My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
- I won’t pretend that I really know Chris Colabello, but I do know this, in 29 years of going to spring training in Dunedin and attending Toronto Blue Jays games, I’ve never met a kinder, more generous player. I’ve told this story before, but in March 2015, my dad and I took my nephew Kalin, a beautiful, lively teenager who has cerebral palsy, to the Blue Jays minor league complex in Dunedin. We were standing in between the four fields when Colabello approached us and said he wanted to meet Kalin. He spent 10 minutes talking to Kalin. He spoke to my nephew like they were best pals and by the end of the conversation I got the sense that they were. So I wasn’t surprised when one of the first things my nephew asked for, for Christmas was a Blue Jays shirt with Colabello’s name on the back. I know this doesn’t make Colabello innocent of the positive drug test that earned him his 80-game suspension, but it does make me want to believe him when he says he never knowingly used a banned substance.
- Happy 72nd Birthday to Bill Singer who threw the first pitch in Toronto Blue Jays history on that snowy day at Exhibition Stadium on April 7, 1977. Unfortunately, that would also be his most memorable pitch for the Blue Jays. Singer battled a shoulder injury during his short tenure in Toronto and he’d finish the campaign with a 6.79 ERA in 13 appearances. The veteran right-hander, who had two 20-win seasons earlier in his career, was selected by the Blue Jays with the 28th pick in the expansion draft and he was supposed to be one of the marquee names on the club. In fact, having Singer on the roster was so important to general manager Peter Bavasi that he vetoed a deal that Pat Gillick, who was the Jays vice-president of player personnel at the time, had lined up that March that would have sent Singer to the New York Yankees for a young prospect named Ron Guidry.
- Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer and the pride of Port Hope, Ont., Paul Quantrill, has joined Twitter. You can follow him at @PQuantrill48.
- The independent Atlantic League’s Lancaster Barnstormers should rename themselves the Lancaster Blue Jays. Their Opening Day roster included seven players that have played in the Blue Jays organization: infielders Kevin Ahrens and Mike McDade; outfielders Michael Crouse (New Westminster, B.C.) and Caleb Gindl and pitchers Andrew Albers (North Battleford, Sask.), Justin Jackson and Phil Coke.
- Future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones turns 44 The switch-hitting slugger was an offensive force in most ballparks during his 19-year major league career, but he hit particularly well at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, which was widely regarded as a pitcher friendly park. In 70 games at the Big O, Jones hit .341 and collected 86 hits, including eight home runs.
- Fun Canadian Baseball Fact: Kelowna, B.C., native Paul Spoljaric was at his best against four of baseball’s best hitters. Frank Thomas, Derek Jeter, Rafael Palmeiro and Manny Ramirez, who had 35 all-star game selections between them, combined to go 4-for-42 with 14 strikeouts against Spoljaric.
- Please take a moment today to remember Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Richard Bélec who passed away on this date in 2007 at the age of 71. Bélec was one of the leading organizers of amateur baseball in Quebec for more than 50 years. After helping to establish Baseball Quebec, he served as the organization’s president for two terms (1970 to 1972, 1980 to 1994) and as president of the Quebec Junior Elite League for 16 years. He also helped create L’Académie Baseball Canada (ABC), a groundbreaking program that gives players the opportunity to obtain a post-secondary education in Canada while playing competitive baseball. On a national level, Bélec served as the vice-president of Baseball Canada for 14 years, prior to becoming the president from 1994 to 1996. For his more than half-decade in amateur baseball, Bélec was inducted into the Quebec Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000 and into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003.
- So who is the greatest pitcher in Toronto Blue Jays history? For most, the answer is either Dave Stieb or Roy Halladay, but I’ve always contended that Jimmy Key, who turned 55 on Friday, should be in that conversation. Key won 116 games in nine seasons with the Blue Jays and posted a 3.42 ERA, which is tied with Stieb as the best by a Blue Jays starter. Key’s 1.20 WHIP is also tied with Halladay for the best by a Jays starter.
- This week’s trivia question: Jimmy Key’s 116 wins are the most by a Blue Jays left-hander? Who has the second most wins by a Blue Jays southpaw? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win 1984 O-Pee-Chee Joe Morgan and Jim Palmer cards.