By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
-The first round of the MLB draft starts tonight at 7 p.m. E.T. Thirty-six selections – including each team’s first-round pick and the seven Competitive Balance A picks – will be announced tonight and there’s a decent chance that a Canadian will be chosen. Infielder Tyler Black (Stouffville, Ont.), who’s the son of Canadian sports broadcaster, Rod Black, is our country’s best bet. The soon-to-be 21-year-old Toronto Mets alum batted .383 with 13 home runs and 59 RBIs in 48 games for the Wright State Raiders in NCAA action this season. He’s the No. 1 ranked prospect on the Canadian Baseball Network’s 2021 Draft List and is the No. 16 overall prospect on ESPN’s top 200. The last Canadian to be selected in the first round was Ontario Blue Jays and Junior National Team alum Bo Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.) who was taken 29th overall by Cleveland in 2018.
– Aside from Black, among the other players eligible to be drafted with famous relatives are speedy outfielder Denzel Clarke (Pickering, Ont.) who’s a cousin of Josh and Bo Naylor, right-hander Turner Spoljaric (Lisle, Ont.), the son of former Toronto Blue Jays’ pitcher Paul Spoljaric, and right-hander Jack Leiter, the son of ex-Jays lefty Al Leiter, who’s destined to go early in the first round. Some other draft eligible players with Blue Jays ties, according to David Adler of MLB.com, are catcher Shane McGuire, the brother of Reese and second baseman Mariano Ricciardi, the son of former Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi.
-Who is the first Canadian ever selected by a Canadian team in the MLB draft? The answer is Calgary native Richard Trembecki who was taken by the Montreal Expos in the 15th round in June 1968. Trembecki was best known as a hockey player at the University of Denver at the time, but the Expos took him as a centre fielder. The selection was later voided, however, when the club was informed that players born in Canada weren’t eligible for the draft, which was a rule in place at that time.
-According to MLB.com, legendary right fielder Jesse Barfield will represent the Blue Jays at their draft table this year, while ex-Blue Jays first baseman Fred McGriff will be on hand for the Atlanta Braves. Meanwhile, MLB has confirmed that Canadian baseball legend Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.) will attend draft night, as will former Montreal Expos outfielders and Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductees Andre Dawson and Tim Raines.
-Please take a moment today to remember Tom Goffena, the Blue Jays’ first-ever draft pick. He passed away last June at the age of 61 after a 10-year battle with colon cancer. Goffena was a promising high school shortstop in his hometown of Sidney, Ohio when the Blue Jays selected him 25th overall in the 1977 draft. To learn more about him, you can read the obituary I wrote about him last year.
-What is the most Canadian team in the minor league affiliated ranks this year? I can’t think of one that’s more Canadian than the Blue Jays’ double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats. There are currently four Canucks on their roster: right-hander Will McAffer (North Vancouver, B.C.), infielder Otto Lopez (Montreal, Que.), outfielder Tanner Kirwer (Sherwood Park, Alta.) and outfielder Demi Orimoloye (Orleans, Ont.) Also, hitting coach Matt Hague’s father was born in Toronto, which would make him eligible to play or coach for Canada in the World Baseball Classic.
-So what’s former Toronto Blue Jays and Montreal Expos outfielder and Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Rob Ducey up to these days? Well, for the first time in close to four decades, the Cambridge, Ont., native is not working in baseball. Instead, he’s selling life insurance for Atlas Benefits, an agency owned by former big leaguer Roy Smith in New Port Richey, Fla. “The game chewed me up and spit me out and I’m OK with it,” Ducey told Josh Brown of The Waterloo Region Record. “I think I accomplished a lot, a lot more than I ever thought I would have and I’m fine starting this new chapter in my life.”
-It was 19 years ago today that the Florida Marlins traded Ryan Dempster (Gibsons, B.C.) to the Cincinnati Reds for outfielder Juan Encarnacion, infielder Wilton Guerrero and pitcher Ryan Snare. Dempster would go 3-7 with a 6.54 ERA in 22 appearances (20 starts) for the Reds before signing with the Chicago Cubs as a free agent the following January.
-Outfielder Tyler O’Neill (Maple Ridge, B.C.) returned to the St. Louis Cardinals’ starting lineup on Friday after being restricted to pinch-hit duties earlier in the week due to a bruised hand and a severe food related allergy. The Langley Blaze and Junior National Team alum has gone 2-for-8 with a run and an RBI since his return. O’Neill is enjoying a breakout big league campaign offensively, batting .275 with 15 home runs and .546 slugging percentage in 68 games.
– My trivia question for this week: What is the name of the Canadian that has been selected the highest in the MLB draft over the years? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below.
–The answer to last week’s trivia question (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? ) was any two of Dave Stieb, Jim Clancy, Jimmy Key or Roy Halladay.