Jasvir Rakkar said all he wants to do is help his team win games.
The reliever has done just that – for two different teams in two different countries.
Rakkar, 24, helped the Myrtle Beach Pelicans to a playoff berth by winning the first-half Carolina League Southern Division title in June, and the North York, Ontario, Canada native followed that up by helping Team Canada to a gold medal in the Pan American Games earlier this month.
“At the end of the day, it’s baseball and you just want to go out there and help whatever team you’re playing for win,” Rakkar said. “That’s always my goal; every time I step on the field I just want to keep the team in a position to win the game.”
Rakkar appeared in two games for Canada at the Pan Am Games and combined for two shutout innings on four hits allowed and one strikeout. He surrendered a hit and struck out a batter during a shutout ninth inning to close the team’s second game, a 10-4 win against Colombia on July 12. In Canada’s fifth game of the tournament, Rakkar again tossed in the ninth inning and, despite giving up three hits, did not allow a run to close out an 11-4 victory July 16 over Puerto Rico.
“Just any opportunity where you get to play for your country is amazing,” Rakkar said. “Just getting out there and playing at the international level, seeing how different the game is out there and being able to play with some of the guys I played with was just truly amazing and to win it all with them as well.”
In the final game, Team USA and Team Canada were tied 4-all as they went to extra innings, where the international tiebreaker – in which each team begins with two runners on base – made for a thrilling finish.
Team USA took a two-run lead in the top of the 10th inning. Team Canada then rallied for three runs in the bottom half of the frame for a 7-6 victory for its second consecutive Pan American Games gold medal. The tying and winning runs scored on an errant pickoff throw to first base.
“The finish was crazy,” said Rakkar, who didn’t pitch in the finale. “They have that international tiebreaker rule, which kind of makes everything a little crazier. And then just seeing how we won, how everything happened and the group of guys we got to do it with; it was just surreal.”
Pelicans president and general manager Andy Milovich said it was neat to see Rakkar come back with a gold medal playing a game that has become more and more global over the years.
“I think it’s awesome. Baseball has grown into such an international game and our team actually started the year with players from nine different countries from around the world,” Milovich said. “But for [Rakkar] to have an opportunity to represent Canada in the Pan Am Games and come back with a gold medal, it’s a really, really cool thing to see for him personally and to see the way the game has grown internationally around the globe. Canada is a gold medal team in baseball, which would’ve been unheard of 10 or 15 years ago and it really speaks to the power of the sport and what Major League Baseball is doing to grow it and advance it throughout the world.”
Team Canada outscored its opponents 37-11 during the first five games of the tournament, which Rakkar said set the pace for the squad.
“Those first few games were huge. We just wanted to put ourselves every game in a position to make the semifinals,” Rakkar said. “We just went out there, we grinded and we tried to get ahead pitching and just limit the damage and keep us in a position to win the game. Our hitters did really well to keep us up and we were able to win games.”
Rakkar also said he believed the team had an edge from the get-go.
“We were the defending champions; [Canada] did win four years ago and we were playing at home so I feel like it was our tournament to win from the jump,” said Rakkar, who played collegiately at Stony Brook in New York. “But there were a lot of good teams there and there were some tough games and it was a grind; it was a fun grind.”
While winning was huge, Rakkar was simply grateful to get a chance to represent his country.
“Getting picked to represent your country is one of the greatest honors ever,” he said. “Just getting to play in front of your home fans as well made it a lot better and amongst some of the big names from your country; not even in terms of players but the coaching staff and Greg Hamilton, who is in charge of Baseball Canada. Just getting to play for him is amazing.”
One of Rakkar’s teammates on Team Canada, catcher Kellin Deglan, also played for the Pelicans when they were a Single-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers. Deglan played a full season in Myrtle Beach during the 2013 year and he split time between the Pelicans (12 games) and Low-A Hickory (89 games) in 2014.
Deglan caught Rakkar during the tournament, and Rakkar said the two made a connection and talked about their time in Myrtle Beach.
“He said he enjoyed playing here and we spoke about the area, the fans and the organization and stuff like that,” Rakkar said. “He got to catch me a couple of times; I love throwing to him. He’s a great catcher and a great guy.”
Rakkar is tied with Lynchburg’s Ben Heller for the second-most saves (11) in the Carolina League this season. Frederick’s Cody Wheeler leads the league with 16.
Rakkar, in his fourth professional season, has played in 26 games for the Pelicans and owns a 2.45 ERA in 33 innings pitched. However, Rakkar said he doesn’t pay attention to the stats.
“We won the first half, which is amazing,” said Rakkar, who was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 26th round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft. “I don’t really look at personal numbers or personal stats; all I want to do help the team win. We’re doing well right now and that’s the biggest thing.”
Rakkar’s will to win hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“Rakkar is a pro; he comes to work every day and never complains. He’s a great teammate and a great guy to have in the locker room,” said Pelicans skipper Mark Johnson, who also managed Rakkar last season at Kane County. “Pitching-wise he competes, he throws strikes and he’s got a good slider, got a good two-seamer and has three pretty good pitches he can get outs with. Not only that, but his fastball command is getting better and he’s been in the tail end of our bullpen all year.”
Rakkar says his approach is simple.
“I just work on challenging hitters,” he said. “I get an idea of what the hitters’ strengths are and what my strengths are and put them together to eventually get outs and to keep our team in a position to win.”