Sunday, October 26, 2008

Prince George Axemen pick ... José Canseco?

Today's straight-off-the-Ork cloud scenario: José Canseco playing senior baseball next summer for a team in Prince George, British Columbia.

Kamloops Daily News sports ed. Gregg Drinnan, on his Taking Note blog, reports that "an agent for Canseco has been in touch with organizers of the World Baseball Challenge." 

That would be the other WBC, an event will be hosted by the Axemen in the northern British Columbia logging town next summer. As best as can be figured out, it's some kind of senior amateur event.

There is that netherworld of organized sport that, to quote the writer Don Marks' description of the Allan Cup level of hockey in Canada, is "mostly a matter of some guy in some town in some province having enough money to cobble together the best players" outside of the pro leagues. Prince George is some town in some province. Canseco is certainly available.

It sounds crazy, I know ... but what's a broken-down, flat-broke ballplayer (recall that devastating article Pat Jordan wrote for Deadspin a while ago?) to do but to try to survive using his one marketable if socially irrelevant skill? It's kind of the plotline of Rocky Balboa come to life. It is not that far-fetched, to use Marks' point, to someone who has been exposed a little to this realm of sport, to think it could happen. Besides, everyone loves a whiff of having a celebrity in their midst. Remember that time in Kingston when everyone was convinced that "Mel Gibson's" boat was docked in the downtown marina?

Theoren Fleury playing in the Allan Cup with the Horse Lake Thunder after his NHL career ended comes to mind. Who knows, maybe Prince George isn't so desperate to win that they would risk an event that clearly means a lot to their community leaders becoming a sideshow centred around the erstwhile steroid-addled slugger. However, they do want to win, and even at 45 years old, Canseco could probably help. It's not clear what the calibre of ball is here, but some of the players lined up to play for P.G. don't have an entry at The Baseball Cube. One who does, a right-handed pitcher named Steve Nielsen, had an ERA above 7 in two years of college baseball and posted a mark of 5.23 in 2007 with the Grays, the erstwhile travelling team in the Can-Am League.

Here's Drinnan's exact report:
"Jose Canseco, profiled in a TV documentary — Jose Canseco: The Last Shot — that was shown earlier this week, is scared for his health, thanks to steroid use and abuse, and broke. Perhaps it’s because of the latter that an agent for Canseco has been in touch with organizers of the World Baseball Challenge, which is scheduled for Prince George, July 16-26. Canseco, 44, just may end up playing for the local entry in that tournament. . . . The WBC has seven teams confirmed with Bahamas the latest addition. The last spot will go to Cuba or Venezuela. . . . The Cubans were thought to be in but then some baseball players defected in Edmonton in August and Fidel’s baseballers now have cold feet. . . . Hey, Fidel, it’s one thing to defect in Edmonton, but P.G.?"
In all honesty, speaking as a certifiable Canadian-based baseball nut, I had never heard of this event until 30 minutes ago. The guys who play in it are obviously very good ballplayers, on some level, but five years ago former Angels reliever Dewayne Buice, at 45 years old, was striking guys out while playing for the Reno Astros, his summertime toy. Buice wasn't that good when he was twenty-five.

At first blush, it sounds crazy, but maybe it doesn't. It is José Canseco and hey, desperation is a stinky cologne.

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