Tagged: baseball

Dear Harold: You Suck. Love, Canada

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I’ve said some dumb things before. Some might say this happens on a daily basis. But I don’t have a job that requires me to say words and things on national television.

Sunday night, during the Jays – Rangers game, FOX Sports commentator Harold Reynolds (who gets paid a nice sum of money to say words and things on tv) made a comment that I’d say falls under the classification of “a special kind of stupid”. A hard foul ball into the stands prompted Reynolds to make a comment about fans in Toronto not being properly equipped to catch foul balls because,

“there’s not a lot of people who grew up playing baseball in Canada. They aren’t used to catching balls in the stands”.

And the internet in Canada blew up, nearly melting all of our igloos:

Harold Reynolds doesn't know Canada.

STAR

OFFICE

Even the second Canadian to ever suit up for the Jays had to point out Harold’s off-side comment:

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Now, this isn’t the first time the Jays have experienced some tough-love from our American neighbours. Remember the upside-down Canadian flag during the 1992 World Series?

FLAG

And if you are curious to know what happened following the “flag flap”, this is a really interesting article by the Marine Corps who carried the flag the following game.

But this? This is a blatant insult to the entire county. We don’t know how to catch a ball. Really?

Hey Harold, in case you needed a brief history lesson, we’ve actually been playing the sport in this country for a while:

– first documented game on Canadian soil: 1838

– Babe Ruth’s first professional home run – hit on Canadian soil in 1914

– before Jackie Robinson would break the colour barrier, he’d play professional ball in Montreal, for the Royals

Hey Harold, ever hear of Larry Walker? The 7-time gold glove right fielder for the Montreal Expos. Yes, he’s Canadian. He also wants you to know he can catch:

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And even though Hall-of-Fame pitcher, Fergie Jenkins is in the hall mainly for throwing a baseball, we can all assume he knows how to catch it. It got thrown back to him more than it got hit back to him, with his 3,192 strikeouts after all. Oh, and he just happens to be Canadian.

Are you really that ignorant, Harold? Or are you part of a giant conspiracy the US has against our Canadian team? Sound crazy? Don Cherry doesn’t think so:

“We’re getting stiffed. You know why we’re getting stiffed? Because they do not want a Canadian team in the final. That’s my opinion.”

But that’s a whole other pile of moose droppings…

I think it’s safe to say Harold, that many Canadians do know how to catch a ball. What we don’t do? Take crap from a brutal announcer like you.

Cito Gaston Exclusive Interview: 2015 Blue Jays

Watch as I discuss the 2015 Blue Jays with Cito Gaston, and we make connections to the 1992 and 1993 World Championship teams that he managed. The 3-part interview is posted below.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

History Repeating Itself?

With each win, the 2015 Blue Jays climb closer to that long-awaited playoff birth.

The Championships of 1992 and 1993 seem SO long ago. They were. I have friends who weren’t even alive for the Jays first World Series title.

But with AA pulling off a sequence of blockbuster trades, and those pieces making an immediate impact, suddenly the connections between the ’92 and ’93 squads and the current team don’t seem so far-fetched. In the off-season, late 1991, the Jays signed free agents Jack Morris and Dave Winfield (on consecutive days). Those who watched the 1992 team will no doubt remember the significance both Morris and Winfield had during the regular season, and during October baseball. In the off-season this past winter, the Jays signed free agent Russell Martin, and 10 days later pulled off a mammoth trade for Josh Donaldson. It’s obvious what an impact those two have made thus far.

It’s the end of August and the Jays are in first place, two games up on the Yankees. Hey, they’ve already started selling post-season tickets!

There are so many moments from both championships that stand out for many fans, but one of the most talked about is the “triple play that wasn’t” during the 1992 World Series.

I reminisced with Kelly Gruber, the Jays third baseman during that memorable play.

Fans may remember that in fact, it was this very day, August 27th, back in 1992, when Jeff Kent and Ryan Thompson were traded to the Mets for David Cone. Cone would contribute to the championship with a 1 – 1 record and 3.22 ERA.

