OTTAWA – Baseball Canada is thrilled to learn that former Women’s National Team standout and current coach Ashley Stephenson along with former Major League Baseball All-Star Russell Martin and longtime Men’s National Team member Rod Heisler are part of the six inductees that will take their rightful place in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum later this year.
The class, set to be formally inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum in St. Marys, Ontario on June 15th, 2024, also includes former Baseball Canada and Baseball Ontario executive and umpire Howard Birnie, former Toronto Blue Jays President Paul Godfrey and former Blue Jays lefthanded pitcher Jimmy Key.
Ashley Stephenson, of Mississauga, who is currently a coach with the Vancouver Canadians, the High-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays, will be the first member of the Women’s National Team program inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.
“I played baseball because I love the game,” said Stephenson in a statement. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d play for my country and have some of the experiences and opportunities I’ve had. I hope girls and women see this as an example of what you can do through hard work, dedication and perseverance. The Hall of Fame is forever. I’m so incredibly honoured to be a part of it!”
Stephenson, an original member of the Women’s National Team in 2004, helped Canada to seven international medals, including silvers at the WBSC Women’s World Cups in 2008 and 2016 and at the Pan Am Games in 2015 while winning World Cup bronze medals in 2004, 2006, 2012 and 2018. She’s twice been named Women’s National Team MVP in 2005 and 2008 and in 2018 was honoured with the naming of the Ashley Stephenson Award, handed out in her honour annually to a member of the Women’s National Team.
After concluding her playing career, Stephenson became a coach and was part of the Women’s National Team staff that led Canada to a bronze medal at the COPABE Women’s Pan-American Championships in 2019. Three years later, she became the first woman to manage the Women’s National Team during the five-game “Friendship Series” against the United States in Thunder Bay.
Stephenson would later make history again that November when she became the first woman to capture Baseball Canada’s Lionel Ruhr Elite Coach of the Year Award.
Former Junior National Team member Russell Martin of Montréal first represented Canada in 2000 at the World Junior Championships in Edmonton as a 17-year-old before donning the Maple Leaf in 2003 where he helped Canada qualify for the 2004 Olympics. He later played in the 2009 World Baseball Classic and was a coach for Team Canada at the event in 2017 and 2023.
Drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2002, Martin made his big league debut in 2006 and so began a 14-year career in the big leagues with the Dodgers, New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Pirates and four seasons in his home country with the Toronto Blue Jays.
A four time All-Star, Gold Glove (2007) and Silver Slugger Award (2007) winner, Martin was known as one of the top defensive catchers of his era. He appeared in the postseason in ten of his 14 big league seasons.
“My first thought when I heard the news was man, I must be getting old,” said Martin. “My next thought was what an honour to be inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame alongside other greats. I’ve never played the game for awards and accolades, but this is pretty darn special.”
Rod Heisler of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan represented Canada in international competition on 14 occasions from 1978 to 1987 including the 1984 Olympic Games when baseball was a demonstration sport.
A left-handed pitcher, he also participated in three Pan Am Games events coming in 1979, 1983 and 1987.
A longtime umpire, coach and executive at the amateur level, Howard Birnie of Toronto has been involved in baseball for over 70 years.
Birnie served as President of the Ontario Baseball Association in 1991 and 1992 where he was also a Baseball Canada board member.
As an umpire, Birnie worked six national championships between 1979 and 1989, three international championships (1985, 1987, 1990) and two World Junior Championships (1986-87). On the coaching front, Birnie led teams from Toronto Leaside for over 30 years including a national championship in 1964.
Paul Godfrey was CEO and President of the Toronto Blue Jays from 2000 to 2008 and was a key figure in the early days of the Toronto Blue Jays from helping lay the groundwork of bringing a big league team to Toronto while also playing roles crucial roles in stadium developments.
A five-time All-Star and two-time World Series champion, lefthanded pitcher Jimmy Key was an integral piece of successful Blue Jays’ teams from 1984 to 1992.
Key is best remembered by fans north of the border for earning two World Series wins when the Blue Jays won their first of two world championships in 1992.