Morneau, Saunders headline Canada’s roster for Olympic qualifier

Canada's Michael Saunders (20) celebrates his home run against the United States (Ross D. Franklin/AP)

OTTAWA — Former American League most valuable player Justin Morneau and ex-AL all-star Michael Saunders highlight Canada’s roster for the WBSC Premier 12 next month.

The 12-team, US$5.2-million event, Nov. 2-17, also serves as a 2020 Tokyo Olympic qualifier. One spot goes to the highest-placed finisher from the Americas and one will be awarded to the highest finisher in the Super Round/Finals from the Asia/Oceania region.

Morneau, a 38-year-old first baseman from New Westminster, B.C., hasn’t played in the major leagues since 2016. His MVP campaign came in 2006 with the Minnesota Twins, one of Morneau’s 14 seasons in the majors.

Saunders, a 32-year-old outfielder from Victoria, was an all-star in 2016 with the Toronto Blue Jays. He last played in the majors in 2017.

The roster includes 11 players with major-league experience, including recent Toronto Blue Jays September callup Dalton Pompey of Mississauga, Ont.

Fourteen members of the team helped Canada win silver this summer at the Pan Am Games in Lima, Peru.

Former Blue Jays catcher Ernie Whitt will manage Canada for the 18th time in his career. Former NL MVP Larry Walker, ex-Blue Jay and Montreal Expo Denis Boucher, onetime Blue Jays first base coach Tim Leiper and Baseball Canada director of national teams Greg Hamilton round out the coaching staff.

Canada is in Group C for the first round with Cuba, Australia and host South Korea. The top two teams in the group advance to Japan for the Super Round.

Canada opens Nov. 6 against Cuba.

Canada will travel to Japan in late October for exhibition contests against Japan on Oct. 31 and the Industrial Yushu All-Stars on Nov. 3.

ROSTER

Pitchers: Philippe Aumont (Gatineau, Que.); Brock Dykxhoorn (Guelph, Ont.); Chris Leroux (Mississauga, Ont.); Adam Loewen (Surrey, B.C.); Brandon Marklund (North Vancouver, B.C.); Scott Mathieson (Aldergrove, B.C.); Will McAffer (North Vancouver); Dustin Molleken (Regina); Daniel Procopio (Toronto); Dylan Rheault (Garson, Ont.); Scott Richmond (Vancouver); Evan Rutckyj (Windsor, Ont.); Rob Zastryzny (Edmonton)

Catchers: Kellin Deglan (Langley, B.C.); Dustin Houle (Penticton, B.C.)

Infielders: Wes Darvill (Richmond, B.C.); Charles Leblanc (Laval, Que.); Jordan Lennerton (Langley, B.C.); Jonathan Malo (Joliette, Que.); Justin Morneau (New Westminster, B.C.); Eric Wood (Oshawa, Ont.); Andy Yerzy (Toronto)

Outfielders: Gareth Morgan (Toronto); Connor Panas (Toronto); Dalton Pompey (Mississauga); Tristan Pompey (Mississauga); Michael Saunders (Victoria); Rene Tosoni (Port Coquitlam, B.C.)

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