My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
· The 2018 MLB Draft starts tomorrow with the first and second rounds. As a Canadian baseball junkie whenever the draft approaches, I always think of the 2002 Baseball America draft preview issue (pictured above) that featured Canadian left-handers Adam Loewen (Surrey, B.C.) and Jeff Francis (North Delta, B.C.). This is the most Canadian Baseball America cover ever released. Magazine founder and Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Allan Simpson likely had a say in using this photo. Despite its title, Baseball America was started by Simpson in his garage in White Rock, B.C. Loewen and Francis made draft history that year when they were selected fourth and ninth overall – the highest positions that Canadian-born players have ever been chosen. Pirates right-hander Jameson Taillon, who was born in Lakeland, Fla., but maintains a Canadian citizenship, was selected second overall in the 2010 draft. According to various projections, it’s likely that two Canadians Noah Naylor and Tristan Pompey, both from Mississauga, Ont., will be chosen in the first two rounds on Monday, but they’re not likely to be selected as early as Loewen and Francis. The Canadian Baseball Network will have extensive draft coverage. To read more about the top Canadians heading into this year’s draft, follow this link.
· So who were the first players ever selected by the Montreal Expos and Toronto Blue Jays in the MLB amateur draft? The answers are Balor Moore (22nd overall by the Expos in 1969) and Tom Goffena (25th overall by the Blue Jays in 1977). Over the years, I’ve connected with both of them. Two years ago, I caught up with Moore, who also pitched for the Toronto Blue Jays during his eight-year big league career, and wrote this article. Moore now runs a pipe supply company in Houston. Goffena made it as high as the class-A Advanced level before hanging up his spikes. I spoke to him when he visited the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008. After retiring from baseball, he returned to his hometown of Sidney, Ohio and served as a golf pro for a short stint, before joining the highway department with Shelby County, where he worked for more than 30 years.
· I know this is unfair, but whenever I watch outfielder Randal Grichuk at the plate or in the field with the Blue Jays, my first thought is that this guy was selected by the Los Angeles Angels one spot ahead of Mike Trout in the 2009 MLB draft. For the record, the Blue Jays opted for right-hander Chad Jenkins five spots ahead of Trout in that draft.
· It was 23 years ago today that soon-to-be Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Pedro Martinez tossed nine perfect innings for the Montreal Expos against the San Diego Padres. It was Padres left fielder Bip Roberts who ruined the perfecto when he led off the 10th inning with a double. The Expos still won the game 1-0. With that performance, Martinez became just the second player in major league history to toss nine perfect innings only to have their perfect game broken up in extra innings. Pittsburgh Pirates lefty Harvey Haddix carried a perfect game into the 13th inning for the Bucs on May 26, 1959 against the Milwaukee Braves, but ended up losing the game 1-0.
· Happy 40th Birthday to Canadian national team alum and Toronto, Ont., native John Ogiltree! After being selected by the Detroit Tigers in the 32nd round of the 1996 MLB draft, he elected not to sign and to attend Martin Methodist College and Lake Community College. After his senior year, he was signed as an amateur free agent by Blue Jays scout and Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Jim Ridley and would spend parts of five seasons in the organization. In his first campaign in the Jays’ system, the 6-foot-6 right-hander posted a 3.38 ERA and registered six saves with their Rookie-ball Short-Season affiliate in Medicine Hat. He followed that up by recording 26 saves for the class-A Advanced Dunedin Blue Jays in 2002. He made it as far as double-A in the Blue Jays’ system, before moving on to the Washington Senators’ organization for his final pro season in 2005. Along the way, he also pitched for the Canadian national team on several occasions, including at the 2004 Olympics.
· Tomorrow marks the 180th anniversary of the first documented baseball game in North American history that was played in Beachville, Ont. This contest featured two teams from Oxford and Zorra townships. It was Dr. Adam Ford, a former resident of St. Marys, Ont., now home to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, who later recounted details of this game in a letter published in the May 5, 1886 issue of Sporting Life magazine. Living in Denver, Colo., when he penned his recollections, Ford recalls that the match was played on a square field in a pasture. The competition between Beachville and Zorra featured five bases, fair and foul balls, players employing a hand hewn stick as a bat and a ball made of twisted yarn and covered with calf skin. The players that participated in that game were inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1988.
· This week’s trivia question. When Lloyd Moseby is inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame on June 16, he will become the second Blue Jays’ first round pick to be elected. Who was the first? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1983 O-Pee-Chee Super Veteran Nolan Ryan card, a 1986 Donruss Joe Carter card, a 1986 O-Pee-Chee Paul Molitor card and a 1991 Upper Deck Final Edition Kenny Lofton card.
· The answer to last week’s trivia question (Aside from Ray Daviault, who is the other Canadian to have pitched for the New York Mets during their inaugural 1962 campaign?) was Ken MacKenzie (Gore Bay, Ont.).