Rich Harden, who wasn’t recruited and had to cold-call U.S. universities, said he was “at a loss for words” when informed he would be entering the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.
The Layritz youth baseball and the Victoria Mariners junior program graduate more than overcame the initial university recruiting snub to make the big leagues as a pitcher and fashion a 59-38 MLB record over nine seasons, mainly with the Oakland Athletics, with a 3.76 career ERA and eye-popping 949 strikeouts in 928 innings. The latter is the 14th best strikeout-rate-by-innings in MLB history.
Harden will enter the Canadian Baseball Hall with a Class of 2023, announced Wednesday, that includes former Toronto Blue Jays star Jesse Barfield, former Montreal Expos lefty hurler Denis Boucher and Manitoba baseball builder Joe Wiwchar. The induction ceremony will be held June 17 at the Hall of Fame grounds in St. Marys, Ont. Also to be honoured on that day are Class of 2020 inductees, former Blue Jays first-baseman John Olerud and legendary Expos broadcaster Jacques Doucet, whose induction ceremony was interrupted by the pandemic.
“I am proud and honoured to have my name added to a list that includes so many great people who have had such a positive impact on baseball in Canada,” Claremont Secondary graduate Harden said in a statement.
“I’m so grateful to all the people who helped and supported me along the way, and I’m looking forward to the induction weekend in St. Marys this summer.”
Although undersized, Harden used his low centre of gravity to torque his body and unleash the ball with such devastating velocity that batters were often only swinging at air. Injuries, however, complicated Harden’s career and affected his potential.
“It was frustrating how it ended and I wish it could have lasted longer to see what I could have done,” he said, when entering the Victoria Sports Hall of Fame with the Class of 2018.
“It happened so quickly and I just went with it, putting my head down, and working hard. I wasn’t even thinking about the pros. I didn’t know much about it. I just wanted to have fun playing baseball.”
The Island product did that and much more.
Barfield, meanwhile, played 1,032 games over nine seasons in Toronto and is seventh all-time in Blue Jays history with 179 home runs and ninth in both career total bases with 1,672 and RBIs with 527 while possessing one of the greatest throwing arms from the outfield in team history.
Boucher, a native of Montreal, is the first Canadian to play for both the Blue Jays and Expos. He later became Canadian pitching coach at the 2004 Athens and 2008 Beijing Olympics and all four editions of the World Baseball Classic.