YORKTON - Andrew Albers might find himself humming the Johnny Cash classic I’ve Been Everywhere whenever he touches the rubber to pitch a baseball game.
Albers, who hails from North Battleford, really has been all over the world playing the game.
One summer as a teen he played in the Western Major Baseball League with the now long-defunct Saskatoon Yellowjackets.
Eventually Albers was selected by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 12th round (346th overall) of the 2004 Major League Baseball draft, but did not sign.
Instead Albers enrolled at the University of Kentucky, where he played college baseball for the Kentucky Wildcats baseball team in the Southeastern Conference of the NCAA Division I.
Back in the draft the San Diego Padres selected Albers in the 10th round (315th overall) of the 2008 Major League Baseball draft. This time he inked a deal, and made his professional debut with the Arizona League Padres of the Rookie-level Arizona League.
But perhaps as an indication of what would too often be a reoccurring theme for Albers, he missed the 2009 season after tearing an ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow during spring training, which required Tommy John surgery.
But, Albers has proven resilient as a lefty hurler.
He has played for the Toronto Blue Jays, Minnesota Twins, and Seattle Mariners, as well as in the KBO League (Korea) for the Hanwha Eagles and for the Orix Buffaloes of Nippon Professional Baseball (Japan).
Technically a free agent at present, it is perhaps fitting given his worldwide appearance, Albers will next see action with Team Canada at the World Baseball Classic – Canada’s first game is Sunday in Phoenix against Great Britain.
Albers said it remains a thrill “when you get to play in this tournament,” he told Yorkton This Week in a recent interview.
Now 37, and too often injured through the years, Albers recognizes the WBC might be his last high level pitching.
Albers also recognizes his role on the team will be part mentor to younger arms.
“I hope to be one of the guys to help the young guys feel comfortable and able to compete,” he said.
To compete is something Albers also expects to do himself.
“I’m still expecting to go down there and pitch,” he said, adding in spite of missing last season with injury, he feels ready.
“It feels like I can be competitive,” he said.
If things go really well, maybe Albers will attract some interest to sign a new contract.
“You hope so . . . That something will come of it,” he said, but he isn’t exactly expecting it as a “37-year-old lefty who doesn’t throw that hard to start with . . .
“But who knows? Maybe I’ll get another shot.”
That said, Albers said once you are out of the majors and its network, getting back on a roster is challenging.
“Once you're out it’s hard to get back in,” he said.
So Albers will focus on the WBC knowing it might be his last major event.
It is something he has thought about.
“It hits you a little bit differently when you get to this stage of your career,” said Albers. “. . . You just relish putting on the jersey.”
Throughout his career Albers has typically responded when Team Canada has come calling.
“Having Canada across your chest is always a special time,” he said.
Albers in some respects knows his opportunities with Team Canada reflects his place in baseball, good enough to be asked to play for his country and free to say yes because he has not been under contract at the pro level.
For the veteran playing international ball has been satisfying though.
“I love doing it. You get to meet a lot of other Canadian ball players,” he said. “I’ve always had a great time. Some of my greatest memories are playing for Canada.
“I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
In addition to opening against Great Britain March 12, Team Canada will face the United States March 13, Colombia March 14 and Mexico March 15.