BY CLAYTON RICHER – FAN FUEL BLOGGER
The Toronto Blue Jays became a little more Canadian this offseason, adding “Captain Canada” the proverbial spark plug Stubby Clapp to its minor league coaching staff. The Windsor, Ontario native was hired as the hitting instructor for the Dunedin Blue Jays. Clapp spent the last two seasons as the Manager for the Houston Astros single-A affiliate Tri City Valley Cats
“It means a lot be a part of the Blue Jays being from Canada and growing up in Windsor. I followed them as a child and have some good memories from when I played for the triple-A team in Syracuse. Switching back over to the hitting sector of coaching is exciting because it enables you to spend a lot of one on one time with the players and help them day to day with their craft. I enjoyed Managing but as long as I’m on the field and can help and share in the players future I’m happy!”
“My aspirations are to be back in the MLB as a coach in some fashion. If the path leads me to manage I sure will welcome the challenge. The difference between managing and playing is when you’re playing you had to worry about one person. Make sure you are ready to play every day and in the right spot doing the right thing. When you manage you have to worry about the whole team and make sure they are ready to play and put them in opportunities where they can have success and learn to perform under pressure. Obviously controlling the different aspects of the game at once can be a challenge in itself.”
Clapp will also be a member of the Team Canada coaching staff for the upcoming World Baseball Classic tourney in March. Clapp suited up for the Canadian squad in 2009 but says he will stick to coaching this time around.
“Participating in the WBC was a lot of fun. It’s the best of the best and to have the opportunity is a special feeling. No chance I will be on the active roster! LOL. I will be hitting ground balls and throwing BP to a new generation of MLB players trying to get them ready to compete.”
The former draft pick of the St. Louis Cardinals played 11 seasons in professional baseball recording 23 games at the major league level in 2001. Clapp recalls getting the call to the show for his debut.
Clapp has represented Canada at almost every International tournament possible however will be best remembered for his game winning hit in the 11th inning to beat Team USA in the 2009 Pan Am games.
“What I recall about the at bat was number one the fact that Andy Stewart was the one to hit the home run to even get us to that point. But as far as the actual AB I should have hit a line drive up the middle but I let it get a little too deep and fisted over the SS head and it landed for a big win! That was the beginning of a lot of proud moments for our program.”
“I don’t think there are words or a solid phrase to describe what it means to wear the maple leaf on your chest. It’s a special opportunity every time and it leaves chills on your arms every time you pull the jersey over your head! Ball players and teams from Canada are a special group of athletes and the bond that is formed from wearing that jersey is really indescribable! There are several memorable moments but the one that stands out right now was the first time we clinched to go to the 04 Olympics in Panama. The feeling of accomplishment with that group of guys and staff was amazing! Then the most recent Gold Medal at the Pan Ams was special obviously.”
So where did the name “Stubby” come from and did the “Windsorite” ever lace up the skates while growing in up the City of Roses?
Stubby is a third generation nickname and I’ve had it since I was born and is all I have and ever will go by. Named after my father and grandfather. I’ve passed it on to my first boy Cooper who is named after my dad. Cooper Russell “Stubby” Clapp.
“I played Jr. B hockey for the Windsor Bulldogs. I wasn’t much of a goal scorer but yes when I was on the ice; it was full throttle and nothing else. A lot of hits and fights and whatever it took to win a game! I chose baseball because it chose me when it came to school. A baseball scholarship was offered to me in Texas and it paid for more of an education then what a hockey scholarship was going to and that’s how I chose baseball. I loved and still love both sports the same.”
With the recent Hall of Fame voting I was curious to see who Clapp’s vote was for the Best Canadian Player to ever lace up the spikes this side of the border. And to no surprise Clapp chose Larry Walker.
“The best player during my time was Larry Walker. Obviously his personal accomplishments in the game speak for themselves. But the way he played the game with defence, speed and power, was fun to watch. I first seen him when he was with the Expos and I played at the Acadamie de Baseball Canada in Montreal and it was a pleasure to see him compete!”
Stubby Clapp retired from the game in 2006 after his best statistical minor league season of his career.
“I retired after 2006 because in the off season the only offers I was getting was to be a player coach at a double-A level and to me that was the writing on the wall. I had just started a family and the contracts being offered we’re not going to support them and that was important to me. So I figured it was time to turn the page and give back to the game and other players in a different way and that was coaching.”
Stubby Clapp is the epitome of heart, hustle and dedication and the very fabric of what every Canadian baseball player should be molded into. And that is something you can clap about.
Clayton Richer is a baseball writer for Baseball Hot Corner, his interviews and blogs can be found daily at www.baseballhotcorner.com as well you can also follow him on twitter MLBHotCorner
More NHL: Gardiner/Kadri too much for Luongo?