There was a time in Justin Morneau’s teens when strapping on the goalie pads was at least as important as playing baseball. Patrick Roy and Andy Moog were his favourite NHL goalies and at 16 Justin even was the third goaltender for the Memorial Cup champion Portland Winter Hawks. A young goalie from New Westminster making the NHL is rare enough, but fate intervened and saved an extra special story for Justin: a Canadian kid beating the odds and lighting it up in Major League Baseball. After an exceptional 14-season career, Justin is now considered among the greatest Canadians ever to appear in the big leagues.

Born and raised in New Westminster, Justin’s lifelong passion for baseball was ignited playing ball at Queens Park with his older brother Geordie and joining their parents at weekend fast pitch softball tournaments. Justin played most of his youth as a catcher; with the North Delta Blue Jays one of the pitchers he caught was fellow future big leaguer Jeff Francis. Selected in the third round of the 1999 MLB draft by the Minnesota Twins, while playing in their farm system he was converted to a first baseman.

After making his MLB debut in 2003, it took some time for Justin to establish himself, but once he did, he quickly emerged as a star. In 2006, he became the first and to date only Canadian to win the American League MVP award. That season he also won his first of two AL Silver Slugger awards as the league’s top offensive first baseman. He added his second in 2008, the same year he became the only Canadian to date to win the Home Run Derby in his second of four All-Star Game appearances. Late in his career while with the Colorado Rockies, Justin also won the 2014 National League batting title with a .319 average.

In 1545 regular season games with Minnesota, Colorado, Pittsburgh, and Chicago, Justin accumulated 1603 hits, 247 home runs, 985 runs batted in, and a .281 batting average, among the highest totals ever for a Canadian. Three times he was awarded the Tip O’Neill Award as Canada’s top baseball player.

Written and researched by Jason Beck, Curator of the BC Sports Hall of Fame.