"Baseball was one of the sports, but it wasn't THE sport to watch at the Pan Am Games, and then as a team we did really well," Clapp said. "Looking back at it, we started a culture that Canadians in baseball in general. . . we were able to compete with the U.S. and Cuba, and we were putting athletes out there who were able to compete at a high level.
"We started a tradition and culture so when we went to tournaments, we were there to win."
The Canadians finished third in '99 in Winnipeg, narrowly missing a spot at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Clapp would go on to play in the 2004 Olympics in Athens and 2008 Games in Beijing, but it was at that tournament in Winnipeg that the Canadians bottled something special that players say still remains in the program today.
"Before the Olympics in 2008, we had a big banquet with Team USA, and I remember the president of USA Baseball saying the one thing that we've always envied about the Canadian team is how close they are, how much of a fraternity, how much of a brotherhood it is, you can see it. And it's really true, we always come together," said Chris Robinson, a member of Canada's team that won gold at the Pan American Games in 2011.
Clapp and Robinson spoke Friday on the day organizers for the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto opened their baseball venue in Ajax, Ont. The two talked fondly of their Pan Am experiences, both as a turning point for the sport in Canada and a major highlight of their careers.
Robinson, a 30-year-old from London, Ont., was part of an underdog Canadian team in 2011 that knocked off Mexico in the semifinals to beat the United States for gold.
"We're kind of always considered the underdog because it's Canadians playing baseball," Robinson said. "When you're going down (to Pan Ams), you're playing the Dominicans, you're playing Puerto Rico, you're playing Cuba, those are teams that are supposed to grow up playing baseball. We're supposed to grow up playing hockey."
Robinson, who played for the San Diego Padres, retired from baseball last year. He also played for the national team in the 2006 and 2013 World Baseball Classic, and said when he joined the program, there was already a team-first mentality instilled by the players such as Clapp that had come before him.
"There was already the approach where it was basically demanded of you that: you're going to come in here, we're going to have fun, we're going to be a team, there's no hierarchy of veterans and rookies, here's what we're all getting together to do. We all have the team as our No. 1 first priority," Robinson said. "I played 11 times with the national team, and I was fortunate to have some personal accomplishments on the professional side. But now when I step away from the game, I think that's how I want to be defined. I want to be defined by what we did on that team, with that group of guys."
The 41-year-old Clapp, who's a hitting coach for the Dunedin Blue Jays — Toronto's advanced class-A affiliate — still gets asked about the Winnipeg Pan Ams. It helps that his name is memorable. But it's more than that.
"Things changed in that when they hear the name, they understand there's some significance with it with baseball in Canada, and that's important," Clapp said in a phone interview from Dunedin, Fla. "(After Winnipeg) people were more supportive of the program itself, because you started to really see that when Canada was in an international tournament, they weren't just another team that was going to be beat, it was 'OK, Canada is coming, we have to prepare for them.'
"I think it changed a lot of guys' careers. That tournament was important for me as an individual because I was able to showcase my individual talents, but it was more important for us as a country and as a program that was up and coming, and for all the guys who worked so hard to give our country a good baseball program.
"It was recognizing it was a serious program, and we were eventually going to put a lot of guys in the big leagues. Since '99, I can throw a bunch of names out there (of Canadians) who have had major contributions in the big leagues because of the Baseball Canada program, and that all stems from the hard work."
Robinson coaches an elite amateur program in his hometown and was at Friday's opening of the President's Choice Ajax Pan Am Ballpark. He guided his Great Lake Canadians to a victory in their opening game of a weekend tournament that is a test event for the park.
Robinson said the "immaculate" ballpark — and the Pan Am Games themselves — can only help boost what's already a booming sport in Ontario.
"You get kids who want to play for the Toronto Blue Jays or the New York Yankees," he said. "Well, you know what, this is giving local kids the opportunity to come watch and say 'I want to play for the national team some day.'"
Robinson said his teammates in Guadalajara will be lifelong friends. His roommate in 2011, Jimmy Van Ostrand, is the godfather of his two-and-a-half year old twins.
"And there are bunch of adopted uncles of my kids from that team. . . " he said. "Very very good friendships that will last forever."