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Latin baseball trip for Vernon pair
In the Dominican Republic, baseball is king. And two Vernon baseball products will experience playing in its kingdom.
Jacob Holland, 15, and Landon Currie, 14, will be playing on teams representing Canada at the Latin America Baseball Classic in the Dominican capital of Santo Domingo, Aug. 6-12.
Holland, entering Grade 11 at Vernon Secondary, will play catcher for Canada’s U18 squad. Currie, going into Grade 10 at Fulton Secondary, is a first baseman, outfielder and pitcher who will play for the Canadian U14 entry.
“I went to try out in Penticton and I wasn’t eligible to play for the U14 team, so the U18 needed a catcher and they called me to play. I said, ‘Sure,’” said Holland.
“It will be a great experience. I probably won’t ever get a chance like this again.”
Currie didn’t try out but has been playing baseball all spring with the Vernon AA Bantam Canadians. His spot on Team Canada came after some help from Holland’s father, Dennis.
“They needed a couple of more players and Jake’s dad told them about me,” said Currie. “They looked at my profile and then they called me.”
Both players will get an opportunity to play countries such as the U.S., Mexico, Venezuela, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
The host country just happens to be the reigning World Baseball Classic champions, and has produced hundreds of Major League Baseball players including the likes of current Toronto Blue Jays Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Reyes, and slugger David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox.
“I’m really excited for the competition,” said Holland. “It’s going to be interesting to see how we stack up against other countries that play baseball.”
Holland started catching as a natural progression from his winter pastime, being a hockey goalie. A couple of seasons behind the plate and Holland fell in love with the position.
“It’s a lot fun back there,” he said. Holland describes himself as a “good defensive catcher, good at blocking balls, calling a game, with a decent arm.”
Offensively, Holland says he’s a “contact hitter that finds the gaps.”
Currie has been playing baseball since he was four, and is hoping to see some action in the Dominican at his favourite position, first base.
But with two lefties at the position on the team already, Currie may find himself in the outfield.
One thing Canada – made up mostly of players from B.C. and Alberta, in both age classes – will rely on from Currie is getting on base.
“I love base running,” said Currie, who recently represented the Okanagan in volleyball at the B.C. Summer Games in Nanaimo, and who also excels in hockey and rugby.
“I’m probably one of the fastest guys on the team. I’m not a long-ball hitter, but I can use my speed to get on base.”
Neither player has been to the Dominican Republic, nor has either played against top-level competition. The U.S., for example, will be sending national squads to the Latin American Classic.
“For sure, this will be one of the top experiences of my life,” said Currie, whose answer was echoed by Holland.
The players have been raising funds for their trip through working over the summer, family, friends, community support, and donations from Vernon and District Baseball Association along with area businesses.
Each team is guaranteed four games which will be played in and around Santo Domingo and Boca Chica. Both Holland’s and Currie’s teams will play some games at the Major League Baseball complex fields of the Chicago White Sox, Minnesota Twins, Baltimore Orioles, Chicago Cubs and Arizona Diamondbacks.