Canadian Clapp repeats as PCL’s top skipper
Retired Canadian baseball players Pete Orr and Adam Stern still get asked the same question whenever they talk about their national team days.
Did you play with Stubby Clapp?
“I’m always like: ‘Are you serious, that was years ago,’ ” Orr said with a laugh in a phone interview with The Canadian Press on Wednesday, one day after Clapp was named the Pacific Coast League’s manager of the year for a second straight season.
“Stubby was just one of those guys,” Stern added. “When you played with him he was like a living legend. People knew about Canadian baseball because of him.”
Clapp was recognized Tuesday after leading the Memphis Redbirds — the triple-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals — to an 80-53 record with seven games to play and locking up a second straight division title in his second year on the job.
The 45-year-old from Windsor, Ont., was brought on as manager for 2017, when the Redbirds finished a league-best 91-50.
“Having played in that league a lot, it’s a tough place to manage,” said Orr, a scout for the Milwaukee Brewers who spent 10 of his 16 pro seasons in triple-A. “You’re dealing not just with developing players but also with guys who are in every scope of their careers — young guys coming up, older guys on their way down, veterans hanging on trying to support their families.
“I’ve been around some really great managers in this game and they’re always real, they’re always honest and that’s Stubby.”
Clapp was selected by the Cardinals in the 36th round of the 1998 draft and played 23 MLB games with St. Louis in 2001.
He appeared in over 800 minorleague games in the St. Louis, Atlanta and Toronto systems.
Stern, who now owns a baseball facility in London, Ont., said Clapp’s success as a manager has a lot to do with what he experienced as a player.
“I think he can relate to guys,” he said. “He knows what it’s like to be a prospect, he knows what it’s like to play for a long time and maybe not get your chance and he knows what it’s like to finally get your chance. He can really see it from every perspective and for triple-A baseball that’s huge.”
Orr and Stern met Clapp in 2003 when they all played in the Atlanta organization — Clapp as a 30-year-old who had just signed as a free agent. They also joined forces that year in Panama for a qualifying tournament for the 2004 Olympics.
All three made the roster for the Athens Games and the 2006 World Baseball Classic.
“Everyone who played with Stubby will remember the back flips he used to do on the field,” Orr said. “You’d start the game and you’d see him run out and do a back flip. That’s something you don’t forget.”
Clapp had solidified his status in Canadian baseball well before Athens or that first WBC. He hit an 11th-inning, bases-loaded single to lead Canada over the United States at the 1999 Pan Am Games in Winnipeg, a tournament in which Canada won bronze.
“What you’re seeing now, what Baseball Canada has become, it took pivotal moments like that to get some momentum behind it,” Stern said. “Stubby is the epitome of what Canadian baseball players are — hard-nosed guy, little bit of an underdog — that’s what he symbolizes.”
Clapp, who previously served as a hitting coach in Toronto’s organization at advanced-A Dunedin and double-A New Hampshire, was also the third base coach for Canada’s gold medalwinning team at the 2015 Pan Ams in Toronto.
“I think I was the only guy there old enough to have played with Stubby,” Orr laughed. “But he was great (as a coach), very well-liked and he was there for his players.”
Stern said he wouldn’t be surprised if a major league team hired Clapp in a manager’s role soon.
“You’re starting to see more clubs take chances on younger managers and I think Stubby has paid his dues,” Stern said. “A big league manager is a considerable step because you’re dealing with a lot more but why not him?
“It depends what the team is looking for, of course, but he’s going to bring a lot to the table.”
Stubby Clapp of Windsor, Ont., has been named the Pacific Coast League manager of the year for the second season in a row with the Memphis Redbirds. While Clapp’s contributions to Canada’s national men’s team are what he’s best known for in his homeland, many people managing a MLB team is in his future.