Russell Martin, Jimmy Key to be inducted into Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame

Former Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin talks about what it means to be inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, and looks back at his Montreal roots and how important his dad was in getting him to this point.

ST. MARYS, Ont. — Former Toronto Blue Jays all-stars Jimmy Key and Russell Martin will be inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame this spring.

The Class of 2024 also includes former women’s national team member Ashley Stephenson, former Blue Jays president and CEO Paul Godfrey, former national team pitcher Rod Heisler and longtime Toronto Leaside baseball executive Howard Birnie, the Hall said Tuesday.

“Each member of this year’s class has had a tremendous impact on the game of baseball in Canada,” Hall board chair Jeremy Diamond said in a release. “We look forward to celebrating their outstanding careers in St. Marys this June.”

An induction ceremony is scheduled for June 15 at the Hall of Fame grounds in the southwestern Ontario town, about a half-hour drive from London.

Key, a native of Huntsville, Ala., helped anchor the Toronto starting rotation for seven seasons. The left-hander won a World Series with the Blue Jays in 1992.

He earned his first all-star selection in 1985 after posting a 14-6 record and 3.00 earned-run average. Key, who was drafted by the Blue Jays in 1982, was named American League pitcher of the year by the Sporting News in 1987 after going 17-8 with an AL-best 2.76 ERA.

“I would like to thank the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and their executive committee for this great honour,” Key said. “This recognition caps off nine great years that I played in Toronto for the Blue Jays organization.

“To be a part of the first professional baseball world championship team in Canada is the highlight of my career.”

Key spent 15 years in the big leagues. He also played for the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles.

Martin, a Toronto native, spent parts of 14 seasons in the majors and played for Canada at the 2009 World Baseball Classic. He signed with the Blue Jays ahead of the 2015 season and helped the club end a 22-year playoff drought that fall.

Martin played for the Blue Jays through 2018 before capping his career with one season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the team where he spent his first five years in the big leagues.

Godfrey, a longtime politician in his native Toronto, helped lay the groundwork for the city to land an MLB franchise in 1976 and was involved in the project that led to the creation of SkyDome (now Rogers Centre), which opened in 1989.

He was named president and CEO of the Blue Jays in 2000 and remained with the team through 2008. Godfrey later served as chair of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation and president and CEO of Postmedia Network.

Stephenson, a native of Mississauga, Ont., was a member of the first women’s national team in 2004 and went on to spend 15 seasons with the squad. She won Women’s World Cup silver twice and took bronze on four occasions.

Stephenson is currently a position coach with the High-A Vancouver Canadians.

Heisler, a native of Moose Jaw, Sask., pitched in a record 14 international competitions for the men’s national team. He started Canada’s first game at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles and also played at the 1988 Games in Seoul.

Birnie, a Toronto native, has been involved in baseball in his home city for more than 70 years as a player, coach and umpire. He received the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Award in 2012 in recognition of his 50 years of volunteering in amateur baseball.

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