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Blue Jays invested in Team Canada's success

MLB.com @gregorMLB

It might be Central Florida in the middle of March, but the city of Dunedin will have a distinctly Canadian feel on Tuesday afternoon.

That's because Team Canada will be taking on the country's only Major League Baseball team in a warmup for the World Baseball Classic. Dalton Pompey, Russell Martin and Paul Quantrill are among those trading in their blue uniforms for red, but in this particular case, they might as well be playing for the same team.

It might be Central Florida in the middle of March, but the city of Dunedin will have a distinctly Canadian feel on Tuesday afternoon.

That's because Team Canada will be taking on the country's only Major League Baseball team in a warmup for the World Baseball Classic. Dalton Pompey, Russell Martin and Paul Quantrill are among those trading in their blue uniforms for red, but in this particular case, they might as well be playing for the same team.

The Blue Jays and Baseball Canada are two very distinct organizations, but they share a lot of interests and goals. Success for one usually results in success for the other. When it comes to the state of baseball in Canada, these two sides will be forever intertwined.

Team Canada's Dempster, Gagne excited for Classic

"When we're successful as an organization, the enrollment for kids, the academies the Blue Jays do, [goes up]," said Quantrill, Blue Jays special assistant and Team Canada bullpen coach. "For many of the kids who end of being pretty good ballplayers, they come through this program. ... At some point they're going to be playing on our Junior Team or have a connection with Canadian baseball. So I think it's a good marriage."

Quantrill should know all about that. The native of London, Ontario, spent six of his 14 big league seasons in Toronto and also took part in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. His son, Cal, is a product of the Canadian Junior Program and was recently taken by the Padres in the first round of the 2016 Draft. Cal didn't have to look far to find motivation for his big league dream, but for others, the Blue Jays are there.

Michael Saunders, Justin Morneau, Jason Bay, Erik Bedard and Joey Votto are some of the players who were inspired at a young age by Toronto's back-to-back World Series titles in 1992 and 1993. Pompey was less than a year old the last time the Blue Jays won the World Series, but he grew up just outside Toronto, and he knows the responsibility that comes with playing for the team and the country.

"What makes it special is that there's only one Major League team that represents all of Canada," said Pompey, who is expected to start in the outfield for Team Canada. "So it is a huge deal that they participate, not only in helping Team Canada but helping youth in Canada as well. I feel like that's just huge for the country as a whole in terms of developing baseball and getting more kids to play baseball."

In a nod to the ties these two organizations share, the Blue Jays opened their doors in recent weeks to Canadian ballplayers without an MLB affiliation who were getting ready for WBC 2017. Rene Tosoni, Pete Orr, Scott Richmond and Jonathan Melo are among the players who worked out at Toronto's Minor League complex in advance of this week's camp.

Toronto also granted permission for Quantrill and first-base coach Tim Leiper to join Canada's coaching staff. When Martin was ruled out of tournament play because of insurance issues, the organization didn't get in his way of wanting to coach from the bullpen. The Blue Jays didn't have to do any of this, but in a lot of ways, it's the club living up to its unspoken responsibility.

Martin seems to feel that way, too.

"I'm over the frustration part of it. I've gotten over it," Martin said of not being able to participate. "There's a rule that doesn't allow me to play ... but I think I might have some information on opposing hitters that can help some pitchers out, help their preparation. Hopefully, in turn, if they feel prepared, they're going to feel more confident when they go out and take the field."

Left-hander Andrew Albers will get the start for Team Canada in a game that is scheduled to start at 1:07 p.m. ET. He is expected to be followed by former All-Star Eric Gagne, who is making his return to the mound. The Blue Jays will counter with lefty J.A. Happ.

The World Baseball Classic runs through March 22. In the U.S., games air live exclusively in English on MLB Network and on an authenticated basis via MLBNetwork.com/watch, while ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN provide the exclusive Spanish-language coverage. MLB.TV Premium subscribers in the U.S. have access to watch every tournament game live on any of the streaming service's 400-plus supported devices. The tournament is being distributed internationally across all forms of television, internet, mobile and radio in territories excluding the U.S., Puerto Rico and Japan. Get tickets for games at Marlins Park, Tokyo Dome, Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, Estadio Charros de Jalisco in Mexico, Petco Park, as well as the Championship Round at Dodger Stadium, while complete coverage -- including schedules, video, stats and gear -- is available at WorldBaseballClassic.com.

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

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