Trail slugger Jason Bay is headed to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.
Bay earned the nominee on Tuesday along with pitcher Ryan Dempster, coach Rob Thomson and executive Gord Ash. The four members of the 2019 class own a combined eight World Series rings, five all-star selections and four Tip O’Neill awards.
“It was a very pleasant and somewhat unexpected surprise to get that call from the Canadian Hall of Fame,” said Bay. “I’m proud and honoured to be recognized with great people who have helped build baseball in Canada in various ways, to the elite level it has become. I’m looking forward to it!”
Bay joins two other Trail inductees, longtime coach Andy Bilesky (1984), and pitcher Chris Kissock (2012), who was inducted along with the 2011 Team Canada Senior National Team that won gold in the Pan Am Games and bronze at the World Cup of Baseball.
Bay, a 40-year-old from the Silver City, played for his hometown team in the 1990 Little League World Series, and went on to play two years at Gonzaga University where he earned first-team All-West Coast Conference honours in his junior and senior season.
He was drafted in the 22nd round of the 2000 MLB draft by the Montreal Expos and made his big league debut with the Padres in 2003. Bay was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates, and it was in Steeltown that he’d become a star. He assumed starting left field duties for the club on May 7, 2004 and never looked back, hitting .282 and belting 26 home runs in 120 games that season to become the first and only Canadian to win the National League Rookie of the Year Award.
Bay continued to excel for the Pirates over the next four seasons, registering back-to-back 30-home run, 100-RBI campaigns in 2005 and 2006 and earning all-star honours in each of those years. But his game was more than just power, the athletic Canadian swiped 21 bases in 22 attempts in 2005 to lead the National League in stolen base percentage (95.46%). He was also a solid defender, twice finishing second among NL left-fielders in assists (2006, 2007).
After socking 22 home runs in 106 contests to begin the 2008 campaign, he was dealt to the Boston Red Sox at the July 31 trade deadline. In Beantown, he continued to be a power threat, socking nine home runs down the stretch to help the Red Sox to a playoff berth. In the American League Division Series against the Los Angeles Angels, he batted a team-best .412 (7-for-17) to help his club advance to the American League Championship Series.
Bay returned to Fenway the next season to club a career-best 36 home runs and register 119 RBIs. In the field, he topped AL left fielders in assists (15) and posted a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage. For his efforts, he earned his third all-star nod, a Silver Slugger Award and a seventh-place finish in the MVP voting.
Following that season, he signed a four-year deal with the New York Mets and he wrapped up his 11-year major league career with the Seattle Mariners in 2013.
Over the course of his career, Bay was named the winner of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s Tip O’Neill Award, as top Canadian player, three times and suited up for the Canadian national team at the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classics, He was added to Baseball Canada’s Wall of Excellence in 2014.
Dempster, a 41-year-old old from Gibsons, BC, was selected in the third round of the 1995 draft by the Texas Rangers.
The right-hander went on to play for the Florida Marlins, Cincinnati Reds, Chicago Cubs, Texas Rangers, and Boston Red Sox, earning a spot in two all-star games, and winning the World Series with Boston in 2013 before retiring that same season.
Thomson, from Corunna, Ont., was a member of Canada’s Olympic team at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles, and went on to be chosen in the 32nd round of the draft by Detroit in 1985.
The catcher/third baseman shifted his focus to coaching in 1988. He coached in the Tigers system for two seasons before joining the New York Yankees in 1990 and over the next 28 seasons, the Canadian evolved into one of the most respected coaches in the game.
Ash, from Toronto, began his career with the Blue Jays in their ticket office in 1978 and would work in several positions on his way up the club’s ranks, eventually becoming the Jays general manager from 1995 to 2001.
The induction ceremony goes at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum on June 15 in St. Mary’s, Ont.