My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
• Last Sunday, former Montreal Expos superstar Vladimir Guerrero asked his Twitter followers what cap they would like to see him pictured in on his plaque if he’s elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame (He becomes eligible in 2017). Of the 24,804 votes cast, 81 per cent were for the Expos cap. The most famous vote was cast by fellow Expos legend Tim Raines, who will be on the Hall of Fame ballot for the last time in 2017. “You know which team I am voting for on this poll. #NosAmours #Expos,” tweeted Raines. For the record, the Hall chooses which cap the player will be featured in on their plaque after consulting with the inductee.
• Speaking of Raines, I’ve been fortunate to watch the Expos great in his role as a roving outfield and baserunning coordinator for the Blue Jays for the past four springs at the club’s minor league complex in Dunedin and I’ve never seen an athlete that’s more gracious, kind and patient with their fans. He’s a Hall of Fame player and a Hall of Fame guy.
• When I was at the Blue Jays minor league complex on Wednesday, I looked around and saw five Canadian Baseball Hall of Famers working in various roles: Raines, Carlos Delgado, Paul Quantrill, Pat Hentgen and Stubby Clapp. Delgado, Quantrill and Hentgen are serving as special assistants in the organization, while Clapp, who was inducted into the Canadian ball shrine as a member of the 1991 gold medal-winning National Youth Team and as a coach on the 2011 Pan Am Games gold medal-winning squad, is the batting instructor for the Blue Jays’ double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats.
• Fun Canadian Baseball Fact: Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Ted Bowsfield (Vernon, B.C.) beat the eventual World Series Champion New York Yankees three times in his rookie season with the Boston Red Sox in 1958. He was 3-0 with a 3.04 ERA in four starts versus the Bronx Bombers that campaign. Two of his starts were complete game victories.
• The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported on Thursday that Justin Morneau (New Westminster, B.C.) underwent off-season elbow surgery and he’ll be unable to swing a bat until June. That would help to explain why Morneau hasn’t signed with a new club this off-season. The 34-year-old first baseman’s 2015 season was shortened by a neck injury and a recurrence of post-concussion symptoms, but when he returned in September, he hit .338 in 22 games for the Colorado Rockies. Morneau became a free agent when the Rockies declined their half of his $9-million, mutual contract option for 2016. In parts of 13 big league seasons, Morneau has clubbed 241 home runs, which is the third-most by a Canadian behind Larry Walker (383) and Matt Stairs (265). Morneau told the Tribune that he’s not retiring. “As of now I will do the rehab on my own and see how I feel going through that process and will make a decision on my future at a later date,” Morneau told the paper. “I have not ruled out returning to play this year at some point.”
• A Celebration of Life for Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Doc Younker, who passed away on February 13, will be held on April 23 at the Hollyburn Country Club in West Vancouver. For his full obituary and if you’d like to sign an online guest book in his honour, follow this link.
• Mississauga, Ont., native Dalton Pompey was reassigned to minor league camp on Friday. This means that barring injury Victoria, B.C., native Michael Saunders will be the Blue Jays starting left fielder to begin the season. Saunders, who played just nine games for the Blue Jays in 2015 after tearing his meniscus in his left knee, has hit .320 with three home runs in 10 games this spring, while the 23-year-old Pompey batted .227 and belted two homers in 11 games. Guelph, Ont., native Scott Diamond was also sent to minor league camp on Friday, despite hurling four shutout innings in four appearances this spring. Diamond spent 2015 with the Tampa Bay Rays’ triple-A Durham Bulls, where he posted a 3.71 ERA in 150-1/3 innings. The Canuck southpaw previously toed the rubber for the Minnesota Twins from 2011 to 2013.
• Please take a moment to remember former Toronto Blue Jays pitching coach Al Widmar, who would’ve turned 91 today. After pitching parts of five big league seasons with the Boston Red Sox, St. Louis Browns and Chicago White Sox between 1947 and 1952, he eventually evolved into a highly respected pitching coach with the Philadelphia Phillies and Milwaukee Brewers before being named to that same role with the Blue Jays in 1979. Over the next 10 seasons, he helped pitchers like Dave Stieb, Jim Clancy, Jimmy Key and Tom Henke develop into all-stars. He passed away from colon cancer on October 15, 2005.
• This week’s trivia question: Who supplanted Al Widmar as the Blue Jays pitching coach in 1990? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a Wade Boggs rookie card.