My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
· Today is International Women’s Day and I’m blessed to have many strong women in my life as friends, colleagues and relatives. I’d especially like to pay tribute to my mother Glenyce Glew. She has been a tremendous role model and a source of unconditional love and support. Yes, my dad is responsible for my love of baseball, but my mom, a former teacher, is the reason I love to read and write. So thank you, mom, for everything you have taught me and for all you do.
· Jordan Romano (Markham, Ont.) has been one of the most impressive relievers in Toronto Blue Jays camp this spring. The 6-foot-4 right-hander has employed a fastball that has clocked as high as 98 mph and a nasty slider to strike out six batters in four scoreless innings this spring. The soon-to-be 27-year-old, who fanned 21 batters in 15 2/3 innings in 17 appearances in his first taste of major league action last season, is among a large batch of relievers fighting for a spot in the Blue Jays’ pen.
· Tyler O’Neill (Maple Ridge, B.C.) is the No. 1 contender for the St. Louis Cardinals’ starting left field job. That position opened up when slugger Marcell Ozuna signed a one-year, 18-million deal with the Atlanta Braves in January. O’Neill has been strong at the plate so far this spring, batting. 273 with two home runs and five walks in eight games. The muscular Canadian split the 2019 season between the Cardinals and the club’s triple-A and double-A affiliates. In 60 big league contests, he batted .262 and clubbed five home runs.
· Things haven’t gone as smoothly for right-hander Rowan Wick (North Vancouver, B.C.) this spring. The hard-throwing Canadian, who’s experimenting with a new cutter-slider pitch, has allowed nine earned runs in 3 2/3 innings in four appearances for the Chicago Cubs. But thanks to his strong performance in the Cubs’ pen last season, it’s still likely that he’ll head north with the club. According to Foolish Baseball on Twitter, Wick pitched more innings (33 1/3) than any other reliever in MLB in 2019 without allowing a home run. Last season, he made 31 big league appearances and recorded a 2.43 ERA while striking out 35 batters. Wick, a Junior National National Team alum and converted catcher, made his big league debut with the San Diego Padres in 2018, posting a 6.48 ERA in 10 appearances before being dealt to the Cubs on November 20, 2018.
· Happy 80th Birthday to Montreal Expos broadcasting legend and 2020 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Jacques Doucet! Born in Montreal in 1940, Doucet has been calling major league baseball games for more than four decades. He began performing play-by-play for the Expos’ French language radio broadcasts in 1972 and continued for 33 seasons. After the Expos left for Washington following the 2004 campaign, Doucet continued his broadcasting career in his home province, calling games for the independent Can-Am League’s Quebec Capitales from 2006 to 2011. In August 2011, he returned to the big leagues to broadcast select Blue Jays games in French for TVA Sports. He continues to broadcast Blue Jays games today. In total, Doucet has called more than 5,500 big league games during his storied career. In 2004, he was the winner of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s Jack Graney Award, which is handed out annually by the Hall to a member of the media who has made significant contributions to baseball in Canada through their life’s work. This past year, he was one of eight finalists for the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s prestigious Ford C. Frick Award.
· If you’re looking for a great read this week, you should pick up Brian “Chip” Martin’s new book, The Man Who Made Babe Ruth: Brother Matthias of St. Mary’s School. It tells the story of how Canadian Brother Matthias, who was born in Nova Scotia, served as a much-needed father figure for Ruth during the slugger’s life. I got my copy yesterday. You can order your copy here.
· For the first time in 11 years, Canadian baseball legends Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.) and Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.) will be in St. Marys, Ont., together for the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s induction festivities. Jenkins was there to put the jacket on Walker when he was inducted in 2009, but this will be the first time that the two will appear as elected members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. On June 19, the day prior to this year’s induction ceremony, Jenkins and Walker will participate in the Canadian ball hall’s fundraising golf tournament. I’ve been involved with the Hall in some capacity for 24 years and this is the best lineup of baseball players they have ever had in their golf tournament. On top of Walker and Jenkins, among the others participating will be inductees Justin Morneau (New Westminster, B.C.), John Olerud, Duane Ward, Steve Rogers and Lloyd Moseby. For information on how you can support the tournament, click on this link.
· Twenty-one years ago today, Joe DiMaggio died at the age of 84. In his 13-season Hall of Fame career, The Yankee Clipper batted .325 and amassed 2,214 hits – including 389 doubles, 131 triples and 361 home runs. He was a part of nine World Series-winning Yankees teams. I continue to marvel at his 1941 season. In that campaign not only did he have his 56-game hitting streak, he also batted .357, had 43 doubles, 11 triples, 30 home runs, 76 walks and just 13 strikeouts. Yes, that’s 13 strikeouts in an entire season!
· When younger Toronto Blue Jays fans ask me just how good Tony Fernandez was, I think of this baseball card and wish I had it with me to show them.
· This week’s trivia question: Jordan Romano (Markham, Ont.) seems destined to be a part of the Blue Jays bullpen this season. There have been two Canadian pitchers that recorded at least one save for the Blue Jays over the years. Name one of them. Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person with the correct answer will win a five-pack of Larry Walker cards (sorry, no rookie cards).
· The answer to last week’s trivia question (Name the four major league teams that Russell Martin has played for.) was the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Pirates and Toronto Blue Jays.