The only active Golden Griffin in Major League Baseball, Canisius athletics announces that John Axford MS’13 has made the largest donation in the history of the school’s baseball program. Axford’s gift will be used to directly improve the Canisius baseball program through the Blue and Gold Fund. Axford’s gift also will be recognized with a display in the centerfield bullpen at the Demske Sports Complex.
“Coach Mike McRae is a big reason for this gift. The commitment he has shown to Canisius, shows how passionate he is for the team, program and College,” Axford said. “I learned that when I was here, and I am seeing it continue as the program competes at a high level by winning a MAAC championship and playing in the NCAA Tournament.
“All of that shows there is opportunity for the program to continue climbing. If I can help, then that’s great.”
Axford made 14 starts for Canisius during the 2006 baseball season. The 6-foot-6 right-handed pitcher went 3-8 with a 5.01 earned run average with 75 strikeouts in 70 innings pitched.
In his six-year Major League career, Axford has made 343 appearances and recorded 116 saves. Axford led the National League with 46 saves during the 2011 season. The Simcoe, Ontario native has pitched for the Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals, Cleveland Indians and Pittsburgh Pirates. Axford has pitched in the postseason twice, including the 2013 World Series.
“John is a reflection of someone who is a great role model for our student-athletes. He has had to overcome a lot of adversity in his career to get to where he is today,” Canisius baseball coach Mike McRae said. “John has remembered his roots and shown his generosity with this gift in giving back to the baseball program.”
“We are grateful for the leadership shown by John with this substantial gift to our baseball program,” director of athletics Bill Maher said. “John has played an important role in our program, both on the field for our team and in his continued success after Canisius. With this generous support, his impact will continue to help our program achieve our championship goals.”
In the last seven years, the Canisius baseball program has a .635 winning percentage, which ranks 24th among all Division I schools and fifth among schools from non-power conferences. Canisius has 257 wins since the start of the 2008 season, the most among Division I schools in the Northeast region.
Canisius won the program’s first conference championship in 2013 and also has won Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference regular-season titles in 2008, 2012 and 2014.