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Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

All-time Canadian baseball rosters: the Edmonton Trappers

It’s time to continue a series compiling the finest all-time rosters of some of Canada’s best baseball teams. Last time, I detailed the all-time Calgary Cannons roster, the next team in the series was another Pacific Coast League mainstay and the hated rivals of my hometown Calgary Cannons: the Edmonton Trappers.

In the interest of full-disclosure, as a Calgarian my only experience was seeing the trappers play in Calgary and the handful of Trappers fans who would wear Oilers jerseys to Cannons games on chilly summer night games. In fact, when I was a child, I had hated the Trappers because I thought their name was dumb, knowing nothing about what a Trapper is. I had assumed they had named their baseball team after people who dug holes in the ground and hid the holes with leafs, or put a juicy steak on a plate propped up with a stick under a cardboard box.

As an adult, I have come to appreciate what was an absolutely amazing selection of players that played baseball in Edmonton, spoiling fans that visited John Ducey Park (then Telus Field) from 1981-2004. The Trappers had AAA minor league affiliations with the Chicago White Sox, California and Anaheim Angels, Oakland Athletics, Florida Marlins, Minnesota Twins, and finally, hold the distinction of being the final AAA affiliate of the Montreal Expos. The Trappers also hold the distinction of being the first Canadian team to win a PCL championship in 1984 while they were the affiliate of the California Angels, a partnership that sent some amazing players to Edmonton including Jim Edmonds, Tim Salmon, and David Eckstein.

The rules I have created for this exercise are slightly uneven. Rather than simply creating an all-time roster with one player at each position, I imagined that I, as God/Manager, had at my disposal each player in their prime and could use them as I wished to try and win a seven-game series. Frankly, it’s more fun that way.

OUTFIELD

  • CF – Jim Edmonds
  • RF – Tim Salmon
  • LF – Dante Bichette

The strength of the Calgary Cannons roster was undoubtedly in the infield. However, the Trappers, could easily field two complete outfields filled with MLB all-stars; have a look at the bench here to see what I mean. Jim Edmonds, who owns some of the most spectacular catches in MLB history, can anchor the outfield, with Salmon and Bichette on either side of him. All three are excellent hitters as well, making the outfield a definite position of strength for the all-time Trappers team.

INFIELD

  • 3B – Tony Batista
  • SS – David Eckstein
  • 2B – Scott Spezio
  • 1B – Matt Stairs
  • C – Javier Valentine
  • DH – Jason Giambi

The infield is not quite as stacked as the Trappers’ outfield, but still a formidable group nonetheless. Batista, a first-ballot batting stance Hall of Famer, provides some good Toronto Blue Jays content, playing three solid seasons for the Jays between 1999 and 2001. David Eckstein, of advanced stats and legal fame, plays his brand of scrappy, lovable shortstop and provides more Jays content as well.

Between Eckstein and Spezio, the Trappers have a ton of versatility in their infield to go with some serious power in Stairs and Giambi. The catching position, as it was with the Cannons, was a bit of a tougher find, since Javier Valentine was a solid Major League catcher but by no means an all-star.

All in all, a solid group of infielders to pair with an incredibly stacked outfield.

A relatively recent photo of Telus Field from 2010, when the baseball tenant was the Edmonton Capitals

PITCHERS

  • Johan Santana
  • Fernando Valenzuela
  • Steve Rogers
  • Scott Downs
  • Grant Balfour

I will get this out of the way now, I don’t care what kind of shape Valenzuela was in or that he only pitched for seven games in one season during a comeback bid. I just…don’t care. Valenzuela was absolutely fantastic and the fact that you could have paid to see the Trappers seven times and see Valenzuela play is so, so cool. It was mentioned in the comments of the Calgary Cannons piece that someone saw Valenzuela pitch in Calgary as a part of that, so if anyone has any other memories of watching him, please share them in the comments.

Santana pitched 48.2 innings in 2002, so he is a marginal pass to be eligible for this team, but in terms of ability, he’d be a formidable front-of-the-rotation starter for the Trappers, shouldering some big innings for sure.

Steve Rogers, a career 44.9 WAR pitcher, started five games for the Trappers in 1985, four years after he was brought into the ninth inning of the NLCS and…well…if you were an Expos fan, you know what happened. Nonetheless, he’s on the squad. I eternally feel bad for Rogers. Scott Downs (more Jays content there) and Grant Balfour provide some relief pitching for the all-time trappers team. In fact, Balfour was a member of the 2002 Trappers team that won the PCL championship and appeared in 58 games for them that season.

BENCH

  • Devon White, Ellis Valentine, Eric Chavez, Scott Spezio, Carl Everett

White spent the majority of the 1985 and 1986 seasons playing in Edmonton and has a claim to being one of the best all-time Trappers by virtue of the fact that he played a great deal more in Edmonton than most of the others on this list. It was tough to leave him off the starting lineup, but Edmonds was too good of a choice to swap out for White. Nonetheless, an immaculate defender and a luxury to have off the bench.

Ellis Valentine, who Jonah Keri expertly chronicles in his book Up, Up, and Away, played small parts of two seasons during his time with the California Angels in the last grasps of his career. Struggling with addiction his whole career, who knows what Valentine could have been capable of with his immense physical toolset.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

  • Miguel freaking Tejada played a game for the Edmonton Trappers in 1998. That is absolutely insane to me.
  • Scott Brosius played three games for the Trappers in 1996 before doing this five years later in the World Series, one game after former Calgary Cannon Tino Martinez hit an iconic World Series home run as well. So, a lot of Canadian-PCL content in that particular World Series. Still, I thought three games was not enough (even though I did include some who had barely more than that … my hypocrisy is my burden).
  • Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven started two games for the Trappers in the twilight of his career but did not play enough games to merit inclusion in my illustrious list.

The Trappers hosted some absolutely fantastic players throughout their existence before being sold to an ownership group that included Nolan Ryan in 2004. However, baseball can still be found in the same location that the Trappers played. The Edmonton Prospects of the Western Major Baseball League now currently inhabit the stadium (now known as RE/MAX Field) where the Trappers called home.

As I previously mentioned, I am an interloper to Edmonton Trappers lore, so if any of you would like to share your experience with the Trappers, or disagree with my selections, please feel free to do so in the comments. Nation Network’s Cam Lewis supplied this to me already: “I ate my first ever A&W breakfast sandwich at a Trappers game.” A poignant memory, I’m sure!