(Scotiabank Field at Nat Bailey Stadium - Vancouver, B.C.) - The beauty of Minor League Baseball is that like a good novel, you have to follow the story right through until its final page to truly appreciate what you have just read - or seen in the case of the 2009 Vancouver Canadians.
It's been a busy five years since longtime manager Rick Magnante trotted out his crew that would go out and record a casual 36-40 on the summer, giving up more than 50 runs then scored - it was by all accounts just another summer in the sun for a group of prospects that neither dazzled or projected.
A tough assessment on a group of young men all aspiring to become Major League Baseball players?
Looking back at that crop of future Oakland Athletics, I personally didn't see one guy in the bunch that could have been 'projectable' by my standards. But that's the beauty of baseball. Can't miss prospects go onto miss the mark, while late round picks and guys that sign for not much more than a plane ticket out to Vancouver end up making a name for themselves well beyond our fair city.
In 2009, players like RHP Dan Straily and RHP Bo Schultz wore the Canadians red and white. Neither of them looked to be a player that would one day play at the Big League level - at least not if you were using conventional wisdom.
RHP Dan Straily was known as 'the goof' by his teammates for his off-the-cuff statements that at times even had me scratching my head. He went 5-3 for the C's with a 4.12 ERA in 16 games but did have 66 strikeouts in just 59 innings of work making you think that at the least, he knew where the strike zone was. Beyond that vague assessment, you just never got the sense that Straily would continue to develop, but yet he did.
Drafted in the 24th round out of Marshall University, Straily went 10-7 for Kane County the following season with a 4.32 ERA. Not exactly 'wow' factor numbers, but then once again you looked to his strikeouts and he punched out 149 Midwest League hitters in 148 innings of work.
In 2011, 'Goof' struck out 154 California League hitters in 160 innings showing that he was both durable and had a arsenal that could compete. In three years, Straily had made every jumped asked of him by the A's.
2012 would be his first true challenge as Straily would ascend to the Texas League, known as a hitter's paradise and then upward to the Pacific Coast League with the best in Minor League Baseball waiting for him.
With Midland, he would go 3-4 in 14 starts despite the sweltering heat of Texas and the strikeouts? They just kept coming. 108 in 85 1/3 gave Billy Beane the sense that his mid round castoff might have something to give and boy did he ever.
With the Sacramento Rivercats, Straily would go 6-3 with a 2.02 ERA in 11 games giving the A's no choice but to give him a look at the Major League level. On August 3rd, 2012, Straily put on the green and gold of the Oakland A's and pitched against the Toronto Blue Jays getting a no-decision in a game that took 15 innings to complete.
Just four years after pitching for the Canadians, with no fanfare what-so-ever, Straily had made it to the Major Leagues.
If Dan Straily was a "third-and-long" to steal a football reference, then RHP Bo Schultz was the epitome of an onside kick being lateralled a few times before breaking the defense and scoring with a wild leap over one final defender to just get your hand over the line for a touchdown.
You still with me?
See, Bo Schultz was a free agent signing after he peaked the interest of a local Oakland A's scout just weeks before the draft of 2009. If you think that late round draft picks are shunned, imagine a non-drafted player that doesn't have any investment put into him and is as expendable as they come.
Schultz pitched well for the Canadians going 2-3 with a respectable 2.66 ERA in 26 appearances, which is plenty coming out of the bullpen. His sidearm delivery made him hard not to watch, and despite being a little unpredictable, did everything that C's manager Rick Magnante could have asked.
Schultz would go 6-1 the following year in the Midwest League with a 2.87 ERA and even that wasn't enough for the A's to keep their interest as the native of Dallas was on the outside looking in.
It was back to Independent League baseball once more, as Schultz would try and impress one more scout with the power to get him back into affiliated baseball.
For those who have played for a team with a Major League affiliate only to get released, it is usually a 'baseball death sentence' for those looking to reach the games highest level. Most will play a year or two more, realize that the dream of the Big leagues has passed them by and move onto a new career path. The affable Schultz was one of the very few who would get a second lease on his dream signing in 2012 with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Splitting time between Visalia, California (A-Ball) and Mobile, Alabama of the South Atlantic League, Schultz just kept grinding and found his stride in the Sally League going 2-3 with a 2.11 ERA in 17 games.
Fast forward to last year and suddenly the Oakland A's castoff was in Triple-A, one step away from the Major Leagues pitching for the Reno Aces where he would go 0-2 with a 5.49 ERA in 17 games.
He would bounce back with a second stint in Mobile (5-4, 2.86) but the Arizona Diamondbacks chose to add Schultz to their Major League 40-man roster giving him a place within the ranks of Major League Baseball.
From free agent, to prospect and then to castoff and prospect once more - Bo Schutlz remains the epitome of perseverance and showing a love for the game. This past off-season, he married his longtime girlfriend and will look to break camp with the Diamondbacks on Opening Day. A longshot indeed, but after charting the last five years of his journey through baseball - would you bet against him?
Here is a list of all 48 former Vancouver Canadians (2000-current) to have enjoyed a taste of the Big Leagues:
Santiago Casilla (Jairo Garcia)