Photo credit:Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Four Blue Jays connections in Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2024
20 days ago
Earlier today, the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame announced the Class of 2024, with the ceremony slated for later this summer for the six new inductees.
The class this year includes:
- Russell Martin
- Jimmy Key
- Ashley Stephenson
- Rod Heisler
- Paul Godfrey
- Howard Birnie
Let’s take a look at some of the Blue Jays connections entering the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame later this year.
A 14-year veteran of the big leagues, East York, Ont. product Russell Martin finds himself heading into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. Martin’s career was spent across North America, suiting up for the Los Angeles Dodgers (6), Toronto Blue Jays (4), New York Yankees (2), and the Pittsburgh Pirates (2).
The Chipola College product was drafted in the 17th round by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2002 and made his MLB debut four years later. For his career, Martin posted a .248/.349/.397 slash line with 191 home runs, 771 RBIs and a .746 OPS. Suiting up behind the plate for a majority of his time on the field, Martin authored a 120 DRS with a 30% caught stealing percentage.
He currently ranks sixth in RBIs, hits (1416), and doubles (255) by Canadian-born MLB players and seventh in home runs. With the Blue Jays, the Quebec-raised catcher was a part of the club’s 2015 and 2016 playoff runs and authored a 99 OPS+ with 66 home runs and 211 RBIs through 447 games.
Internationally, Martin was a part of the Junior National Team and represented Canada at the 2009 World Baseball Classic and most recently coached with the club at the 2023 tournament in Arizona last year.
Born in Huntsville, Alabama, left-hander Jimmy Key was a third-round pick of the Blue Jays in 1982, a product of Clemson University. He made his big league debut with the Jays two years later and became an instrumental part of the big league rotation over the next nine seasons.
With the Jays, Key pitched to a 3.42 ERA across 317 outings (250 starts, he was a reliever his rookie campaign) and 1695 2/3 innings. He amassed a 5.0 K/9 while was a master of his command, limiting walks to a 2.1 BB/9 rate. He boasted a 121 ERA+ and a 1.196 WHIP with the club and made two All-Star appearances representing Toronto, while also being part of the 1992 World Series Championship team, making four appearances that postseason and allowing just three earned runs through 18 innings.
Amongst Blue Jays pitchers, he ranks third in bWAR (29.7), fourth in games started and wins (116), and sixth in strikeouts (944) while ranking as one of the top influential pitchers in the organization’s history.
A Blue Jays connection off the field, the Toronto Blue Jays are an MLB team thanks to the efforts of people like Paul Godfrey.
In 1969, Godfrey met with then-commissioner Bowie Kuhn to try and convince the league to bring a baseball team to Toronto. What followed was the retrofitting of Exhibition Stadium that allowed for baseball to be played and paved the way for ownership in Labatt Breweries, CIBC, and Howard Webster to secure a team for the 1977 season. Godfrey later played a major role in the design and construction of the SkyDome, which is home to the Blue Jays to this day in downtown Toronto (although now referred to as the Rogers Centre by some) since 1989.
In 2000, Godfrey became the CEO and president of the Blue Jays organization, a position he held for eight seasons.
A product of Mississauga, Ont., Ashley Stephenson has been a mainstay at the international level for Women’s Baseball, a member of the inaugural National Team in 2004. She suited up for Canada across 15 seasons and helped the team win seven medals at various tournaments across the globe, including the Pan Am Games and the WBSC Women’s World Cups.
After her playing career, Stephenson turned to coaching at various levels, starting with the Women’s National Team which eventually saw her become the first woman to manage the National squad during a five-game series against the United States in 2022. For the 2023 season, the Toronto Blue Jays hired Stephenson in a position coach role for the High-A Vancouver Canadians, helping the team capture the Northwest League title. She will return to Vancouver for the 2024 campaign.
A Baseball Canada Coach of the Year Award winner (the first ever woman to win the award), Stephenson is the first ever woman to coach at the Blue Jays Futures Showcase and is the second woman to be inducted individually into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.
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