On Tuesday morning, the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame announced the 2024 class, a group of six individuals that will forever be enshrined at the St. Marys, Ontario establishment for their accomplishments towards promoting baseball excellence in Canada.
Leading the group is 14-year veteran and East York, Ontario product Russell Martin, who spent four seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays and was part of the organization’s playoff runs in 2015 and 2016.
Martin authored a 101 OPS+ for his career while earning a .248/.349/.397 slash line with 255 doubles, 191 home runs, and 771 RBIs while splitting time with the Blue Jays, Dodgers, Yankees, and Pirates.
A four-time All-Star, Martin won a Silver Slugger in 2007 and earned a Gold Glove for his work behind the plate, where he posted a .993 fielding percentage, 120 bDRS, and a 30% caught stealing rate through 1579 games.
Growing up in Quebec and becoming bilingual, Martin spent time with the Junior National Team early in his playing days and later represented Canada at the 2009 World Baseball Classic.
After playing, Martin returned sporadically to coach for the Junior National Team and with Team Canada at the 2023 World Baseball Classic. He retired with a 38.9 bWAR and ranked in the top 10 of every offensive category for Canadian-born MLB players.
Having last played back in 2019, Martin will be on the ballot for the first time next year for a chance to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
Other Members of the 2024 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame Class
Joining Martin in the CBHFM is Jimmy Key, the Blue Jays third-round pick out of the 1982 MLB Draft.
The southpaw from Alabama spent nine seasons with Toronto, working as a reliever during his rookie campaign before moving to the rotation in 1985, making 250 starts for the Blue Jays.
He crafted a 3.42 ERA through 1695 2/3 innings with the Jays, earning two All-Star appearances while also leading the league in ERA in 1987 when he posted a 2.76 ERA across 36 starts. Key was an integral part of the 1992 World Series run for the Jays, allowing just three earned runs across 18 innings.
The left-hander would finish his career with stints in New York (Yankees) and Baltimore, winning another championship with the Bronx Bombers in 1996. He retired with an impressive 48.9 bWAR and a 3.80 FIP through 2591 2/3 innings and will now be a part of Canadian baseball history.
While he didn’t play professionally, the Hall of Fame will also be adding Saskatchewan native Rod Heisler into the hallowed halls. Heisler competed internationally with the Men’s National Team on 14 separate occasions, a record for Team Canada.
The southpaw pitched for Canada at the Amateur World Series on multiple occasions and later made the starts for Canada at the 1984 Olympics, allowing just two runs through 10 1/3 innings against Nicaragua.
He was also with Canada at the 1988 Olympics, suited up at the 1979, 1983, and 1987 Pan Am Games, and made three appearances at the International Cup. For his efforts on the diamond, Heisler received the Government of Canada Merit Award (1998), was inducted into the Bemidji University Hall of Fame, and also into the Moose Jaw and District Sports Hall of Fame.
Rounding out the player group is Canadian legend Ashley Stephenson, who becomes the second woman individually elected into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.
Ashley Stephenson heads into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame
Stephenson was an inaugural member of the Woman’s National Team in 2004 and spent 15 seasons with Team Canada, winning seven medals at various tournaments across the globe including the WBSC Women’s World Cup (2008 and 2016, silver) and the 2015 Pan Am Games, winning another silver. She also helped Canada win four bronze medals at the World Cup spanning from 2004 to 2018.
Following her playing career, Stephenson turned to coaching, returning to the Women’s National Team and later became the first woman to manage the club, doing so for a five-game set against the United States in 2022.
Stephenson was invited to the Blue Jays development complex to assist with player development before landing a position coach position with the club’s High-A affiliate in Vancouver last year. The 2022 Baseball Canada Coach of the Year Award winner will return to Vancouver for the 2024 season.
Rounding out the group of inductees includes two individuals whose contributions came off the field: Paul Godfrey and Howard Birnie.
Godfrey was instrumental in helping bring professional baseball to Toronto, even meeting Commissioner Bowie Kuhn during the 1969 winter meetings to try and get a team North of the border to Ontario.
The Toronto product used his position as chairman of Metropolitan Toronto to help retrofit Exhibition Stadium into a facility that could host both football and baseball games.
This later paved the way for ownership entities in Toronto to bring a Major League team to Toronto for the 1977 campaign.
He later helped with the construction of the Blue Jays current home, the SkyDome (now known as the Rogers Centre) and in 2000, became the president and CEO of the organization, working in the role for over eight years. Godfrey was one of the numerous individuals Blue Jays fans can thank for a team coming to Toronto.
Rounding out the 2024 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame class
If you look up the word volunteer in the dictionary, you will find a picture of the last inductee, Howard Birnie.
Born in 1937, Birnie became involved with baseball in Ontario early in his life and has spent over 70 years either playing, coaching, or umpiring baseball. From 1958 to 1988, Birnie earned seven city championships and one national championship with the Leaside All-Stars in 1964. He later became the Leaside Baseball Association president in 1973 and was president of the Ontario Baseball Association for two years from 1991 to 1992.
Staying on the diamond, Birnie has been an umpire for over 34 years, working at national championships, international champions, and two World Junior Championships.
His volunteering in the baseball community earned him the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Award in 2012 and he continues to take part in the community, currently working as an appointed director in the Ontario Baseball Association.