July 17, 2022
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
My weekly Canadian baseball news and notes:
-The first round of the MLB draft starts tonight at 7 p.m. E.T. Eighty selections – including each team’s first- and second-round picks and Competitive Balance and compensation picks – will be announced tonight and there’s a decent chance that a Canadian will be chosen. Right-hander Jacob Zibin (Langley, B.C.), who has honed his skills with the Langley Blaze and the Junior National National Team, is our country’s best bet. He’s the No. 1 ranked prospect on the Canadian Baseball Network’s 2022 Draft List and is ranked as the 127th best prospect on Baseball America’s Top 500. Last year, Toronto Mets grad Tyler Black (Stouffville, Ont.) was the first Canuck chosen when the Milwaukee Brewers selected him 33rd overall.
– Druw Jones, the son of former Atlanta Braves superstar Andruw Jones, and Jackson Holliday, the son of longtime Colorado Rockies slugger Matt Holliday are likely to have their names called early in the first round. Meanwhile, Turner Spoljaric, the son of Canadian big leaguer Paul Spoljaric, will likely be selected on Monday or Tuesday when the third to 20th round picks are announced. Hailing from Lisle, Ont., Turner is ranked No. 10 on the 2022 Canadian Baseball Network Draft List and No. 404 on Baseball America’s Top 500. Turner’s older brother, Garner, who just finished pitching at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, is also eligible for this year’s draft. You can read more about the Spoljarics in this fine article by Canadian Baseball Network contributor Zach Worden.
-So who is the first Canadian ever selected 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 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.
-Please take a moment today to remember Tom Goffena, the Toronto Blue Jays’ first-ever draft pick. He passed away on June 11, 2020 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 in 2020.
-Did you know that Tom Henke was originally drafted by the Seattle Mariners? Or that Jimmy Key was first selected by the Chicago White Sox? Or that Dave Winfield was originally chosen by the Baltimore Orioles? These are all true. Last spring, I put together a list of famous Blue Jays players and who they were originally drafted by.
-And I never want to exclude Montreal Expos fans, so I wrote an article last year that features some fun draft stories about some of the most prominent Expos players. For example, did you know that Tim Raines was selected as a shortstop? Or that Warren Cromartie was chosen by four different teams in previous drafts prior to signing with the Expos? Or that Gary Carter was the third catcher the Expos selected in the 1972 MLB draft? You can read my full article here.
-From a Canadian baseball junkie’s perspective, one good thing about the Kansas City Royals having three non-vaccinated coaches not being able to make the trip to Toronto is that Scott Thorman (Cambridge, Ont.), has been temporarily promoted to help out the big league club. Thorman, who is in the Royals’ dugout at Rogers Centre this weekend, is currently the manager of the triple-A Omaha Storm Chasers. A first-round pick of the Atlanta Braves in 2000, the 6-foot-3 Canadian played 12 professional seasons, including parts of two major league campaigns with the Braves in 2006 and 2007, before embarking on a successful managerial career in the Royals’ organization. Last year, he managed the double-A Northwest Arkansas Naturals to a league title, which marked the third consecutive season he guided a Royals’ affiliate to a championship. In 2019, he led the High-A Wilmington Blue Rocks to the Mills Cup championship and the year prior, he guided the class-A Lexington Legends to a South Atlantic League title. He is now in his seventh season as a manager in the Royals’ organization.
-It was 22 years ago today that Colorado Rockies slugger Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.) registered his 1,500th major league hit. It was a single to left field in the third inning off Oakland A’s right-hander Marcus Jones at Coors Field in the Rockies’ 11-10 loss. Walker finished his career with a Canadian record 2,160 major league hits.
-Outfielder Tyler O’Neill (Maple Ridge, B.C.) was activated by the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday. This was great news for the Cards who got a scare last week when the Canuck slugger was hit in the wrist by a pitch in a rehab game with triple-A Memphis. After he experienced some swelling in the wrist, an MRI revealed there was a mild tear. Fortunately, he has been able to bounce back quickly. The Canuck outfielder, who was initially placed on the 10-day injured list with a hamstring strain on June 20, has gone 2-for-10 in three games since his return. 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 .239 with four home runs and 28 RBIs in 48 games.
– My trivia question for this week: What is the name of the player born in Canada 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 (Who was the first Montreal Expos player to record 1,000 hits for them? ) was Gary Carter.