Brad Barker and longtime coach Ed Matthews celebrate winning the Canadian U20 softball championship Sunday. Barker, now a member of the Toronto Patriots, with the Markham Royals last season. (Photo by Ray MacAloney/OJHL Images
A veteran Ontario Junior Hockey League forward had been selected to the Canadian U18 Men’s National Team that will compete in the 2023 WBSC Americas Pan American Championship from Sept. 3-9 in Sincelejo, Colombia – in softball.
Brad Barker of the OJHL’s Toronto Patriots was named to the squad this week. The resident of the Stouffville-area community of Goodwood played in the OJHL for the Markham Royals the past two seasons.
Two-sport Barker certainly had a week to remember.
The 19-year-old shuttled – it’s a five-hour round trip – between Patriots’ training camp in Toronto and the U20 Men’s Canadian Championship softball tournament in Napanee.
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Barker pitches and plays first base for the host Napanee Express who won the national title with a 2-0 win over the Tavistock Athletics, from near Stratford, Sunday.
Napanee went 8-1 at the eight-team, six-day tournament.
“After that final catch was made in that championship game, we were celebrating with the medals and taking pictures,” Barker said. “The CEO of Softball Canada came over to me, shook my hand and mentioned that he needed my passport. It was a pretty cool moment. It was like two wins in one day.”
It was Barker’s first national championship. The Pan-Am tournament in Colombia will mark his debut playing for Canada.
“First thing, I hugged my mom, who was crying, and my dad,” he said. “It was a special moment. All that work we put in. They did so much for me.”
The youngest of four brothers, Barker began playing softball and hockey in Stouffville.
He had additional special praise for Ed Matthews and his father, Kelly, who began coaching him in softball at the age of 5 at the house league level.
Ed, the longtime scorekeeper with the Stouffville Spirit of the OJHL, and Kelly coached Barker through his select and rep days in Stouffville, and with a team in Port Perry last season. Ed was on the gold-medal staff in Napanee this summer.
“They’ve done so much work with me, “Brad said. “It’s been awesome.”
Over to Ed.
“I’ve had the pleasure of watching him grow into not only a fantastic player but also a well-rounded young man,” Ed said. “He is as driven as anyone I’ve met and it’s fantastic to see his hard work pay off here.”
Barker also thanked Randy Smith of BodySmith International in Stouffville, where he has worked out for the past seven years. Smith has been a strength and conditioning coach to OJHL teams and individual players for more than 20 years.
The Pan American Championship will feature six teams – Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Peru, the United States and Venezuela – with the top four earning a spot at the 2023 WBSC U18 Men’s Softball World Cup Nov. 11-19 in Hermosillo, Mexico.
Canada’s U18 softball roster was selected by head coach Mark Quinn (Mermaid, P.E.I.) and assistant coach Jean-Yves Doucet (St-Leonard-d’Aston, Que.) following a selection process that included regional identification camps held in 2022 and scouting at major tournaments over the last two years, including the recently completed U20 Men’s Canadian Championship.
“The coaching staff is extremely excited with the talented group of athletes selected for our U18 Men’s National Team and we look forward to competing at the WBSC Americas Pan American Championship in Sincelejo, Colombia,” said Quinn.
Ed Matthews has organized ‘Pitch Him To Colombia!,’ a GoFundMe campaign to help Barker with expenses: