Port Moody’s Michael Crouse plays baseball for a team named after a hot dog. Now, he’s stepping up his culinary aspirations as a member of Canada’s Olympic team that’s hoping for a place in the land of sushi, at the Tokyo Summer Olympics.
Crouse, who’s embarked upon his second season roaming the outfield for the Chicago Dogs — the team’s mascot is a mustard squeeze bottle — of the independent minor pro league, the American Association, is one of 25 players named to Canada’s national team that begins its quest for a spot at the Olympics on May 31, at an eight-team qualifying tournament in St. Lucie, Fla.
The winner of the qualifier earns an automatic berth in Japan, while the teams that finish second and third will get another chance at a subsequent qualifier in Mexico.
Canada’s team, that is managed by former Toronto Blue Jays’ catcher Ernie Whitt, is comprised of former Major Leaguers as well as several players who helped Canada win a silver medal at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru.
Crouse, who grew up in Port Moody’s Glenayre neighbourhood and started his baseball journey with Coquitlam Little League, was a 16th round selection of the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2008 Major League draft. But the closest the 30-year-old ever got to Roger’s Stadium was the Jays’ AA minor league affiliate in New Hampshire before he was released in 2014.
Since then, Crouse has toiled for independent pro teams in cities like Lancaster, Penn., New Britain, Conn., and Somerset, N.J., as well as a little more than a season in the Mexican League. He signed with the Chicago Dogs — that is actually based in suburban Rosemont, Ill. — in March, 2020, just as the COVID-19 pandemic shut down sports around the world. The team was eventually able to put together a 58-game season — and even played in front of limited live crowds — that concluded last September 10.
Crouse hit .262, swatted 10 homeruns and batted in 30 runs. In six games so far this season, he’s hitting .217 with 3 RBIs.
Crouse is a veteran of Canada’s national team program. He helped the side earn gold at the 2011 Pan American Games in Mexico, a bronze medal at the 2011 Baseball World Cup in Panama, as well as the silver at the 2019 Pan Ams.
The team hasn’t been together since a World Baseball Softball Confederation tournament in Korea in 2019 that brought together the top 12 national teams in the world. Canada beat Cuba then lost to the host team as well as Australia. Every competition in 2020 — including the Tokyo Olympics — was either cancelled or postponed.
Crouse and the rest of his national team teammates begin a six-day training camp today (May 25) in Palm Beaches, Fla., that includes a pair of exhibition games against Team USA. Canada opens its quest for a Olympic berth against Colombia on May 31.