By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
– Just a reminder that the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont., opened its doors for the season yesterday. It’s well worth a visit. For more information about its hours and its COVID-19 safety precautions, please click here.
– In case you missed it, former big league right-hander and national team alum Phillippe Aumont (Gatineau, Que.) told CBC in an interview on Tuesday that he’s walking away from baseball to get into farming. The 6-foot-7 hurler had been in the Toronto Blue Jays’ big league camp this spring and had been the ace of the Canadian national team in the fall when he pitched eight scoreless innings in his start in their opening game against Cuba at the WSBC Premier12 tournament. Just over four months earlier, he had tossed a combined 13 shutout innings for the national squad that won silver at the Pan Am Games. And when he wasn’t toeing the rubber on the international stage last year, he went 8-5 with a league-best 2.65 ERA in 18 starts for the independent Can Am-League’s Ottawa Champions, good enough to be named the circuit’s Pitcher of the Year. Prior to that, Aumont, 31, had pitched in parts of four major league seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies between 2012 and 2015.
– Right-hander Jordan Romano (Markham, Ont.) is one of the pitchers that has been named to the Blue Jays’ 60-man player pool for the 2020 season. He’ll be training with the club at Rogers Centre starting this week. The 27-year-old Canuck, who had remained in Dunedin during the COVID-19 pandemic, was one of the most impressive relievers in Blue Jays’ camp this spring. The 6-foot-4 righty employed a fastball clocked as high as 98 mph and a nasty slider to strike out six batters in five scoreless innings. Romano, who fanned 21 batters in 15 2/3 innings in 17 appearances in his first taste of major league action last season, should be a strong contender for a spot in the Blue Jays’ bullpen when the regular season begins on July 23 or 24.
– Twenty-five years ago today, Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Matt Stairs (Fredericton, N.B.) clubbed his first major league home run. Playing for the Boston Red Sox, the left-handed hitting Canuck connected for a solo shot in the seventh inning against Kansas City Royals right-hander Tom Gordon at Kauffman Stadium. At the time, it gave the Red Sox and fellow Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Rheal Cormier (Cap-Pele, N.B.) a 2-1 lead. Cormier had started the contest and allowed just one run in seven innings for the Red Sox, but the bullpen would blow the lead and the Royals won 3-2. Stairs ultimately clubbed 265 major league home runs, which is the third-most by a Canadian.
– Happy 39th Birthday to former big league reliever Jesse Crain! The Toronto-born right-hander posted a 3.05 ERA in 532 major league appearances (seventh most by a Canadian) in parts of 10 major league seasons with the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox. The workhorse reliever appeared in at least 50 games in seven big league campaigns and five times registered ERAs under 3.00. In 2013, he had a minuscule 0.74 ERA with 46 strikeouts in 36 2/3 innings in 38 appearances and was named an all-star before a rotator cuff injury ended his season.
– Former Canadian Baseball Network writer Alexis Brudnicki continues to do outstanding work. Now employed by MLB.com, she is writing profiles about some of our country’s top scouts. This week her story about Toronto Blue Jays scout and London, Ont., native Jay Lapp was published. In the article, Lapp shares the story of how he scouted and signed John Axford (Port Dover, Ont.) for the Milwaukee Brewers. You can read the full article here.
– It was 34 years ago today that the Blue Jays traded veteran right-hander Doyle Alexander to the Atlanta Braves for a hard-throwing, 22-year-old pitching prospect named Duane Ward. Alexander would make 33 starts in parts of two seasons for the Braves, while Ward went on to become one of the most dominant relievers in Blue Jays history. A flame-throwing set-up man and workhorse reliever for the Blue Jays from 1988 to 1992, Ward assumed the closer’s role when Tom Henke departed via free agency after the 1992 season. Ward would excel in the new role, topping the American League with 45 saves (also a franchise record) in 1993, while allowing just 49 hits and striking out 97 batters in 71 2/3 innings. For his efforts, he was selected to the American League All-Star team. His performance helped propel the Blue Jays to their second consecutive World Series title. In total, in nine seasons with the Blue Jays, Ward appeared in 452 games, the second-most by a pitcher in franchise history. He was elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame this year.
– Twenty-three years ago today, the Montreal Expos retired No. 10 in honour of Andre Dawson prior to a game against the Atlanta Braves at Olympic Stadium. Dawson was a standout at Florida A&M University when he was spotted by Expos scout Bill Adair who convinced his employers to select the Miami native in the 11th round of the 1975 MLB draft. After minor league stints in Lethbridge, Quebec City and Denver, Dawson made his big league debut on September 11, 1976. The following year, he hit .282 and belted 19 home runs, earning himself National League Rookie of the Year honours. Over his next nine seasons with the Expos, the five-tool outfielder evolved into one of the best all-around players in franchise history. In Dawson’s tenure in Montreal, he was selected to three all-star teams, won three Silver Slugger Awards and captured six Gold Gloves. In all in his 11 seasons in Montreal, Dawson accumulated 225 home runs, 838 RBIs and 2,679 total bases – all numbers that rank second in franchise history.
– When I look at the list of players that have hit three home runs in a game for the Blue Jays, there are many names that I’d expect to see on there, such as George Bell, Carlos Delgado, Edwin Encarnacion and Josh Donaldson. But the most unlikely member on this list is Darnell Coles, who 26 years ago today belted a trio of home runs against the Minnesota Twins in the Blue Jays’ 14-3 win at the Metrodome. Coles started at third base and batted seventh that game and went deep in the fifth, eighth and ninth innings.
– This week’s trivia question: Who is the only Expos player to hit three home runs in a game for them more than once? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. Please note: I’m going to hold off awarding prizes until after the COVID-19 pandemic. Hope you understand.
– The answer to last week’s trivia question (Corey Koskie, who was born in Anola, Man., was elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2015. Who is the only other Manitoba-born major league player that has been inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame? ) was Russ Ford (Brandon, Man.).