David Price has been the masterful pitcher everyone expected he would be, upon his arrival. Toronto has their first true ace since Roy Halladay. It’s exciting to think about what he could accomplish this October.

Over two decades after Carter’s home run disappeared over that left field wall, we find our blue birds that much closer to going back to the playoffs and possibly taking another run at a World Series.

So, is history repeating itself?

 

Storybook Ending for Derek Jeter

USA TODAY Sports Images

USA TODAY Sports Images

It was his final home game in Yankee Stadium.

Everyone wondered how he would be honoured. Would he be pulled off the field with two outs in the 9th, allowing the fans time to appreciate him? Nah, that’s not his style. Derek would have rather ended that inning by turning a double play, or maybe by making his signature jump-spin to throw out a runner one final time.

But Baltimore is gunning for home field advantage in the playoffs and had no intentions of letting up. Two Orioles home runs later and suddenly the game was tied. It took the air out of the crowd, but only momentarily once everyone realized what had just been set up.

One more at bat for The Captain.

The Yankees executed as they almost always do, and with a runner on second in the bottom of the 9th inning, Jeter did what everyone hoped – what everyone expected him to do.

He came up big, one more time.

As the AL East dominant force that often beat up on my hometown Blue Jays, I can honestly say this was the first time I found myself cheering for a Yankee win. Why?

Because baseball, is the easy answer.

Because Jeter played the game the way a true hero was supposed to play it. With passion, with pride, and with integrity. And it’s hard not to cheer for someone like that.

Thank you, Derek Jeter. Thank you for always respecting the game.

RE2PECT.

 

State Of The Franchise 2014

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On Wednesday, January 29th, 2014, over 1,000 Toronto Blue Jays season ticket holders attended the annual “State of the Franchise” event at Rogers Centre. Guests were treated to a coctail party, complimentary food from the concession stands, and adult beverages from the bar. Following introductions of Paul Beeston, Alex Anthopoulos, and John Gibbons, Buck Martinez, the emcee for the evening directed everyone’s attention to the Jumbotron for the following Blue Jays 2013 highlight video:

Prior to the Q & A period, Beeston addressed the crowd, acknowledging the disappointing season of 2013:

Last year wasn’t what we wanted it to be.  We got knocked down a bit. We hit the mat, and when you do, you can do one of two things. You can either stay down, or you can get back up and fight for another day. And that’s what we plan on doing. We don’t plan on just staying on the mat, we’re going to get up and do what we wanted to do, which is win the World Series…Last year’s team was not built for just one year.

Watch the full speech from Paul Beeston:

Next, attendees were treated to a video highlighting the Blue Jays Winter Tour. I attended the Mississauga event, hosted by the Erin Mills Town Centre. Click here to read about that event.

Watch the Winter Tour highlight video:

Q & A Session:

Buck began by asking Alex about the contrast between the busy off-season last year, and the relatively quiet one this year. Alex said he’s hopeful they will add to the ballclub, and that there are still some great quality free agents available. He went on to say that they’re still having active dialogues, and still discussing trades as well. “We’re definitely not done trying to add, we’re going to look to add, we just need to find the right deal”. Alex went on to say he felt like they may even add players into spring training.

Watch the full video of Alex discussing plans moving into the 2014 season:

Next, Buck addressed Gibby, asking him how he would conduct spring training this year, implying the approach may be different since 2013 was a World Baseball Classic year where some key players missed significant time with the ball club. Gibby, in his typical ultra-relaxed style, first replied with a good-natured ”Duck Dynasty” joke, aimed at Colby Rasmus. Once the laughter had died down, he reassured fans that this is a good ball club and to stick by them. He suggested that some “minor tinkering” might be necessary, but the real mission would be to get off to a good start early this year. One month into the 2013 season the Jays occupied the basement already 7 games under .500, and 8.5 games behind the first-place Red Sox.

