My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
– Prized St. Louis Cardinals prospect Oscar Taveras homered in his second big league at bat in his team’s 2-0 win over the San Francisco Giants on Saturday. Born in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, the 21-year-old outfielder also owns a Canadian passport. According to an excellent article written by Bob Elliott in 2012, the talented youngster lived in Montreal between the ages of 12 and 16 and he honed his diamond skills in the Marquis de Montreal Network Quebec midget triple-A league. Taveras then returned to the Dominican Republic and signed with the Cardinals for a $140,000 signing bonus.
– It’s hard to believe that it was 19 years ago Sunday that the Toronto Blue Jays selected Roy Halladay with their first pick (17th overall) in the 1995 MLB amateur draft. For the record, among those selected ahead of Halladay were Ariel Prieto (Oakland, fifth overall), Jaime Jones (Miami, sixth overall), Jonathan Johnson (Texas, seventh overall), Chad Hermansen (Pittsburgh, 10th overall), Mike Drumright (Detroit, 11th overall), Reggie Taylor (Philadelphia, 14th overall), Andrew Yount (Boston, 15th overall) and Joe Fontenot (San Francisco, 16th overall).
– Ex-Blue Jay Brad Mills is having a fine season for the Milwaukee Brewers’ Triple-A Nashville Sounds. In 11 appearances – including nine starts – he’s 4-0 with a 1.74 ERA and has averaged a strikeout per inning. The 29-year-old southpaw can opt out of his minor league deal with the Brewers on June 15 if he’s not called up. Mills, who pitched parts of three seasons for the Blue Jays from 2009 to 2011, last pitched in the big leagues with the Angels in 2012.
– Thanks to Baseball Retirements on Twitter for informing me that Reno Barbisan, a New Waterford, N.S., native who pitched seven seasons in the minor-pro ranks – four of them in the New York Giants and Detroit Tigers organizations – passed away in Idaho Falls, Idaho, on March 17 at the age of 84. The 6-foot right-hander pitched at the Class-C level in all of his professional seasons from 1950 to 1956. His finest season was with Idaho Falls in 1953, when he won 17 games and posted a 3.86 ERA. After his playing career, he ran a construction company in Idaho Falls, where he and his wife, Beth, raised five children. For more details, you can read his obituary here.
– In my May 5 column, I wrote about the trailblazing role that Montreal native Allan Roth played as a baseball statistician. As a follow-up to that column, Bill Young, the co-author of the excellent Remembering the Montreal Expos and Ecstasy to Agony: The 1994 Montreal Expos, wrote me an e-mail that elaborated on Roth’s pioneering role. “Jackie Robinson, an inductee in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, broke into the major leagues with the Brooklyn Dodgers on Opening Day, April 15, 1947, following a stellar year in Montreal. He went on to change the face of baseball as they say, breaking the colour barrier in the big leagues, setting a new standard of excellence and opening untold doors for those who followed behind him,” wrote Young. “On that same day, and also as a new member of the Dodgers, Allan Roth, a Montrealer to the core, began his storied career as baseball’s first statistician, the man who introduced a whole new approach to baseball numbers, their relevance and their usefulness in planning strategy. From his work came SABR, sabrmetrics, Moneyball and the OPS. He is also an inductee in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. How fascinating that two baseball pioneers, both of whom changed the nature of the game in fundamental ways, both came to the same club, the Dodgers, from the same Canadian city, Montreal, at the same time, and made their first appearance at the exact same moment. When the first batter for the visiting Boston Braves grounded out, third to first, Jackie Robinson was playing first base. The fact of his direct participation in a major league game for the first time was recorded by Allan Roth, also his first entry at the major league level, starting a career that then stretched over 40 years. It’s a wonder the earth didn’t shake – so momentous was their impact on the game and its evolution.”
– Melissa Couto’s weekly ThrowinSmoke column on the Canadian Baseball Network has become a must-read for me. If you’re looking for news and notes on Canadian players and the inside scoop on the Jays, you should check it out. Here’s her most recent column.