By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
-Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) belted his 300th major league home run on Friday. It was a two-run shot in the third inning off Chicago Cubs’ right-hander Jake Arrieta in the Reds’ 8-6 win at the The Great American Ballpark. With that home run, Votto became just the second Canadian to hit 300 homers in the big leagues. Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.) finished with 383 home runs. Last week, I shared that five of Votto’s home runs have come against Canadian pitchers, including two off 2019 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Ryan Dempster (Gibsons, B.C.) and single homers off Rich Harden (Victoria, B.C.), Scott Diamond (Guelph, Ont.) and John Axford (Port Dover, Ont.). Votto also hit three of his round-trippers at Rogers Centre. The first was a solo shot off reliever Shawn Camp in a Reds’ 7-5 win over the Blue Jays on June 25, 2009. His second and third were first-inning homers that came in back-to-back games at the Dome on May 30 and May 31, 2017 off Blue Jays hurlers J.A. Happ and Mike Bolsinger respectively.
-The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame issued the following statement after Votto’s milestone home run on Friday:
–Canadian Baseball Network contributor George Farelli reported on Friday that former Blue Jays outfielder Dalton Pompey (Mississauga, Ont.) has signed with Team Quebec, a road team that will participate in the Frontier League this season. Pompey spent part of 2020 in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ organization prior to COVID-19 postponing the start of the season. He then ended up playing four games for the Sugar Land Lightning Sloths of the independent Constellation Energy League. This came after parts of 10 seasons in the Blue Jays’ organization. Selected by the Blue Jays in the 16th round of the 2010 MLB draft, Pompey got his first taste of big league action in 2014 and he began the following season as the Blue Jays’ starting centre fielder and served as a valuable pinch runner for the club in their 2015 playoff run. Unfortunately, in the ensuing seasons, he was hampered by a variety of injuries – including three concussions. In all, the now 28-year-old Canadian competed in parts of four big league campaigns with the Blue Jays. In 590 minor league games, he has batted .278 and posted a .364 on-base percentage, while swiping 167 bases.
-Mike Soroka (Calgary, Alta.) was placed on the 60-day injured list by the Atlanta Braves on Friday. The Canadian righty has been sidelined since he left his start at the Braves’ alternate site on April 6 after just one inning with shoulder discomfort. He has since been diagnosed with right shoulder inflammation. Tests show no structural damage, but according to MLB.com’s Mark Bowman Soroka hadn’t been cleared to begin simple throwing exercises until Thursday. So it will likely be June before he returns to the big league club. Prior to this setback, Soroka had been recovering nicely from a torn Achilles tendon that he suffered on August 3. The Junior National Team alum made just three starts in 2020, but in his rookie campaign in 2019, he went 13-4 with a 2.68 ERA in 29 starts and finished second in the National League Rookie of the Year voting.
-Nick Pivetta (Victoria, B.C.) has been the Boston Red Sox best starting pitcher this season. After taking a no-hitter into the sixth inning in his previous start, the 6-foot-5 right-hander struck out seven and allowed just three hits in five scoreless innings in his start against the New York Mets on Wednesday to pick up his third win of the season. So far in seven starts with the Red Sox since he was acquired last August, Pivetta has a 5-0 record and a 2.52 ERA. The Victoria Eagles and Junior National Team alum came to the Red Sox in a trade last August after spending parts of four seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies. In 99 career big league appearances, he is 24-30 and owns a 5.25 ERA and has 459 strikeouts in 432 innings.
-St. Louis Cardinals slugger Tyler O’Neill (Maple Ridge, B.C.) was activated from the 10-day injured list on April 23 after missing 10 games with a groin injury. The muscular Canuck has since belted four home runs in his last seven games and raised his season average from .171 to .254. He batted .173 with seven home runs in 50 games in 2020, but won a Gold Glove Award for his defence in left field.
-Bo Naylor’s stock continues to rise. A first-round pick of Cleveland in 2018, the Mississauga, Ont., native entered MLB Pipeline’s list of top 100 prospects this week. The 21-year-old catcher will begin the 2021 regular season with Cleveland’s double-A affilate in Akron. The Ontario Blue Jays and Junior National Team alum, who was in Cleveland’s big league camp this spring, has spent parts of three seasons in their organization. He batted .243 with 11 home runs and 65 RBIs in 107 games with the class-A Lake County Captains in 2019 before toiling at the club’s alternate site last season.
-Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Rob Thomson (Corunna, Ont.) managed the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday and guided them to a 2-1 win over the New York Mets. Thomson was filling in for Joe Girardi who was attending his daughter’s graduation. This isn’t the first time that Thomson has filled in as dugout boss for Girardi. When Thomson was the bench coach with the Yankees in 2008, he managed three games in Girardi’s absence to become the first Canadian to manage a major league contest since George Gibson (London, Ont.) with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1934. Gibson, by the way, is the last Canadian to be a full-time big league manager. Thomson is in his fourth year as Phillies bench coach.
-One of the must-read books on Canadian baseball history is Dan Turner’s 1988 gem, Heroes, Bums and Ordinary Men. It’s out of print and tough to find, but I believe you can purchase a copy from the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont. One of my favourite chapters in this book is about Terry Puhl and that chapter also offers this amazing photo (below) snapped by Turner of Yogi Berra, then a coach with the Houston Astros, with Puhl, in the spring of 1988.
-Vin Scully, the iconic Dodgers play-by-man made countless historic calls during his 67 seasons of broadcasting, but as a Canadian baseball history buff, the one I remember the most is Scully calling Montreal Expos outfielder Tim Raines’ 10th inning grand slam off New York Mets reliever Jesse Orosco 34 years ago today. That blast capped off a remarkable game for Raines, who was playing in his first contest of the season after he missed the first month because he couldn’t secure a free agent contract in the off-season due to collusion by the owners. Raines went 4-for-5 that day, but it’s best for me to let Scully describe the Expos legend’s performance (Click on the link below and listen).
– My trivia question for this week: Joey Votto and Larry Walker are the only Canadians to have hit 300 major league home runs, but three other Canadians have hit 200 or more home runs in the big leagues. Can you name two of them? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below.
–The answer to last week’s trivia question (While Ron Taylor never pitched for the Expos in a regular season game, 11 Canadians did. Can you name three of them? ) was any three of Claude Raymond, Denis Boucher, Matt Maysey, Derek Aucoin, Rheal Cormier, Mike Johnson, Bill Atkinson, Larry Landreth, Dave Wainhouse, Mike Gardiner or Shawn Hill.