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‘Tear-jerker’ moment for Adam Loewen resonates with Canadian team at WBC

PHOENIX – Larry Walker stood on the top step of the Canadian dugout as Adam Loewen walked off the Chase Field mound, trying like everyone around him to keep his emotions in check. 

The score, 12-1 for the United States at the time, was irrelevant. The big lefty had just faced a lineup of potential Hall of Famers in only his second outing since 2018, when he walked away from the game to take care of his late wife, Lynda. Loewen induced a long Nolan Arenado fly out to end the fourth inning after walks to Mike Trout and Paul Goldschmidt, and then opened the fifth with a strikeout of Kyle Tucker before manager Ernie Whitt, beaming smile, came to get him. 

“It was almost a tear-jerker when you really thought about it,” Walker, the national team first-base coach, said Tuesday. “First and foremost, good to see him back in the uniform. Life’s tragedies that he’s had is one thing, but just to pack it all in to be with his wife, go through all that and then to be able to come back and have one last chance to put a uniform on and get a strikeout, that was the best thing. The first game he pitched against the Cubs (in an exhibition game last week), didn’t go as well, you felt bad, but it didn’t really count. To actually see that, with this crowd here and everything, is just a perfect scenario, the perfect thing happened. The smile on his face was pretty amazing. We were all looking at each other, so happy for him.”

Greg Hamilton, Baseball Canada’s director of national teams who has known Loewen since he was a teenager, was one of the first to greet him in the dugout. Third-base coach Tim Leiper, trying not to cry, met him with a big high five. Teammates old and new followed.

“It was amazing, I never expected to have a chance to compete at this level again,” Loewen said Monday night after his outing. “To do it for my country is always an honour and privilege.”

Among the reasons he’d wanted to compete was to share the experience with son Lucas, eight, and daughter Lucy, six. They were among the crowd of 29,621 watching their dad, heading straight to bed once he came off the mound, and also watched him in that rough outing against the Cubs, when he allowed three runs on three hits and a walk while getting two outs.

“It’s really cool to see what they think because they only know me driving them to school and picking them up,” he said. “To share this moment with them is amazing.”

That it came in the same stadium where as a 21-year-old just out of high-A he threw 3.2 shutout innings against the U.S. at the inaugural Classic brought his career, in a sense, full circle.

“I was just glad that he came and joined us on this trip and what a way to go out with a strikeout,” Whitt said after the game. “Not to say that he’s done, but he’s not feeling real well either. It was a perfect way for him to possibly end his career.”

Told of Whitt’s comments, Loewen laughed and said, “I’ll have to talk to Ernie. I definitely (have another outing in me). I came down here to pitch and help the team in any way I can. If my name’s called upon, I’ll take the mound, for sure.”

Whether he does or doesn’t, the outing for Loewen helped soothe the sting of an otherwise tough night.

“I thought it was great that Ernie took that opportunity to throw him out there,” said Walker. “And it was a good thing, whether it was a failure as well or whether he succeeded, to have him out there again and put him in that situation to have that feeling again. It was just a feel-good story all the way around. If you didn’t like that … I had people texting me saying you guys got your asses kicked but what a heart-felt story that was. They all wanted to talk about Adam.”


Rob Zastryzny, the 30-year-old from Edmonton who starts Canada’s first-round finale against Mexico on Wednesday, was on the Chicago Cubs’ post-season roster in 2016 when they won the World Series. 

He says World Baseball Classic games have “similar feelings” around them.

“With Chicago, it was 108 years and there’s a lot of pressure, a lot of external stuff going on. It kind of feels the same way when you’re playing for your country,” he said. “It’s the same game when you go out there, but when you have Canada on your chest or you’re in the playoffs, you just feel like a lot of exterior pressure on you.

“(The Classic) is a very good experience for some of these young guys. We saw it from Mitch (Bratt). Whatever happens, happens, but he’s going to learn so much from that outing. He’s going to learn from so much what he did. You can’t really recreate this kind of emotion or this kind of environment in spring. That was one of the reasons I wanted to come here. I wanted to compete on a big stage with Team Canada across my chest. It’s very rare that you get to do that.”

Zastryzny made six big-league appearances for the Mets and Angels last season and is in camp with the Pittsburgh Pirates on a minor-league deal this spring. During his free agency, he told interested teams that he planned on playing in the Classic and asked how it would work if he signed.

“As soon as I mentioned that to the Pirates they were more than willing,” said Zastryzny. “They even said the same thing I said earlier, you cannot recreate a big-league environment or playoff environment in March, no matter how seriously you play in spring or how many fans come out to the game or whatever it is. So it’s a good opportunity for them to see me in an environment like this, and it’s a good opportunity for me to show what I’m capable of here.

“But my priorities as soon as I got on the plane to come here, was to pitch for Team Canada and do whatever I could to help us win and go to the next round.”


Props and support for Mitch Bratt, the 19-year-old Texas Rangers prospect who allowed six runs while recording one out against the United States on Monday, came from all over after his outing, including the Americans.

“For the young guy, man, keep pushing. Things happen,” said Tim Anderson. “He faced a tough lineup but he competed. And we competed as well. And we just had the upper hand on him.”

Added Mike Trout: “Everybody in this game is going to go through a rough stretch. It’s how you come out of it. You’ve got to have that mentality to come out of it. I look back and when I first came up, I struggled, but I learned from it. It’s a tough task for a young kid to go out there against our lineup. Get through it. Learn from it. And next time he gets in a situation like that, try to be better.”


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