My weekly opinions, observations and rants about some Canadian baseball stories:
I thought there was already a plaque outside of the lower-level duplex apartment that Jackie Robinson lived in while he played in Montreal in 1946. Regardless, it’s nice to see that a plaque has now been erected in front of his historic de Gaspe Avenue address. Prior to breaking Major League Baseball’s colour barrier in 1947, Robinson starred at second base for the Montreal Royals, a Brooklyn Dodgers farm team. It’s widely believed that Dodgers GM Branch Rickey stationed Robinson in Montreal to ease the young infielder into integrated baseball. Playing his home games in a city with a reputation for racial tolerance would provide Robinson with relative tranquility for half the schedule. On the field, Robinson excelled, leading the International League in batting average, walks and runs, and spurring the Royals to their first Junior World Series triumph.
Langley, B.C. native Brett Lawrie is turning heads at Jays’ camp with his defense at third base. A catcher prior to being drafted in 2008, Lawrie played second base with the Brewers’ Double-A affiliate in Huntsville last season.
Jays manager John Farrell recently told the Toronto Sun that the primary competition for the last two spots in the starting rotation will be between Marc Rzepczynski, Jesse Litsch, Kyle Drabek and Jo-Jo Reyes. That doesn’t bode well for Vancouver native, Scott Richmond, who was shelved for most of 2010 with shoulder woes.
One of the least talked about Canadians in the Jays organization is former first-round pick Adam Loewen. The FAN 590’s Mike Wilner confirmed on Twitter that the Surrey, B.C. native will participate in the Jays’ minor league camp in March.
March 9, 2011 represents the fifth anniversary of the Miracle on Grass, a World Baseball Classic contest that saw the underdog Canadians defeat the powerhouse Americans 8-6 in Phoenix, Arizona. London, Ont., native Adam Stern was the game’s star, recording three hits – including a triple and an inside-the-park homer. He also made a key defensive play in the eighth inning when he made a leaping catch against the centre field wall to rob Chase Utley of an extra-base hit.
Hats off to former Vancouver Canadian Garret Anderson, who announced his retirement this week. Before rapping out 2,524 big league hits, Anderson played parts of three seasons on Canada’s West Coast, including the 1994 campaign in which he hit .321 and drove in 102 runs in 123 games.
I still think that not having a good defensive option to back up Adam Lind at first base will hurt the Jays this season. As frustrating as Lyle Overbay was to watch as a hitter, he supplied Gold Glove defense over the past few seasons.
Adam Lind might surprise us all at first base. I’m banking on that!
I’m pulling for Loewen in more ways than the obvious Canadian loyalty. In my scouting life, he was one of the rare handful that I wrote up as both a potential major league pitching prospect as well as a potential major league position player. He had more upside as a pitcher, but he had the potential to be an everyday player as well – I saw him as a right-fielder due to his arm strength. After I wrote him up as both, I saw him come into St. Marys with Canada’s 18u National Team, and he took a BP on our main field that few have forgotten, as he regularly landed balls on our third field, more than 400 feet away. “Performance” scouts don’t hold their jobs very long – scouting properly means analyzing physical maturation potential as well as mechanical adjustments, but the power Loewen displayed on that day was beyond 99% of 18-year-old baseball players. Taking the bat out of his hands while he tried to make it as a pitcher has obviously been a set-back, but if he keeps working at finding his swing as he has committed to now, his will be a story told for a long time. He’s a fine kid … errrr, man, as well!
I wonder if playing in friendly Montreal actually made it harder on Robinson to face what was waiting for him in National League cities.