We all know about Chris Denorfia bringing his pugnacious play to the Italians at the World Baseball Classic. We also know about ‘merican Luke Gregerson’s slider hammering justice while making grown men pirouette as they fail miserably to make contact. But what do you we know about the 2010 43rd round draftee from the University of British Columbia?
Meet Mark Hardy, left-handed pitcher for your San Antonio Missions and the Canadians at this years World Baseball Classic. In 2011, Hardy won a bronze medal at the Baseball World Cup and a gold medal at the Pan Am games pitching for Canada. Canada beat Mexico in the semifinal and the United States in the final at the Pan Am games, two teams who happen to be in their WBC pool. Unfortunately for Hardy and his teammates, those results were not repeated, coming up just short of advancing from Pool D.
In 2012 for the Missions, Hardy appeared in six games and started three, collecting a 1-1 record with 17.0 IP, 2.65 ERA, 6 BB, 17 K. His 2011 stats at Fort Wayne are also easy on the eyes.
Hardy has taken time to share some thoughts and insight about his experience at the WBC with the Chicken Friar faithful.
Lee Bosch: What were you doing when team Canada gave you the call?
Mark Hardy: I was sitting in my apartment when I got the call from the director of national teams, as soon as I saw his name pop up on caller ID, I got pretty excited. I was thrilled to be asked and be part of the team.
LB: How did it feel hearing the Canadian National Anthem in Game 1?
MH: It’s always a big honor to represent your country, and I get chills hearing the anthem in big stadiums, especially when fans are singing along.
LB: Did you bring any family or know anyone on the team before you joined?
MH: I was very fortunate to have my girlfriend, parents, sister, aunt/uncle, and cousins in the stands for support. They all love baseball and knew how big of a stage it was. I did know a lot of the players from being on the WBC qualifier team in Germany last September, and also the World Cup/Pan Ams team in 2011.
LB: Were you excited to be on a team with stars like Justin Morneau, Joey Votto and Larry Walker? Any souvenirs?
MH: Very cool to meet the big name guys like Morneau and Votto. They were really nice guys and it was an honor to play alongside them and watch them go about their business. Main souvenir everyone got was a WBC ball signed by all the players.
LB: Was this a bigger stage than the gold medal game at the Pan Am?
MH: I feel like the WBC was a bigger stage than Pan Am because of the fact MLB players were involved, making each roster that much better. As well as playing games in chase field with 20 + thousand fans.
LB: You had a rough start in an appearance against the Reds before Canada’s first game. Was it rust or were you specifically working on a certain pitch/mechanics? Did it affect you mentally going into the WBC?
MH: For the start against the reds, it was actually my first outing in a live game. Before that I was throwing bullpens and some live (batting practice). But actually it was my first big league appearance as well so there were a few nerves but I thought my arm felt good and kinda got unlucky with 5 ground ball base hits, as well as a home run after I left with runners on base. Of course with it being only exhibition I was concentrating on certain pitches and mechanics etc. and the outcome didn’t affect my mindset going into the tournament.
LB: Mexico and USA were favorites coming out of Pool D but Canada came up just short of pulling off what would have been one of the biggest upsets in the WBC’s short existence. Do you feel Canada earned some respect after its showing in the WBC?
MH: I definitely feel like Canada baseball is on the map, every year we have more players in the big leagues and it’ll only be a matter of time until we gain more and more respect and ultimately a powerhouse.
LB: What are your expectations for the next WBC?
MH: The next WBC, since its every 4 years, I honestly have no idea where I will be at, but the experience and memories I gained from this year, I would certainly do it again.
LB: How involved were you in the Mexico/Canada brawl?
MH: I ran out on the field like everyone else but I was only chirping, not knowing it was going to escalate like it did, so when I looked over to my teammates I was shocked and started pulling guys apart rather than punching.
LB: How important is the WBC to baseball?
MH: I feel like the WBC is very important to baseball because it shows people that other countries do play this beloved game and they are good at it too! Other countries should start getting more respect and its great to see smaller teams make it further in the tournament. It was an amazing all around experience that I will remember for the rest of my life. There’s nothing better than representing your country.
Yeah Justin Verlander! Albert Pujols! Matt Kemp! Matt Cain! Do people in Dothan, Alabama not like America Matt? Reason #241 to hate Matt Cain: he hates America. Vogelsong pitched for America and that last name has German all over it. Kudos to Vogelsong. There really isn’t anything better than representing your country. Here’s to hoping more “stars” step up to the plate.