Watch the full video of Gibby discussing spring training plans:

The standard (and expected) questions surrounding financial commitments and trade rumours followed. I’m actually surprised that there was no mention of Tanaka (other than the brief reference by Anthopoulos when he suggested that it had held up the free agent market action). While I never actually expected Toronto to have a legitimate shot at the Japanese super-star, it would have been interesting to know if they were ever “in the running”. Not that I’d ever expect Anthopoulos to say so either way. The man plays his cards close to his chest. Let’s hope he’s got an ace up his sleeve. The Jays could use a little help in this increasingly-stacked division this season. Then again, that’s the beauty of baseball. The mystique of the unknown. The Morrow of old could return and blow the roof off. I remain hopeful that at least one of either McGowan, Drabek, or Hutchison will be back to make an impact. Young studs like Sean Nolin and Marcus Stroman, albeit both dark-horses, could perform above expectations and either could make the rotation as a 5th starter. Yes it’s unlikely, but who predicted Happ would pitch like he did last season? While fans still have the bitter taste in their mouths from a high-expectation filled season gone bad, let’s not forget that for a time in 2013, the Jays bullpen was one of the most dominant in baseball, and played a significant role in the 11-game win streak they enjoyed in June. Thinking about that puts a smile on my face, how about you?

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For the full video with Q & A from season ticket holders, click here.

Jays Winter Training Day Thrills Fans

Jays Winter Training Day 2014

Jays Winter Training Day 2014

Torontonians in the winter months must brave everything from frigid temperatures to ice storms and loss of hydro. For many, summer sports such as baseball couldn’t be further from their minds (even though Spring Training is less than a mere 50 days away). But for a select few Blue Jays fans (45 to be exact), on January 9th, 2014 they donned their baseball gear and took to the field at Rogers Centre, having the rare opportunity to interact with baseball greats such as Pat Tabler, Jesse Barfield, Lloyd Moseby, and the most decorated Blue Jays player, Roberto Alomar. The special occasion? Another successful fundraising effort by the Jays Care Foundation, WINTER TRAINING DAY.

The official charitable arm of the Blue Jays was the 2012 recipient of the MLB Commissioner’s Award for Philanthropic Excellence, as well as the 2013 recipient of the Beyond Sport Sports Team of the Year Award. The mission of the organization is to focus energy and resources toward community-based endeavours that develop baseball programs and help children in need to excel academically, get active, and lead healthy lives. To date, Jays Care has invested over $8.2 million in Canadian children and communities.  This Winter Training Day raised over $38,000!

Greeted by a young and cheerful staff, myself and my cameraman made our way down onto the field. The participants were being taken through warm-up drills. Safety first, of course. We spoke for several minutes with Pat Tabler, who would spend a good portion of the day at the soft-toss station, giving hitting tips. In speaking with Tabby about his success in pressure situations (hitting nearly .500 with the bases loaded over his career), he attributed it to “being mentally tough”.

We then connected with the Executive Director of the Jays Care Foundation, Danielle Bedasse for a short interview:

While sitting in the dugout, I had the opportunity to speak with several participants, one admittedly in awe at moments, especially of Alomar. For baseball fans – and Blue Jays fans, it’s hard not to be.  One fan approached Alomar, shook his hand, and said “I was at the game where you hit back-to-back homeruns from opposite sides of the plate”. Alomar’s eyes lit up, and responded, “right, against Chicago”. Even Hall-of-Famers have their favourite moments. This was obviously one of them.

Alomar looked on while men and women took batting practice throws from Tabler and Moseby. After one participant fouled off a few pitches, Moseby could be heard from the mound saying, “I’ll stay here all day until you hit one hard, baby”. Everyone’s “baby” to Lloyd. Super-friendly with a large grin, Moseby threw pitch after pitch for what must have been half-an-hour. Before interviewing Moseby, we were warned that he had come straight from the airport, and had no sleep. “Could have fooled me”, I thought. His energy is infectious. We reminisced about Lloyd’s infamous base-running blunder, back in 1987 when he stole second base, then in a moment of confusion ran back to first (as the ball had sailed into centre field). The errant throw from the centre fielder by-passed the first baseman, thus allowing Moseby to steal second again! “I’m suing major league baseball for airing that footage” Moseby joked.

