Two Kelowna Jays baseball players have been selected to play for Team Canada at the World Baseball Challenge beginning this weekend in Prince George.
Jared Johnson, 26, and Cory Wood, 22, will join Team Canada for the six team tournament featuring Cuba, Chinese Taipei, Japan, Beijing, the Bahamas and the host Team Canada.
“This is a big deal for them,” said Jays head coach Geoff WHite. “It’s not very often that you get asked by Team Canada to do anything. When you put yourself up against teams like the Cuban national team and Japan it’s going to be tough baseball.”
Johnson and Wood have been two of the best Jays players so far this season. A shortstop, Johnson will play the infield for Canada while Wood, a right-handed pitcher, expects to come out of the bullpen.
A Kelowna Minor Baseball product, Johnson says he’s excited for the opportunity to play for Canada.
“It’s an honour,” he said. “I’ve never been given the opportunity to put on the Canadian jersey. To get this opportunity is a once in a lifetime thing and hopefully it’s a springboard to other things.”
After rising through the ranks of minor baseball in Kelowna, Johnson played four years of college baseball in the US and was twice drafted by Florida’s Major League Baseball franchise. He would never sign with the Marlins and returned to Kelowna to play senior baseball and also joined the coaching staff of the Okanagan College Coyotes.
He says getting called by Team Canada is right up there with getting drafted.
“Getting drafted was a huge honour but this is something I will remember for the rest of the my life,” he said. “Just being around a world tournament will be really great.”
As for Wood, the Campbell River native has been living in Kelowna for the past several years as he played for the OC Coyotes. He’s now completed his college career but remains a stalwart on the mound for the Jays, with four pitches he can throw for strikes.
“This came out of nowhere for me,” said Wood. “I had no idea. It’s pretty cool and I’m excited about it.”
Johnson and Wood will play with the Jays at a tournament in Kamloops until Sunday when they are expected to join Team Canada to begin the World Baseball Challenge. You can follow the tournament at www.worldbaseball.ca.
The Jays lost back-to-back one run games to open the Canada Day Baseball Blast last weekend, the 10 team tournament they hosted at Elks Stadium.
After a 4-3 extra inning loss and a 5-4 loss, Kelowna dropped its third game to miss the playoffs.
The event was won by the Seattle Studs, who defended their title.
Jays skipper Geoff White said it wasn’t a great weekend for the home town Jays.
“It was unfortunate with the two tight games and overall I was very disappointed in the way it turned out,” he said. “It was a good eye opener for us in where we are at and where we need to be.
The Jays are in Kamloops this weekend and are also going to be hosting the men’s baseball provincials on the August long weekend.