OBA's Stephenson & Birnie to be inducted to Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame
OBA is proud to announce that two OBA members have been selected for the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s class of 2024!
Former Toronto Blue Jays all-stars Russell Martin (East York, Ont.) and Jimmy Key will be inducted alongside national team infielder and trailblazing coach Ashley Stephenson (Mississauga, Ont.) and national team pitching legend Rod Heisler (Moose Jaw, Sask.). One time Blue Jays president and CEO Paul Godfrey, who played a significant role in bringing Major League Baseball to Toronto, and longtime Toronto Leaside baseball executive Howard Birnie will also be inducted in a ceremony at the Hall of Fame grounds in St. Marys, Ont., on June 15.
“Each member of this year’s class has had a tremendous impact on the game of baseball in Canada,” said Jeremy Diamond, chair of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s board of directors. “We look forward to celebrating their outstanding careers in St. Marys this June.”
“Wow! Thank you so much. This was one of the best surprise calls I’ve ever received. I played baseball because I love the game. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d play for my country and have some of the experiences and opportunities I’ve had. I hope girls and women see this as an example of what you can do through hard work, dedication and perseverance. The Hall of Fame is forever. I’m so incredibly honoured to be a part of it!”
Born in Mississauga, Ont., in 1982, Ashley Stephenson was a member of the first Women’s National Team in 2004. She excelled with the team for 15 seasons and helped lead them to seven medals, including silvers at the WBSC Women’s World Cups in 2008 and 2016 and at the Pan Am Games in 2015. She was also a force on four bronze medal-winning teams at the World Cup (2004, 2006, 2012, 2018). Along the way, she was named Women’s National Team MVP twice (2005, 2008).
After concluding her playing career, Stephenson became a coach and was part of the Women’s National Team staff that led Canada to a bronze medal at the COPABE Women’s Pan-American Championships in 2019. Three years later, she became the first woman to manage the Women’s National Team when she was the dugout boss for their five-game series against the United States in Thunder Bay, Ont.
Stephenson would make history again that November when she became the first woman to capture Baseball Canada’s Lionel Ruhr Elite Coach of the Year Award.
In 2023, Stephenson was hired as a position coach by the Blue Jays’ High-A Vancouver Canadians. She will return to this role this season.
A highly respected ambassador for baseball nationally and internationally, Stephenson also served as a member of the WBSC Athletes Commission from 2018 to 2022.
For her full bio, click here.
“I was incredibly surprised to begin with then very much humbled and grateful to be recognized for simply doing something I have loved most of my life. With my past connections to the Hall, I know that the list of inductees is composed of a stellar number of people who have been involved in our game in different ways. My inclusion is beyond my dreams.”
Born in Toronto in 1937, Howard Birnie has been involved in baseball in his home city for more than 70 years as a player, coach and umpire.
During his tenure as a baseball coach in Toronto from 1958 to 1988, he guided teams to seven city championships and one national championship with the Toronto Leaside All-Stars in 1964.
Over the years, Birnie has assumed countless leadership roles, including serving as president of the Leaside Baseball Association since 1973 and president of the Ontario Baseball Association in 1991 and 1992.
Birnie, however, may best known as one of the country’s most respected umpires. During his 34 years of calling balls and strikes, Birnie worked six national championships between 1979 and 1989, three international championships (1985, 1987, 1990) and two World Junior Championships (1986-87). He was also selected to umpire three Pearson Cup games, an annual exhibition contest between the Toronto Blue Jays and Montreal Expos.
In recognition of his 50 years of volunteering in amateur baseball, Birnie received the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Award in 2012 and five years later, he was inducted into the Ontario Baseball Hall of Fame. He continues to serve as an appointed director of the OBA.
For his full bio, click here.