When sports tournaments begin in which players are representing their country and not their team, the discussion is always raised whether or not major league athletes should be participating. You can blame the huge amounts of money invested in these players, which leads to a great fear of injury by the guys writing the cheques and the players themselves; and many players also fear they will get worn out by the extra games, but shouldn’t those be afterthoughts if you can bring a championship back to your country?
This past week, the World Baseball Classic kicked off at diamonds in Puerto Rico, Japan, Arizona and Taiwan, with multiple omissions on Team Canada’s roster.
The World Baseball Classic is essentially the World Cup of baseball – or at least it’s trying to be. After baseball struck out at the summer Olympics, the WBC is the marquee event to put on a jersey with your country’s colours and take on the rest of the world.
One of the more notable player rejections was Canadian catcher, Russell Martin. He was willing to play for the team… if he could play shortstop. For those of you who don’t know much about baseball, a position change like that simply doesn’t make any sense. Martin did grow up playing in the infield, but at third base and not shortstop, which is still a bit of a leap. But you got to the major leagues because of your abilities to play catcher and you’re making big bucks for your abilities to play catcher. So, thanks, but no thanks, Russell.
Like many players, he didn’t want to play catcher because of the toll it took on his body, but I bet if he was a hockey player he wouldn’t think twice and he’d take a puck in the face if it meant he saved the goal allowing Team Canada to win a gold medal.
And sure, in other sports we may not quite win gold medals if we field the best team we can, but Canada would certainly have a good chance at taking home a medal.
Look at basketball even, Canada has the privilege of being the home of two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash, but he stopped playing for Canada after the 2004 summer Olympic qualifiers in Puerto Rico. And not having Nash play looks our basketball program look a lot less respectable.
Players should yearn for the chance to show the world what they’ve got, even when it’s not Canada’s national pastime. We field a high level of athletes across many different sports and we should be able to make some noise on the world stage. Getting a little sore here or there is a really weak reason not to put the maple leaf on your chest and if you’re not going to, why will other players want to? Playing or not playing shouldn’t be a question. Instead, the question should be: “When can I suit up for the red and white?”