My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
· Bravo to Etobicoke, Ont., Joey Votto for choosing to have “In Flanders Fields” emblazoned on the back of his Cincinnati Reds jersey for his Players’ Weekend nickname. “In Flanders Fields” is the poem penned by Canadian military doctor John McCrae in 1915 that’s recited religiously on Remembrance Day in Canada. “I’m Canadian. I remember as a student in Canada, waking up, going to school on the 11th day in the 11th month at the 11th hour, stopping and paying tribute to our past, and the ‘In Flanders Fields’ poem being part of that process,” Votto told MLB.com reporter Mark Sheldon. “It means a tremendous amount to me. I think our country does a very good job of paying tribute to our past. Whenever I go home and I cross paths with something that has history, especially as I’ve gotten older, I find that there’s more meaning to it.”
· Thank you to Kevin Mitchell, no, not the 1989 National League MVP, but the Canadian baseball fan from near Vancouver, B.C., for sharing with me (via Twitter) a complete list (below) of the nicknames that Canadian major leaguers have adopted for Players’ Weekend that will take place from August 24 to 26.
· Every time I see the success of a wily, soft-throwing thirty-something left-hander like Wade LeBlanc or Rich Hill in the majors, I always think to myself, “Andrew Albers could do that.” After Albers (North Battleford, Sask.) finished with a 5-1 record and a 3.51 ERA in nine appearances for the Seattle Mariners last season, the 32-year-old signed with the Japan Pacific League’s Orix Buffaloes. He has excelled in his first season overseas, posting a 9-2 record with a 2.90 ERA in 18 starts. The veteran southpaw, who toed the rubber for parts of four major league seasons with the Minnesota Twins, Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners between 2013 and 2017, announced on Twitter on Friday that he will be returning to Japan next season.
· This is one of the best photos (below) from the past week: Canadian baseball legend Fergie Jenkins met up with Toronto Blue Jays super prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Montreal, Que.) at Coca-Cola Stadium in Buffalo on Thursday. Guerrero is currently starring for triple-A Bisons, while Thursday was Fergie Jenkins bobblehead night at the stadium. Before his Hall of Fame major league career, a 19-year-old Jenkins pitched in three games for the Bisons in 1962 while he was in the Philadelphia Phillies organization.
· Congratulations to Windsor, Ont., native Stubby Clapp who has been named manager of the Arizona Fall League’s Surprise Saguaros. For this assignment, Clapp will oversee a club that will include top prospects from the St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Royals, Pittsburgh Pirates, Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays organizations. The popular Canadian is in his second season managing the Cardinals’ triple-A Memphis Redbirds. His club is in first place in the Pacific Coast League’s American Southern division by 11 games and carries a 74-44 record into today’s action. This comes after Clapp led the Redbirds to a franchise record for wins and a league championship in 2017. For his efforts, he was named PCL Manager of the Year, Baseball America Minor League Manager of the Year and the St. Louis Cardinals’ George Kissell Award winner for excellence in player development. The longtime Canadian national team member and coach, who played 23 games for the Cardinals in 2001, is in his 12th professional season as a coach and fourth as a manager.
· Please take a moment to remember Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Bob Prentice who would’ve turned 90 today. Prentice was a multi-sport star in high school at Toronto’s Riverdale Collegiate. An all-star quarterback and standout hockey player, Prentice chose to focus on a baseball career. After signing with the Cleveland Indians as an 18-year-old, the Canadian infielder would hit .273 and belt 151 minor league home runs from 1948 to 1956. Unfortunately, the presence of stars Al Rosen and Bobby Avila at the major league level prevented Prentice from cracking the big league roster. After retiring as a player, he became a part-time scout with the Detroit Tigers in 1959 and was responsible for the Tigers signing Canadians John Hiller (Toronto, Ont.), Mike Kilkenny (Bradford, Ont.) and George Korince (Ottawa, Ont.). On November 1, 1976, Prentice joined the fledging Toronto Blue Jays as their director of Canadian scouting, a post he would hold until 1990. Part of a Blue Jays scouting department that was considered the best in the business, Prentice played a role in the signings of Canadians Paul Hodgson (Marysville, N.B.), Rob Ducey (Cambridge, Ont.), Denis Boucher (Lachine, Que.) and Nigel Wilson (Ajax, Ont.). Prentice passed away in 1995, but a trophy named in his honour (Prentice Cup) is awarded annually to the Ontario high school baseball champion.
· Please send good thoughts to former Montreal Expos right-hander Scott Sanderson, whom Canadian Baseball Network writer Danny Gallagher reports is fighting a “devastating” illness. Sanderson pitched parts of six seasons with the Expos from 1978 to 1983. His best campaign came in 1980 when he was 16-11 with a 3.11 ERA in 33 starts. He later pitched for the Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees, Oakland A’s, California Angels, San Francisco Giants and Chicago White Sox in a 19-year major league career. Following his playing career, he became a successful player agent. Gallagher writes that Sanderson has lived in “smalltown Illinois for many years.”
· Six years ago today, the Rogers Centre became the “Rajai Centre” for a day. It was on that date that Blue Jays outfielder Rajai Davis climbed the left-field wall in the seventh inning at Rogers Centre to rob New York Yankees third baseman Casey McGehee of a home run. Davis also had two doubles and five RBI as the Blue Jays beat the Yankees 10-7.
· Please take a moment to click on this link to support the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s quest to receive $10,000 in funding from Southwestern Ontario fuel company Dowler-Karn who is giving away $75,000 to celebrate its 75th anniversary. The Hall is asking for $10,000 to assist in completing a garden and to purchase furnishings and exhibit cases.
· This week’s trivia question: This one-time National League MVP and seven-time all-star who recorded 2,712 major league hits played his final 13 major league games with the Toronto Blue Jays after he was picked by the club off waivers one September. Who am I referring to? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1978 Topps Pete Rose card, a 1984 O-Pee-Chee Nolan Ryan card and a 1986 Donruss Paul Molitor card.
· The answer to last week’s trivia question (Eric Hinske was the first Blue Jays player to win the American League Rookie of the Year Award outright in 2002, but one other Blue Jays player was a co-winner of this honour. Can you name this player?) was Alfredo Griffin, who shared the award with Minnesota Twins infielder John Castino in 1979.