‘Sir, I’m Canadian. I can’t fight in your army.’

Many professional baseball players have been immersed in the game since they were born. Maybe their father played pro ball, or they grew up in a baseball-crazy town in a warm-weather climate, where neighbors and older friends and community idols were drafted, paving a clear path to follow.

Stubby Clapp was not one of those players. A native of Windsor, Ontario, he grew up surrounded by hockey rinks and played on ice as well as diamonds until he was a teenager. The ValleyCats manager, telling his story to the Frank and Peggy Steele Interns from the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum when they came to visit “The Joe” on Saturday, had to choose between baseball and hockey and, he said, “Baseball chose me. It paid for my education at the time, it gave me a better scholarship than hockey could offer at the time – I’m not very big, even on skates – and baseball gave me a life I could never replace.”

Stubby, who took his first trip to the Hall on an off day in early July, said he initially had no idea that he might be able to play professionally. “My whole goal in life was to be a doctor. When I went south, I figured if someone was going to pay for my education [with a scholarship], then I was going to be a doctor.”

The idea of pro ball was so foreign to Stubby that he had no idea that there was an MLB Draft until shortly before he was selected in 1996.

“My junior year at Texas Tech, I got called into the office with my coaches,” he said. He figured he must have been in trouble for something, but he couldn’t think of a reason – he was “pretty square then,” he says – so he couldn’t figure out a reason for the meeting.

“Larry Hays, who was our coach at the time, says, ‘If you get drafted, will you go?’ And he had me stumped, and I just looked him square in the eyes, and said, ‘Sir, I’m Canadian. I can’t fight in your army.’ True story, I had no idea what the major league draft was.”

Stubby, still stunned by the news, took some time to think about it and chose baseball – and he’s very glad that he did.

“I’ve seen the world for free through baseball,” he said, referencing his professional travels through America as well as his international stints with the Canadian national team. “I’m thinking about Beijing right now, and the amount of help that went into putting on that Olympics [in 2008] was unbelievable. I didn’t touch a door in Beijing – there was somebody at every single door of every venue that you went through, to open it and greet you.”

Watch Stubby’s full speech:

Kevin Whitaker

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