But What Do I Know? . . . John Axford, Tyler O’Neill, Mike Soroka, Andre Dawson, Damaso Garcia

Right-hander John Axford (Port Dover, Ont.) would like to play for Canada at the 2023 World Baseball Classic. Photo: Baseball Canada

July 10, 2022

By Kevin Glew

Cooperstowners in Canada

-Right-hander John Axford (Port Dover, Ont.) is hoping to pitch for Canada at the 2023 World Baseball Classic. The 39-year-old right-hander hinted at that in a Twitter post on Thursday. On June 6, Axford posted that he had thrown a baseball for the first time since his Tommy John surgery on September 1, 2021. Axford suffered his elbow injury on August 2 last season in his only appearance with the Milwaukee Brewers. Prior to that, the 6-foot-5 righty had not pitched in the big leagues since September 21, 2018. In parts of 11 major league seasons, Axford owns a 3.90 ERA and has notched 144 saves in 544 appearances. His career has also included stops with the St. Louis Cardinals, Cleveland Guardians, Pittsburgh Pirates, Colorado Rockies, Oakland A’s, Toronto Blue Jays and Los Angeles Dodgers. The Port Dover, Ont., native has pitched for Canada’s national team on multiple occasions, including at the Americas Olympic Qualifier last spring.

 -Speaking of the 2023 World Baseball Classic, Canada has been assigned to Pool C of the tournament. That means they will compete against the defending champion Americans, Mexico, Colombia and a team that has yet to qualify in the first round, which will take place from March 11 to March 15 at Chase Field in Phoenix, Ariz. The top two teams in each pool will advance to the next round.

-St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Tyler O’Neill (Maple Ridge, B.C.) was hit in the wrist by a pitch in a rehab game with triple-A Memphis on Wednesday. Derrick Goold, of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, reported on Friday that after O’Neill experienced some swelling the club sent the slugger for an MRI which revealed a tear in the wrist. There is no set timetable for O’Neill’s return. The Canuck outfielder was initially placed on the 10-day injured list with a hamstring strain on June 20. It’s been a tough year for O’Neill who was also sidelined for close to three weeks from May 18 to June 6 with a shoulder injury. For the season, the Langley Blaze and Junior National Team alum is batting .241 with four home runs and 28 RBIs in 45 games.

-Atlanta Braves right-hander Mike Soroka (Calgary, Alta.) was hit in the knee by a line drive during his rehab efforts during the first week of July. The injury is being called a bruise and not a long-term issue, but according to Justin Toscano, of The Atlanta Journal Constitution, it will delay Soroka’s return to the big league club. Soroka had hoped to return shortly after the All-Star break. A graduate of the Calgary Redbirds and Junior National Team, Soroka was a first-round pick (28th overall) of the Braves in 2015. 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. Unfortunately, he was limited to three starts in 2020 after tearing his right Achilles tendon on August 3. After extensive rehab, he re-tore his Achilles tendon last June and started the 2022 season on the 60-day injured list.

-Both Cincinnati Reds slugger Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) and Cleveland Guardians outfielder Josh Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.) were sidelined with back injuries this week. The 38-year-old Votto, who is batting .210 with six home runs in 62 games this season, has not appeared in a game since Monday. Meanwhile, Naylor was removed from Monday’s game with back spasms and was sidelined for three contests prior to singling in a ninth-inning pinch-hit appearance for the Guardians against the Kansas City Royals on Friday. He returned to the starting lineup on Saturday, going 1-for-3 with a run in the Guardians’ 13-1 victory. He is batting .280 with 11 home runs and 43 RBIs in 56 games this season.

-Canadian Baseball Network editor-in-chief Bob Elliott shared with me that eight teammates of Philadelphia Phillies manager Rob Thomson (Corunna, Ont.) from the 1984 Canadian Olympic Team – Canada’s first Olympic baseball team – will be making the trek to the Rogers Centre on Tuesday to watch Thomson manage. The eight Olympic alums coming to see Thomson are OF Hank Andrulis, C Jim Eliopoulous, RHP Mike Carnegie, SS Joe Heeney, 2B Tom Nelson, RHP Barry Kuzminski, CF Doug McPhail and 1B Larry Downs. That trailblazing Canadian Olympic team finished fifth, but they did earn a win against the eventual gold-medal winning Japanese squad in the preliminary round.

