By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
Some Canadian baseball news and notes from the past week:
-In case you missed it, Atlanta Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos was named the Canadian Baseball Network’s Most Influential Canadian in baseball for 2021 on Friday. The Montreal native unseated newly minted National Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.) at No. 1 on the annual Top 100 list compiled by Bob Elliott. Anthopoulos overcame numerous obstacles in 2021 to piece together a Braves’ team that won the World Series. With that victory, the former Toronto Blue Jays GM and Montreal Expos intern became the first Canadian-born GM to be at the helm of a World Series winner. You can read more about Anthopoulos’s 2021 season here.
-Canadian right-hander Brock Dykxhoorn has re-signed with the Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions of the Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL). The Goderich, Ont., native was dominant for the CPBL club in 2021. In 27 appearances, including 26 starts, he posted a 17-4 record and a 1.83 ERA, while fanning 157 batters in 181 2/3 innings. The 6-foot-8 right-hander ranked at the top of almost every significant pitching statistical category for Canucks in the foreign or independent ranks in 2021, including wins, innings pitched, strikeouts and WHIP. His performance earned him the Canadian Baseball Network’s 2021 Claude Pelletier Award, as top Canuck pitcher in the independent or foreign ranks. The 27-year-old righty was selected in the sixth round of the 2014 MLB draft by the Houston Astros and he toed the rubber for parts of five seasons in their organization before heading overseas. He has also pitched for the Canadian national team in three international competitions.
-Canadian left-hander Rob Zastryzny (Edmonton, Alta.) has signed a minor league deal with the New York Mets. A second-round pick of the Chicago Cubs in 2013, Zastryzny posted a 3.68 ERA in 24 relief appearances for the triple-A Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp in the Miami Marlins’ organization in 2021. He had 41 strikeouts in 29 2/3 innings. Prior to that, the 29-year-old southpaw spent most of the pandemic shortened 2020 campaign at the Baltimore Orioles’ Alternate Training site, but he did not get into a big league game. From 2016 to 2018, Zastryzny recorded a 4.41 ERA in 18 relief appearances with the Cubs and earned a World Series ring in 2016. In all, in parts of eight minor league campaigns, the Canuck southpaw has registered a 4.72 ERA in 171 appearances. He also toed the rubber for Canada at the WSBC Premier12 tournament in November 2019. Zastryzny was born in Edmonton, Alta., but he attended Calallen High School in Corpus Christi, Tex. and later pitched at the University of Missouri Columbia.
– Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.) will be honoured with a statue outside of Wrigley Field in 2022. On Tuesday, the Canadian pitching legend shared on Twitter that he has collaborated with Topps on a special limited edition card that he will hand out as a gift to friends, family and others that have helped him in his career to commemorate the unveiling of the statue. This card will be signed by Jenkins and limited to 100 copies. Click on the link below for more information.
-I stumbled across a tweet this week that mentioned that Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.) had made a major league appearance at third base. This tweet sent me to Walker’s Baseball Reference page where I was able to identify that he played third base for the Rockies in a game against the Angels on June 7, 1998. I was even more intrigued when I read in the box score that Walker also played second base in that contest. So I tracked down a newspaper account of the game. Walker did not start, but entered the contest as a defensive replacement in right field in the ninth inning with the game tied 5-5. Rockies reliever Jerry Dipoto walked third baseman Dave Hollins to begin the inning. Hollins then attempted to score on a double to centre field by Jim Edmonds. Hollins was out at the plate in a collision with Rockies backup catcher Jeff Reed, but the impact left Reed with a deep cut on his face, forcing him to leave the game. The Rockies starting catcher Kirt Manwaring had already been pinch-hit for, so the Rockies were left without a catcher. This forced Rockies manager Don Baylor to move shortstop Neifi Perez behind the plate for the first and only time in his big league career. Vinny Castilla was moved from third base to shortstop and Walker was asked to play third base. For the record, Walker had played 55 minor league games at third base in 1985 and 1986 in the Expos’ organization. Edmonds had moved to third on the play at the plate. Dipoto then intentionally walked Angels slugger Tim Salmon. With Cecil Fielder, a right-handed hitting pull hitter due up, Baylor asked Walker to switch positions with second baseman Mike Lansing. Unfortunately, it would be all for naught as Dipoto threw a pitch that eluded Perez and Edmonds scored the winning run, giving the Angels a 6-5 victory.
–Another tweet that supports Etobicoke, Ont., native Joey Votto’s case for a plaque in Cooperstown:
– Yesterday was former Montreal Expos and Milwaukee Brewers right-hander Matt Maysey’s 54th birthday. The Hamilton, Ont., native posted a combined 5.55 ERA in 25 appearances with the Expos and Brewers in 1992 and 1993. I posted a Happy Birthday greeting to Maysey on Twitter on Saturday and received the response below from retired data journalist David Schultz. I love this type of trivia. So thank you, David.
– It was 43 years ago today that the Blue Jays selected Mark Eichhorn in the second round of the MLB January Draft (Regular Phase) out of Cabrillo College as a shortstop. Yes, you read that correctly. Eichhorn was drafted as a shortstop (See article below). The Blue Jays immediately converted him into a full-time pitcher. Eichhorn was a standard overhand starter for six seasons in the Blue Jays’ organization before he adopted his trademark sidearm delivery following the 1984 campaign.
-It was 42 years ago today that Duke Snider was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Most remember Snider as an all-star centre fielder for the Dodgers. He finished his 18-season big league career with a .295 batting average and 2,116 hits – including 407 home runs. But before becoming a superstar with the Dodgers, he honed his skills with their triple-A Montreal Royals. After starting the 1948 season with the Dodgers, Snider was assigned to the Royals in mid-May. In his first two games with the Royals, he homered in both ends of a doubleheader. Playing his home games at Montreal’s Delorimier Stadium, the young slugger hit .327, belted 17 homers and drove in 77 runs in 77 games, enough to earn him a big league call-up in August. He never returned to Montreal as a player. Following his playing career, he managed in the Dodgers’ and San Diego Padres’ organizations before returning to Montreal to serve as a TV analyst on Expos broadcasts from 1973 to 1986. He also worked as a hitting coach with the Expos in 1974 and 1975.
-This week’s trivia question: Who was the first former Toronto Blue Jays player to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below.
-The answer to last week’s trivia question (Who is the Canadian left-hander in the following photo (taken by Dan Turner) under the watchful eye of Blue Jays’ longtime pitching coach Al Widmar?) was Denis Boucher (Lachine, Que.).