The Toronto Blue Jays honoured former catcher Russell Martin of Toronto, Ontario prior to their 9-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Canada Day at the Rogers Centre. However, the biggest story was the fact that a new award was created– the Russell Martin Award will be presented to the most valuable player of the Canadian National Junior Team according to Baseball Canada.
Martin represented Canada at the 2000 World Junior Baseball Championship in Edmonton. Canada finished in seventh place.
A year earlier an excellent Canadian team was assembled. It included Martin, and former major leaguers Justin Morneau and Jeff Francis. (Morneau just competed at the tryout at Walt Disney World in Florida). However, Baseball Canada decided not to send a team to the 1999 World Junior Baseball Championship qualifier, and instead played an eight-game exhibition series against the United States in Tucson, Arizona. The United States eventually won the 1999 World Junior Baseball Championship in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. The fact that Canada split the eight game series by winning four games, one could make the valid argument that the 1999 Canadian National Junior Team was the best Canadian National Junior Team ever assembled not to have a chance to compete at the World Junior Baseball Championship. The 1999 Canadian National Junior Team was a lot better than the 2000 Canadian National Junior Team. Canada has won one gold medal in the history of the World Junior Baseball Championship, and that came in 1991 in Brandon, Manitoba.