading some of this. If you'd like to know how my season has gone, my full season numbers are here. If you'd like to watch any of the games played at the GFI, the archive video can be found here.
GO JAYS GO!