Walker, Whitt and Soulliere Head Ball Hall Class of ‘09
OTTAWA – Larry Walker, Ernie Whitt and Bernie Soulliere, who represent three unique stories leading to three unique roles as they will help lead Team Canada in the upcoming World Baseball Classic in Toronto this March, will reunite in St. Mary’s, Ontario on June 20th when all three will be inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.
“My congratulations go out to Larry, Ernie and Bernie. They all deserve this wonderful honour,” says Baseball Canada President Ray Carter. “I’m very proud to say that I am associated with all three of these fine gentlemen.”
Walker, a true five-tool player whose career spanned 17 seasons, leads all Canadians in virtually every offensive career category, amassing 383 homeruns, 62 triples and 471 doubles among his 2,160 career hits, while stealing 230 bases along the way. The five-time All-Star and 1997 National League MVP, who also won seven Gold Glove awards and three batting titles, compiled a career .313 batting average and .565 slugging percentage which is 15th best in major league history. The Maple Ridge, British Columbia native will be the hitting coach for Team Canada at the WBC.
"To me, the key word about this honour is the word 'Canadian,'" says Walker of his enshrinement.
"I've tried to never forget where I've come from, even when I played in Colorado or St. Louis following my time in Montreal. I've always believed in representing my country proudly, and I just love the rest of the Canucks still in the game. They all are humble, they all rarely talk about themselves, and they all have a tremendous sense of pride when they put that Canadian jersey on. Since retiring, my priority certainly is to catch up on some valuable missed time owed to my children, but the comradery in the Team Canada clubhouse makes my role with them near impossible to pass over."
"Larry is special - so unique, and so down-to-earth, a true Canadian" adds Greg Hamilton, Coach and Director of National Teams with Baseball Canada. "We are very fortunate to have Larry involved with Baseball Canada and the National Teams program. His easy-going nature makes him a natural on our coaching staff. He is so highly respected by all."
“Larry has truly set the standard for Canadian position players,” adds Carter. “Many of the Canadians in the Major Leagues, Minor Leagues and at the amateur level in Canada are playing baseball because of Larry Walker and what he’s done for Canadian baseball.”
Whitt, who currently manages in the Phillies farm system, is ranked fourth all-time in the Blue Jays organization in games played with 1,218. “The most Canadian non-Canadian you will ever meet,” as dubbed by Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame President and CEO Tom Valcke, was always a fan favourite in Toronto. After retiring as a player, he eventually returned to the Blue Jays organization as a coach for 12 years, including the last four with the Major League club.
But some of Whitt’s greatest success in coaching can be found in his time as Manager of Baseball Canada’s Senior National Team. In his first stint with the team in 1999, he led them to a bronze medal at the Pan Am Games in Winnipeg. He would follow that up with a second place finish at the 2003 Olympic Qualifier in Panama, earning Canada's first Olympic birth since 1988. Then at those subsequent Olympic Games in 2004 in Athens, Whitt guided Canada to a fourth place finish. And Whitt was at the helm of arguably Canada’s greatest victory in international baseball when they defeated the United States in the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006. Canada would finish the first round of that tournament with a 2-1 record but did not advance due to tie-breaker rules.
"I'm thrilled to death - I mean, I've got chills running up and down me right now," says an ecstatic Whitt. “This is something I would never have dreamed of, to be put into another country's Hall of Fame. It is truly humbling. In addition to my fond memories with the Blue Jays, I've got to say that I have been very proud to wear the Team Canada uniform, and Canada can be assured we'll be giving everything we have to give in the upcoming Classic.”
“Ernie has truly been one of the great leaders for our organization since he’s been on board, and he is a welcomed addition to the Baseball Canada family,” says Carter.
“He is the consummate players' manager, fantastic to work with, he garners respect without demanding it, and he is all-inclusive - he involves everybody in the decision-making process,” adds Hamilton.
Soulliere, who has helped make Windsor, Ontario one of Canada's true baseball hotbeds, has been volunteering behind the scenes for more than 40 years in amateur baseball circles as well as with numerous provincial and national teams.
He coached Windsor teams to four Ontario championships and a pair of national titles in the '70's. He was the Chair when Windsor hosted the World Junior Championship in 1986, 1987 and 1993, and he was the general manager of Team Ontario when it won three consecutive Canada Summer Games gold medals in 1981, 1985 and 1989. The baseball lifer also served as vice-president with Baseball Canada from 1992-1997, and was the president of Baseball Ontario from 1993-1995. Soulliere has acted countless times as Team Canada's business manager, and will assume that role again at the WBC.
“Wow ... I'm speechless,” says a surprised Soulliere. “This is a tremendous honour. So many great people have been inducted before me. I couldn't be going in with two greater names than Ernie Whitt and Larry Walker.”
“I’ve known Bernie ever since I’ve been involved in Canadian baseball and he is simply a tireless worker,” says Carter. “He’s not a guy who simply says he’s on the team, he really works hard at it.”
“We count on him to tie up all of the non-glamorous loose-ends. He is baseball, and he is Canada,” adds Hamilton. “The spotlight never finds Bernie Soulliere, but his relentless efforts allow the opportunity for everyone else's star to shine.”
A posthumous induction will also be celebrated as Roy “Doc” Miller of Chatham, Ontario, who played over a century ago and died in 1938, will also be enshrined.
All four new members will be inducted during a ceremony on June 20th, starting at 11 am at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in St. Mary’s, Ontario.