By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
–Outfielder Jacob Robson’s parents enjoyed an eight-minute helicopter ride from Windsor to Detroit to take in their son’s first major league start at Comerica Park on Friday, according to Jason Beck of MLB.com. Batting ninth and playing left field for the Tigers, Robson went 0-for-3 in his club’s 7-4 loss to Cleveland. Robson made his MLB debut one day earlier when he pinch hit for catcher Grayson Greiner in the sixth inning and grounded out to second base. He stayed in the game and played left field for the Tigers in their 6-4 win over the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards. When Robson was called up from the triple-A Toledo Mud Hens on Thursday, he became the 13th Canadian to play in the big leagues this season. The Windsor, Ont., native, who was selected in the eighth round of the 2016 MLB draft, told reporters prior to Thursday’s game that playing with the Tigers was extra special. “I grew up going to those Tiger games, watching all the legends,” he said. “I was just having a conversation with Ramon Santiago. I shook his hand when I got into the clubhouse and I was like, man, I used to watch you play for this team. So it’s pretty special to be a part of this team at the major league level.”
-On July 1, Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) was batting .247 and owned a .324 on-base percentage (OBP) and, at 37 years old, appeared to be firmly in the twilight of his career. But over the past month and a half, he has been one of the best hitters in the big leagues. The Canuck slugger has a major league leading 15 home runs since the All-Star break and now has 26 on the season. He has also boosted his batting average to .282 and his OBP to .374 and is now being talked about as a National League MVP candidate. He is also just two hits shy of 2,000 for his MLB career. When he reaches that milestone, he’ll become just the second Canadian to do so, joining Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.), who collected 2,160 hits in his Hall of Fame career.
– Abraham Toro (Longueuil, Que.) continues to tear the cover off the ball for the Seattle Mariners. He was dealt to the Mariners by the Houston Astros, along with right-hander Joe Smith, for relievers Kendall Graveman and Rafael Montero on July 27 and has since gone 21-for-60 (.350 batting average) with five doubles and three home runs in 17 games. Toro, who had struggled to find a position with the Astros, has been the M’s starting second baseman since joining the team. The switch-hitting 24-year-old had batted .211 in 35 games this season with the Astros prior to joining the M’s. His combined season average is now .260.
– Right-hander Rowan Wick (North Vancouver, B.C.) was activated from the 60-day injured list by the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday and he proceeded to toss a scoreless inning against the Milwaukee Brewers that night in his first major league appearance since being sidelined by an oblique injury last September. Wick threw another scoreless inning in relief on Friday in the Cubs’ 14-10 loss to the Miami Marlins. Prior to his major league return, the Canuck reliever completed an eight-game rehab stint with the Cubs’ class-A and triple-A affiliates. The hard-throwing right-hander had been a go-to, late-inning reliever for the Cubs in 2019 and 2020. Last season, he led Canadian big league pitchers in appearances (19) and saves (4), while posting a 3.12 ERA and striking out 20 in 17 1/3 innings before being shut down.
-Tyler O’Neill (Maple, Ridge, B.C.) belted his 19th home run of the season for the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday. It was a solo homer in the fourth inning off Kansas City Royals left-hander Mike Minor. With that round-tripper, O’Neill also registered his 100th major league RBI. The Canuck slugger is enjoying a breakout offensive campaign. In 93 games, he has already set career highs in homers (19), hits (87), doubles (19), RBIs (42) and stolen bases (9).
-It was 30 years ago today that left-hander Rheal Cormier (Cap-Pele, N.B.) made his major league debut with the St. Louis Cardinals. He started and allowed just one earned run in six innings to pick up the win in the Cards’ 4-1 victory over the New York Mets at Busch Stadium. Cormier threw 59 of his 96 pitches for strikes and scattered seven hits and struck out two in the contest. His first major league strikeout came when he fanned Mets first baseman Dave Magadan in the first inning.
– The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont., has added another great artifact to their collection. It has received the cleats that outfielder Tyson Gillies (Vancouver, B.C.) wore while playing for Canada at the Americas Olympic Qualifier in Florida from May 31 to June 5. A 25th round pick of the Seattle Mariners in 2006, Gillies, who has enjoyed a long professional career, went 2-for-10 in the tournament and was one of the club’s best defensive outfielders.
-Who didn’t love playing baseball with a mouthful of Big League Chew as a kid? This shredded bubble gum was very popular when I was growing up and I would’ve been excited to purchase a pouch with Canadian baseball legend Fergie Jenkins’ photo on it (see photo below). “Thank you @bigleaguechew for the custom pouches honouring my career,” wrote Jenkins in a Twitter post on Tuesday. “I always blew bubbles when I pitched, Cubs owner Philip Wrigley called Leo Durocher into his office and said, “Go talk to Jenkins, I know he isn’t chewing my Wrigley gum because you can’t blow bubbles with it.”
-On this date 23 years ago, Vladimir Guerrero and his brother, Wilton, both homered for the Montreal Expos in their 6-4 loss to the Cincinnati Reds at Cinergy Field. Vladimir belted a three-run home run off right-hander Steve Parris in the eighth inning, while Wilton added a solo shot off left-hander Gabe White in the ninth. It was the first of four times the brothers would homer in the same game for the Expos.
-If you live in the London, Ont., area, you should purchase a Southwestern Ontario Baseball Heritage Pass. For just $15, you can visit three baseball attractions in the area: the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont., historic Labatt Park (the world’s oldest continuously used baseball grounds) in London, Ont., and the Beachville Museum in Beachville, Ont., which was home to one of the first documented baseball games in North America. For more information and to purchase your pass, click on this link.
– My trivia question for this week: Who holds the Montreal Expos record for highest batting average in a season? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below.
–The answer to last week’s trivia question (Who holds the Expos record for most stolen bases in a season?) was Ron LeFlore with 97 in 1980.