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Oh, Canada! Meet the True North Stars of Major League Baseball

Canada's baseball stars are showing the world that we're not just about hockey.

Baseball is not just a sport in Canada; it’s a passion. And that passion is paying off as more Canadian-born players make their mark on the diamond.

But who are these True North stars, and how did they get to where they are? Let’s take a look at some of the current Canadian-born stars making their mark in baseball’s top league. 

We’ll lead off with Edmonton, Alberta’s own Rob Zastryzny, a relief pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Zastryzny was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in 2013. He made his MLB debut in 2016 and was part of the Cubs team that won the World Series that year.

Zastryzny signed with the Baltimore Orioles as a free agent and played in the Miami Marlins, New York Mets, and Anaheim Angels organizations jumping between the minor league and major leagues. 

After signing with the Pirates for 2023, Zastryzny has appeared in ten games so far and has been a valuable reliever for them.

Calgary native Mike Soroka has had a few cups of coffee with the Atlanta Braves since 2018. The Bishop Carroll High School graduate was drafted 28th overall by the Atlanta Braves in 2015, and he spent portions of four seasons in the minor leagues before being called up to the Braves.

Mike made the All-Star team in 2019, and finished second in National League Rookie of the Year Award voting. In 2020, he became the Braves’ youngest Opening Day starter in the team’s history, before an injury ended his season. He has been in and out of the  major leagues ever since.

The biggest star among Canadian- born players is the Blue Jays’ own Vladimir Guerrero Jr. The Toronto Blue Jay designated hitter/first baseman is one of the most exciting players in the big leagues. He is also a proud Canadian citizen, having been born in Montreal.

Vladimir Jr. is the son of former MLB player and Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero Sr. and a nephew of former MLB player Wilton Guerrero. Junior inherited his father’s power and charisma.

In 2021, Vladimir Jr. led the major leagues in home runs (48), runs scored (123), and total bases (363). He was voted to the AL All-Star roster in 2021, during which he was voted MVP, the youngest to do so in All-Star Game history. He also finished second in AL MVP votes that season. 

So far this year, Vladimir is hitting .281 with nine home runs and 38 runs batted in across 62 games this season, his fifth in the major leagues.

The most successful All-Star with Canadian connections is Freddy Freeman.  The Los Angeles Dodger first baseman was born in Southern California, but holds Canadian citizenship because both of his parents are from Ontario, Canada. 

Freeman played for the Atlanta Braves for 12 seasons. He made his MLB debut in 2010 and is a six-time MLB All-Star. Freeman was the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 2020. He won the 2021 World Series as a member of the Braves.

Freeman won a Gold Glove Award for fielding in 2018, and the Silver Slugger Award in 2019, 2020 and 2021 as the best-hitting first baseman. 

After 12 seasons with the Braves, he entered free agency and signed a six-year, $162 million contract with the Dodgers.

Another Canadian player who has made a name for himself is Josh Naylor, who plays for the Cleveland Guardians. He is a versatile hitter who can play both first base and outfield. He was born in Mississauga, Ontario, and he was drafted by the Miami Marlins in 2015. He was traded to the San Diego Padres in 2016, and then to the Indians in 2020.

This year, Naylor is hitting a solid .277 with eight home runs and 45 runs batted in across 65 games this season, his sixth in the major leagues.

One of the best pitchers from Canada is James Paxton, a starting pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. He has previously played for the Seattle Mariners and New York Yankees.

He is known as “The Big Maple” because of his height (6-foot-4) and the maple leaf tattoo on his right arm. He was born in Ladner, British Columbia, and he was drafted by the Mariners in 2010. He has a fastball that can reach up to 100 mph, and he has thrown a no-hitter and a complete game shutout in his career.

Entering his 10th year in the bigs, Paxton has made five starts, winning two and losing one. He has an earned run average of 3.81. 

Another starting pitcher from Canada is Cal Quantrill, who joins Josh Naylor on the Cleveland Guardians. Cal is the son of former MLB pitcher Paul Quantrill, and he has followed in his father’s footsteps. He was born in Port Hope, Ontario, and was drafted by the Padres in 2016. He has a solid repertoire of pitches, including a fastball, a slider, a changeup, and a curveball.

Having a 33-20 record over his first five seasons, Quantrill has had a rocky 2023 season so far, going 2-4. He was put on the disabled list in early June with a sore shoulder. 

One of the most inspiring stories from Canada is Jameson Taillon, a starting pitcher for the Chicago Cubs. He was born in the US, but has dual citizenship because his parents are from Canada. 

Taillon was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2010, and he has overcome many challenges in his career, including two Tommy John surgeries and testicular cancer. He played for the Pirates and the Yankees in his first five seasons. 

Taillon signed a four-year free-agent deal with the Chicago Cubs this year and has pitched in 10 games after battling a groin injury. 

As you can see, although we are known as a hotbed for hockey players, Canada is also producing some top talent in baseball. 

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