Attention to detail and terrific organization was apparent within the entire Winter Training Day event. Announcements over the PA system signaled the rotation of groups between stations (batting practice, soft-toss, hitting instruction, and shagging flies). I can only imagine (as participants experienced) what a thrill it would be to hear your name called over the sound system in Rogers Centre.

Walking beyond the left field wall that Joe Carter’s famous homerun sailed over, we headed down a ramp and into the Jays batting cages where participants would be taking hitting instruction from Jesse Barfield. Always good for a story, Jesse re-enacted a moment in a game where an opposing team’s fan relentlessly heckled him from the stands in right field. Barfield’s response to the fan? A monstrous homerun. The fan never spoke another word.

Upon quietly observing the event from the dugout, I noticed how much fun everyone was having – staff included. The Jays Care Foundation appears to be in great hands. The dedicated team had put together an event that everyone in attendance was bound to remember, for years to come. After all, at the end of a baseball game all you are left with are memories and experiences. It’s even better when they are special ones.

Boston Strong – Thank You From A Toronto Fan

2013 World Series Champs

2013 World Series Champs – Boston Red Sox

It took some serious consideration before I clicked publish, re-reading and re-naming the title of this post several times. Boston was the one team I didn’t want to see win. After all, John Farrell who had left the Jays for his “dream job” was now hoisting the World Series trophy above his head. Yes, Toronto had a miserably disappointing season. But as a baseball fan, this was one of the more exciting World Series I can remember in years.  A good friend of mine said he wished the series would go 14 games. I wondered, would Papi’s injuries have gotten the better of him by then, or would he have been hitting 26-for-32?

The Red Sox showed us several things this year. They showed us how powerful a team can be when they function together. They showed us what the proper leadership can foster (I’m talking about Big Papi, not Farrell…ok, maybe Farrell as well). They showed us how an entire city can rally together to overcome adversity (Boston Strong). And they showed us that they can grow some kick-ass beards. Seriously, how can you not be impressed by this?

Badass Boston Beards

Badass Boston Beards

How about us Toronto fans take away a few positives from this Boston Championship win? Who in Toronto didn’t want to see John MacDonald and Brian Butterfield get a World Series ring? I know, they’re wearing the wrong uniforms…I digress.

At the end of a LONG 162-game season, a select and fortunate group of players get to play baseball in October. Likely already nursing injuries, some of the ones who can grit their teeth and bare the pain for one more month can be elevated to baseball hero status (even if only for one game). Few become legend. Papi took it to a whole new level. Call him an icon. Call him a beast. He was in a zone even he had never experienced (though he joked that he did it all season long). Papi was the definition of do what I say, and lead by example (it’s rare that both of those happen together). He was a leader through words, and actions. Think it was coincidental that moments after Papi’s game-4 pep-talk in the dugout, that Johnny Gomes hit a home-run which would prove to be the game-winner (and likely the turning point in the series)? Perhaps, but I think if you ask any of the Boston players what impact Papi had on the team morale, energy, and composure, I’m sure you would receive a unanimous answer.

Putting things in perspective, Boston had the season Toronto expected/dreamed of having. The storybook, worst-to-first, against all odds, in the face of adversity kind of season. And as much as you can envy or hate them for it, I have to give credit where credit is due. Thank you Boston for giving us baseball fans a World Series to remember. Never have we experienced one like it (possibly the only thing it was missing was a hidden-ball trick, although the Cards had already been burned by it earlier in the season). Thank you for being gracious winners (and not peeing in the opposing teams pool). And thank you for showing Toronto that worst-to-first is possible. After all, spring training is only 115 days away…