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Ex-Jays Martin, Key headline baseball hall of fame weekend

Ashley Stephenson, Rod Heisler, Paul Godfrey and Howard Birnie also being inducted Saturday

The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame is making its final preparations for their inauguration weekend June 15, and Scott Crawford is already looking forward to the big day.

Among this year’s inductees are former Toronto Blue Jays Russell Martin and Jimmy Key, Ashley Stephenson of the Canadian Women’s National Team, Rod Heisler, Paul Godfrey and Howard Birnie. Crawford thinks this is one of the Hall’s more well-rounded induction classes with a good mix of famous names and builders of the game alike.

“You have guys like Russell and Jimmy and Paul, who are names everyone knows, but Ashley is the first woman from our national team being inducted and that’s a big thing,” he said. “And Howard has been around the game for 70 years and seen so many changes. All of this year’s inductees are well deserving of this honour.”

Martin has been a favourite of Blue Jays fans thanks to his work in helping the team return to the postseason, and Crawford thinks he belongs in the conversation of greatest catchers of his time.

“I grew up watching Russ when he played with the Dodgers and then Pittsburgh, and he’s definitely a fan favourite,” he said.

For Stephenson, being part of the women’s team has been a huge part of her life and having the opportunity to compete at the highest level of her sport has given her gifts beyond the game.

“I’ve met incredible people and travelled the world, getting to develop and grow as a person and player, all while doing something I love — it’s been incredible,” she said. “It’s difficult for me to pinpoint just one or two memories because I have 20 years of amazing experiences … they helped shape me and I wouldn’t trade them for the world.”

She thinks back to standing on the foul line in Edmonton at the 2004 World Cup and listening to the Canadian national anthem playing before the game and how emotional it made her. A lot of things went through her mind in that moment, including the people who’d played a part in her getting to that pinnacle. It was just one of the many things to cross her mind when thinking about then and now.

“A lot of things go through your mind when you’re in a moment like that,” she said. “I thought about the people who helped me get there, about all the hard work it took to be standing there. I had a sense of pride that I had never had before. When you work so hard for something and then it comes true, you get to experience a feeling unlike most things.”

When it comes time to stand at the podium and accept her honours in St. Marys on June 15, Stephenson is going to stay true to who she is when it comes to giving advice to that next generation of female baseball players who look to her as an inspiration.

“If you work hard, you can’t lose. I love baseball — practicing, playing, competing,” she said. “Because of that love I always worked hard and even though I didn’t always get the outcome I wanted, I never felt like I lost. I have had so many opportunities in life because of baseball and because of the work I put in to be the best player and coach I could be. It was rarely easy but it was always worth it.”

Crawford sees the significance of having Stephenson joining the Hall and believes it will have long-reaching effects.

“Having Ashley as the first member of that team going into the Hall is going to really help the women’s program,” he said. “Girls are going to look up to her and see that she’s a hall-of-famer and know they can do that, too.”

Induction Day is set for Saturday, June 15, with the festivities starting at 11 a.m. for the public. The ceremony will start at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame at 1 p.m.

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Matt Harris

About the Author: Matt Harris

Matt Harris has been a journalist for more than 20 years and is excited to join the StratfordToday team and bring more of the city's colourful stories to your attention
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