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Sports This Week: Regina’s Dustin Molleken part of Team Canada coaching staff

Canada finished the round robin with a record of 3-1 but that left the team tied with both  Panama and host Argentina with identical records and a share off first place.
Regina's Dustin Molleken made the majors with Detroit as a player.

YORKTON - It was a numbers game and when the tally was taken things did not add up for Team Canada at the recent WBSC Americas Pan Am Qualifier in men’s baseball.

Canada actually had a huge win in their final round robin game cruising by Honduras 10-0 in five innings

And overall the Canadian record was a good one.

Canada finished the round robin with a record of 3-1 but that left the team tied with both  Panama and host Argentina with identical records and a share off first place.

However, due to the tournaments three-team tie-break system, known as ‘Team’s Quality Balance’ (runs scored/inning played at bat-runs allowed/innings playing on defense), Canada finished third and did not advance to the final game where a spot in the 2023 Pan Am Games baseball competition was determined.

“The players played well, we just came up a bit short and lost in a three-way tie,” explained Regina’s Dustin Molleken who was part of the Team Canada coaching staff in Buenos Aires. “These types of tournaments we have to score runs or hold the other teams under runs against. (It) comes down to runs.

“We were a little disappointed but at the end of the day we understood where we came up short -- learning lessons to grow from.”

For Molleken a spot on the coaching staff was just another opportunity to represent his country.

“I have played for team Canada 12 times in my career and every single moment felt as exciting as the first time,” he told Yorkton This Week. “To be able to play and represent your country at a national level is such an honour and something that I take very seriously.

“The close relationships I’ve built within that organization as far as coaches like Greg Hamilton and Ernie Whitt and the players on the team mixed with the hard work I put in is what I believe kept me an active member of team Canada.

“To be able to wear the flag on my chest is a feeling that I’m happy to carry with me for my whole life.”

As for the position in Argentina, Molleken said it really emerged from his past relationships.

“I have a close relationship with Greg Hamilton who is a coach and director for the national teams,” he said. “When it comes to assigning some coaches he likes to have alumni involved to help develop the new up and coming players. He had invited me to assist as a pitching coach and I was quick to jump on the opportunity.”

As might be expected Molleken enjoyed being part of the Canadian team.

“It was a great experience for me and my coaching career,” he said. “I believe with the experience I have gained in my 20-years playing that I was able to bring up knowledge I’ve learned from that as well as learned from a coaching side what I can bring to the table here as a coach . . .

“It was very exciting and a little emotional for me as my career has somewhat come full circle. As a new team Canada player in 2008 to a now coach for Team Canada I was able to relate to what the new up and coming players were feeling and the excitement they had.”

As a player Molleken had what could be called a varied career, but it clearly reached its zenith when as a 31-year-old he was called up from the Class AAA Toledo Mud Hens to the Detroit Tigers taking over for Daniel Norris in the third inning of an American League road game against the Cleveland Indians.

In two innings Molleken allowed three hits, one run and one walk while striking out two.

Molleken, who was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 15th round (435th overall) of the 2003 major-league draft, would receive one more call-up but did not see action.

But, his career was still a long one including stints in Japan, and a stint in the Western Major Baseball League with the now defunct Saskatoon Yellowjackets that would have seen him in several Saskatchewan cities.

Interestingly Saskatoon will be back in  the league in 2024 with an expansion team.

“I’m excited for Saskatoon and their new baseball team,” said Molleken. “It will be great for Saskatoon and the WMBL . . . I played for the Saskatoon Yellowjackets back in 2002, so it will have a nostalgic feeling for me and I’m excited.

“I really hope Regina gets a new stadium because I think that would be good for the city of Regina and the baseball community.”

The WMBL was just an early facet of his career.

“I’ve had a very long and interesting career that I am very proud of,” said Molleken. “Baseball has given me so many joyful experiences and taken me all over the world.

“Besides an obvious highlight of being called up to the MLB, playing for team Canada in 2011 and winning gold was unbelievable and a memory I’ll hold forever.

“Another fun highlight was when I played in Japan alongside Shohei Ohtani when he was a young and developing player.”

But, the MLB experience still wins out.

“I am extremely grateful for the time I was able to play in the MLB, I worked very hard during my time leading up to that so I wouldn’t say disappointed but rather grateful for the chance to live out a childhood dream to play in the show. It is not easy getting there,” offered Molleken.

And now Molleken’s baseball journey continues.

“Since I have been home the last few years I started out doing private pitching with a few players,” he related. “That has now grown into coaching opportunities for me and has also fit me very well as I absolutely love to be on a baseball field and can’t imagine anything else for me.

“I love the coaching side of things and watching players grow and develop. I see this developing into a new career for me that I am open to. . .

“I’m not sure what is next but I’m enjoying what I’m doing at the moment. I have a pitching consulting business where I work privately as a pitching coach and work with teams.

“I do coaching as well with travel teams and stay actively involved with Team Sask and Baseball Regina.

“I am definitely open to more coaching at the national level, I’m hoping to coach the junior national team as well.

“So all in all I am happy to be still involved with baseball and excited for this new chapter and where it will take me.”