– Happy 68th Birthday to legendary Montreal Expos outfielder Andre Dawson! Dawson was a standout at Florida A&M University when he was selected by the Expos in the 11th round of the 1975 MLB draft. After minor league stints in Lethbridge, Quebec City and Denver, Dawson made his big league debut on September 11, 1976. The following year, he hit .282 and belted 19 home runs, earning himself National League Rookie of the Year honours. In all, in his 11 seasons with the Expos, the five-tool outfielder was selected to three All-Star games, won three Silver Slugger Awards and captured six Gold Gloves. He also accumulated 225 home runs, 838 RBIs and 2,679 total bases – all numbers that rank second in franchise history. After leaving Montreal, Dawson enjoyed an MVP season with the Chicago Cubs in 1987, belting 49 home runs, while knocking in 137. He would spend five more seasons at Wrigley, earning four more All-Star nods, before splitting his final four seasons between the Boston Red Sox and Florida Marlins. In total, in parts of 21 big league seasons, Dawson recorded 2,774 hits, 438 home runs, 1,591 RBIs and 314 stolen bases. He was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2004 and into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 2010.

– On this date, 24 years ago Danny Klassen (Leamington, Ont.) recorded his first major league hit. Batting eighth and playing second base for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Klassen singled in the second inning off Reds right-hander Brett Tomko for his first big league hit. To make the day even more memorable, three at bats later, he also belted his first major league home run. It was a two-run shot in the bottom of the ninth off Reds’ reliever Danny Graves. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to lift the Diamondbacks past the Reds. They lost 5-4.

-Who was the first Toronto Blue Jays player to record 1,000 hits for the club? Your first guess probably wasn’t Damaso Garcia. But that is the correct answer. Thirty-six years ago today, he singled in the third inning off Oakland A’s starter Eric Plunk to reach the milestone. He would add three more hits in the game as the Blue Jays beat the A’s 8-4 at Exhibition Stadium.

-It was on this date 29 years ago that the Montreal Expos acquired hometown hero Denis Boucher (Lachine, Que.) from the San Diego Padres in exchange for infielder Austin Manahan. Boucher was assigned to the triple-A Ottawa Lynx where he would go 6-0 with a 2.72 ERA in 11 appearances (six starts) before being promoted by the Expos that September. The Canadian lefty proceeded to post a 3-1 record with a 1.91 ERA in five starts for the Expos in the season’s final month and was a huge gate attraction at Olympic Stadium.

-This week’s trivia question: Who was the first Montreal Expos player to record 1,000 hits for them? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below.

-The answer to last week’s trivia question (Ernie Whitt played 1,218 games for the Blue Jays, that’s the most by any catcher in franchise history. What catcher is second on that list?) was Pat Borders who played 747 games for the Blue Jays.

14 thoughts on “But What Do I Know? . . . John Axford, Tyler O’Neill, Mike Soroka, Andre Dawson, Damaso Garcia

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  1. Wow, rough time to be a Cdn major leaguer i guess!
    Gary Carter, my all-time favourite. Looks as if he just beat a couple of team mates to the 1000 hit mark. Cromartie and Dawson reached that plateau the yr after Carter did.
    Thanks Kevin.

  2. Thomson, a catcher at the time, was moved from the five-hole into the clean-up spot when slugger Kevin Reimer suffered an injury in Detroit just before the ’84 Olympics began. Reimer was in a groove at the time, and no doubt his bat would have given Canada a strong chance to advance into the medal round, as one more W would have done the trick, and we lost to Nicaragua by one run (4-3), and to Korea by a score of 3-1. 3B John Ivan (RIP) was our #3 hitter, and will be with this group at Rogers Centre in spirit. “Johnny I,” who passed away suddenly at 41, in 2000, of a heart issue, has a twin brother Joe, who was also an elite catcher with power bat, who lives in Windsor with his wife Antoinette, and and a pair of sisters, Lisa, who also lives in Windsor with her husband Ed Teti, and Sheila, who lives in Windsor with her husband Pete Friesen, and children Samantha & Bob. The five-tool player was the loving husband of Barbara, and cherished father of Brian & Jarrod. Eric Mackenzie was Canada’s field manager, and Team C’s Tommy Nelson and Mark Wooden played with the Ivan brothers on Windsor Chiefs, who won seven national championships along with a pair of Silver medals in the decade from 1982-1991.

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