By Greg Price
It is the 10th anniversary of the Vauxhall Academy of Baseball Awards and Fundraising Banquet.
To mark the milestone, the Vauxhall Academy of Baseball has its most prominent former Major Leaguer to date as its guest speaker in Toronto Blue Jays World Series hero Devon White, for the banquet which will be held on Feb. 27 at the Vauxhall Community Hall.
“No question with Devon’s playing career being exceptional. He is a three-time World Series champion, a three-time all star and a seven-time Gold Glover winner. He’s not only prevalent in Canadian baseball, but he’s extremely prevalent in baseball in general,” said Les McTavish, head coach of the Vauxhall Academy of Baseball Jets. “He has been one of the best centrefielders to ever play the game. It’s an honour to have him in Vauxhall and we are looking forward to a great evening.”
White was drafted by the California Angels in the sixth round of the 1981 MLB draft. He made his major league debut in the late stages of the 1985 season for California, but he did not establish himself as a major leaguer until 1987, where he hit 24 home runs and stole 32 bases that season. In 1988, only his second full season, he won his first of seven Gold Gloves. On Sept. 9, 1989, he became one of the few players in history to get on first base then score by stealing second base then stealing third base then stealing home.
On December 2, 1990, he was traded with Willie Fraser and Marcus Moore to the Toronto Blue Jays for Junior Félix and Luis Sojo.
White won two World Series and five Gold Gloves with the Toronto Blue Jays. White had a .336 batting average in his post-season career with the Blue Jays, compared to a .270 regular season average with Toronto.
After the 1995 season, White signed with the Florida Marlins and won another World Series in 1997. He later played with the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the Milwaukee Brewers before retiring in 2002.
As baseball academies pop up all over North American, it is a testament to the Vauxhall Academy of Baseball that its mission statement continues to resonate as many of its players have continued on with high-end American colleges for baseball or have been drafted by Major League Baseball.
“There are several factors that come into play. First and foremost, we get tremendous support from our school, the community of Vauxhall and the M.D. of Taber. Without their support, we would never have started or sustained as long as we have,” said McTavish. “Following that up, we have lots of great people involved. We have a great support mechanism in the community, a great mechanism on the baseball side and on the resident side. We’ve always tried really hard to when we bring people to Vauxhall, we underpromise and overdeliver. That overdelivery isn’t just on the baseball side, it’s on so many different aspects.”
Those aspects include not only baseball being celebrated at the fundraising banquet, but academics and community as well.
“We have always maintained three pillars. One is the athletic ability, another is the academic side and the other is community service,” said McTavish. “These things are very important to us and the night is always highlighted by the Reno Lizzi Award winner. But, there are so many great awards. Some are memorial scholarships, some are bursaries, and there are so many people who have touched our program, it’s a way of saying thanks to our athletes who give back to the community.”
This will be the first year the Vauxhall Academy of Baseball has inductees into its Wall of Excellence to honour people who have helped the academy over the years.
The banquet features silent and live auction items along with raffles for high-end items for both men and women.
“As far as the sports side is concerned, we have a Madison Bumgarner signed World Series jersey, we have a David Ortiz signed jersey, we have a Magic Johnson signed basketball,” said McTavish, adding tickets are selling at a brisker pace than years past. “We have a few trip packages that are part of our raffle and we have a pretty neat seven-to-10 night stay in the Philippines. Moving forward, I encourage people to check out some of our auction items on our Web site.”
Ticket inquiries can be made by calling Vauxhall High School at 403-654-2145.
JET STREAM: Vauxhall Academy of Baseball’s guest speaker was born as Devon Whyte in Kingston, Jamaica. His family immigrated to the United States when he was nine years old. However, the paperwork had their family name misspelled as “White.” His last name was legally changed back to its original spelling in 2003 at the behest of his children, but throughout his baseball playing career, he was known as “Devon White” and continues to sign autographs with that spelling.