By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
-Toronto Blue Jays slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who was born in Montreal, Que., was voted the American League’s starting first baseman for the All-Star Game which will take place at Coors Field on July 13. With this, he becomes the first player born in Canada to start for the American League in the Midsummer Classic since Boston Red Sox outfielder Jason Bay (Trail, B.C.) in 2009. Guerrero Jr. is the first Canadian to start at first base in the All-Star Game since Cincinnati Reds slugger Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) did so for the National League in 2013. Guerrero’s All-Star selection also inspired his father to post this photo and message on Thursday:
– Speaking of Votto, he recorded his 1,000th career RBI when he belted a solo home run for the Reds off San Diego Padres right-hander Joe Musgrove in the third inning on Wednesday to become the second Canadian major leaguer to reach that milestone. Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.) had 1,311 RBIs in his career. The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame released the statement below to congratulate Votto on his accomplishment.
-I’d like to wish Cleveland outfielder Josh Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.) all the best in his recovery after he suffered multiple fractures and torn ligaments in his right leg in a collision with Cleveland second baseman Ernie Clement in the bottom of the fourth inning in last Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Twins. The 24-year-old Naylor underwent surgery on Friday and he’s likely to miss the remainder of the season. The Ontario Blue Jays and Junior National Team alum was batting .253 with seven home runs and 21 RBIs in 53 big league games this season.
-My thoughts and prayers go out to Todd Schell and his wife, Amy, and their family. Todd’s father Chuck, who pitched fastball for over 30 years, passed away on Tuesday in Hamilton, Ont., at the age of 81. Chuck was no doubt very proud of his son who was a slugger on the 1991 Canadian National Youth Team that won Canada’s first gold medal at an international tournament when they upset their competition at the World Youth Baseball Championships in Brandon, Man. That team was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame the following year. You can leave condolences for Todd and his family here.
-It was wonderful to see London, Ont., native Jamie Romak presented with his 2020 Tip O’Neill Award in a ceremony prior to his game against the Samsung Lions at SSG Landers Field in Incheon, South Korea on Canada Day. Michael Danagher, the Canadian ambassador to Korea, presented the award on behalf of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. Romak batted .282 with 32 home runs in 139 games for the SK Wyverns in 2020. It was, by far, the best individual season by a Canadian in the pro ranks. If you haven’t had a chance to watch it, please watch the mini-documentary that Sportsnet ran about Romak on Canada Day. It shines the spotlight on what Romak has endured to forge out a career in professional baseball and the challenges he faced being away from his young family during the pandemic. You can watch it here.
-In another great story, it was five years ago today that Regina, Sask. native Dustin Molleken made his major league debut with the Detroit Tigers. After 13 seasons in the affiliated minor league and foreign ranks, the 32-year-old national team alum came in in relief of Tigers starter Daniel Norris and tossed two innings against Cleveland at Progressive Field. He recorded his first major league strikeout in the third inning when he fanned Mike Napoli. He then finished the fourth inning by striking out Abraham Almonte.
-Twenty-two years ago today, Pat Hentgen recorded his 100th major league win for the Toronto Blue Jays. The workhorse right-hander allowed three runs in seven innings to the Tampa Bay Rays in the Blue Jays’ 6-3 win at SkyDome. Shawn Green belted two home runs for the Blue Jays. With that, Hentgen became the fourth Blue Jays pitcher to win 100 games for the club (See trivia question below).
-Twenty-nine years ago today, Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee and Montreal Expos right fielder Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.) threw out fellow Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee and then San Diego Padres shortstop Tony Fernandez at first base (while throwing to another Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Tim Wallach) after Fernandez had lined a seemingly surefire single to right field to lead off the first inning. You can watch the video below.
-On this date 23 years ago, Danny Klassen (Leamington, Ont.) made his major league debut with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He started at second base and batted eighth for the D-Backs against the Houston Astros at the Astrodome. Klassen went 0-for-1 with three walks and scored a run in the D-Backs’ 7-4 win. He would go on to play 85 games in the big leagues, but he’d never walk as many times in a game again.
– My trivia question for this week: There have been five pitchers that have recorded more than 100 wins for the Blue Jays. Pat Hentgen is one of them. Can you name two of the other four? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below.
–The answer to last week’s trivia question (What player has hit the most career grand slams with the Blue Jays? ) was Carlos Delgado with nine.