Northwest Chapter meeting recap – 8/27/2011

The Northwest Chapter’s annual meeting in Vancouver, B.C., was attended by 39 members and guests. It was held Saturday, August 27 at Nat Bailey Stadium, home of the Vancouver Canadians. Max Weder organized and hosted the meeting. Simon Pond and Brent Crowther, both from North Vancouver, were our guest speakers.

Brent Crowther, a burly 6’4” right-handed pitcher, progressed to AAA in the Colorado Rockies organization in 1995. Earlier that season, he won a dozen consecutive games in A ball. He threw four shutouts that year.

Crowther was a tenth-round draft choice by the Rockies from Simon Fraser University in 1994. His pro career began with Bend in the Northwest League.

Crowther told the entire story of his career to date. He asserted that he has no regrets about ending his pro career at 24. His life as a pitcher and involvement in baseball continued after that.

Brent pitched well for Team Canada in the Baseball World Cups from 1998 to 2005. He told us many stories from his career. He pitched for Canada’s National Baseball Institute from 1990-1994. They played an exhibition series against the eventual world champion Toronto Blue Jays during a Labatt festival in Regina. Crowther said John Olerud was hitting .415 at the time (he hit .346 in August and .300 in September to win the batting title at .363). Olerud was not pleased when the big, nervous young righty unintentionally hit him. Other members of the Blue Jays were ready to attack him, but after the game, the fiery Todd Stottlemyre commended him for his moxie. We learned that several of the most interesting events of Brent’s career involved hitting batters.

Simon Pond was a corner infielder and outfielder. He was drafted out of North Vancouver High School by the Montreal Expos in the eighth round in 1994. After a long, slow climb through the minor leagues, he played in 16 games for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2004. He also played in the Cleveland, Boston, Pittsburgh, and San Diego organizations. Pond was a left-handed hitter with a smooth, line-drive swing. He says he especially benefitted from the tutelage of hitting coach Merv Rettenmund in the Toronto organization.

Simon said that the mental part of the game was always tougher than the physical part for him. He was extremely focused on his goal of getting to the major leagues, and made all his career decisions with his objective in mind. Pond pressed when he got his big league shot, and infrequent playing time increased that pressure. He did hit a home run.

After a disappointing season in AA, Pond ended his career at age 29. He was a teammate of Crowther on the Canadian team in the 2004 Olympics.

Max recommended new books with a regional connection. “Pitchers of Beer: The Story of the Seattle Rainiers” by Dan Raley is illustrated with many photographs from the collection of Dave Eskenazi, who attended the meeting. The book has received many favorable reviews.

Max and Jennifer Ettinger hosted a get-together at their home following the meeting. The day’s activities concluded with a return to the ballpark for the Canadians game.

— John Henshell