December 11, 2022
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
My weekly Canadian baseball news and notes:
-Cleveland Guardians slugger Josh Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.) is giving back to his hometown this December. Naylor and his youth travel team are supporting the Shoe Box Project, which fills shoeboxes with gifts for women in emergency shelters and temporary housing in the Greater Toronto Area. The project’s goal is to give gifts to women and show them that others are thinking about them during the holidays.
Josh Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.) has been involved in The Shoebox Project in Toronto this December. Photo: Cleveland Guardians/Twitter
-Minnesota Twins legend and Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Justin Morneau (New Westminster, B.C.) continued his annual Salvation Army coat drive in Minneapolis this fall. For the 13th consecutive year, Morneau encouraged people to drop off new or gently used winter coats to be distributed by The Salvation Army to those in need. This year they collected 2,600 coats. Each person who donated a coat received a signed Morneau photo.
-It’s great to see Fergie Jenkins back in his hometown of Chatham, Ont., to celebrate his 80th birthday on Tuesday. The Canadian baseball legend has been the recipient of numerous honours over the years, including being inducted into both the Canadian and National Baseball Hall of Fames. But his hometown celebrated him in a unique way this week. They have named one of their snowplows, “Flurrie Jenkins,” in his honour. “That’s quite an honour. I’m hoping we’ll get some snow this winter to have it put to good use,” Jenkins told the Chatham Daily News. “I’d like to see it being used. It should be fun.” Jenkins tweeted out a photo of him in the vehicle on Friday:
-Happy 30th Birthday to former Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Dalton Pompey! The Mississauga, Ont., native played with the Intercounty Baseball League’s Guelph Royals in 2022 and announced near the end of the season that he was retiring. Selected by the Blue Jays in the 16th round of the 2010 MLB draft, Pompey got his first taste of big league action in 2014 and he began the following season as the Blue Jays’ starting centre fielder and served as a valuable pinch runner for the club in their 2015 playoff run. Unfortunately, in the ensuing seasons, he was hampered by a variety of injuries – including three concussions. In all, he competed in parts of four big league campaigns with the Blue Jays. In 627 minor league games – which also included stints in the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Angels organizations – he batted .278 and posted a .364 on-base percentage, while swiping 169 bases.
-I was happy to hear that Mitch Bratt (Newmarket, Ont.), the winner of Canadian Baseball Network’s 2022 Wayne Norton Award, as top Canuck pitcher in the affiliated minor league ranks, and Trudy Norton, Wayne’s widow, were able to connect. A Toronto Mets and Junior National Team alum, Bratt enjoyed an outstanding season with the Texas Rangers’ Low-A Down East Wood Ducks in 2022, posting a 2.45 ERA in 19 appearances (18 starts), while striking out 99 batters in 80 2/3 innings. Trudy was happy to congratulate Bratt and she appreciated his classy and grateful response. Norton (Port Moody, B.C.) was one of the most influential baseball coaches, executives and scouts in Canadian baseball history. In the mid-1970s, he founded and established Baseball Canada’s Junior National Team, while doubling as a part-time scout. He also formed the National Baseball Institute and was later a trusted scout for the Baltimore Orioles and the Seattle Mariners. For his efforts, he was elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2016. He passed away in 2018 after a courageous battle with ALS.
-Congratulations to Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi who took over as national president of the Baseball Writers Association of America on Tuesday. He officially assumed the role while he was at the winter meetings in San Diego. One of Davidi’s responsibilities will be to speak on behalf of the writers at the ceremonies in Cooperstown this summer. Coincidentally, it was just over 24 years ago, when legendary Canadian baseball scribe Bob Elliott was covering the World Series in San Diego that he took over the same position. Elliott spoke at the 1999 National Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in Cooperstown, which honoured Nolan Ryan, George Brett, Robin Yount, Orlando Cepeda and umpire Nestor Chylak. The estimated crowd for that ceremony was 50,000.
-I’m sure you’ve heard that Don Mattingly has been hired as the Toronto Blue Jays’ new bench coach. What you might not know is that his brother Randy was once a quarterback with the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League. Rob Vanstone, of the Regina Leader-Post, caught up with Randy and wrote this excellent article about Mattingly’s signal-calling brother, who served as a backup to Hall of Famer Ron Lancaster in 1974 and 1975. “I fell in love with the prairies, just being able to see that far,” Randy, who hailed from Evansville, Ind., told Vanstone. “It was pretty vast. Where I’m from, it’s hills and trees. You might be able to see 100 yards unless you’re in the right places.”
-As you know, I was really pushing for former Blue Jays slugger Fred McGriff to be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, so I was elated when he was voted in unanimously by the Contemporary Era Committee. I thought I knew almost everything there was to know about McGriff, but I couldn’t help but feel inspired when he revealed that he was cut by his high school baseball team in grade 10. And my favourite part of his press conference in Cooperstown was when he broke into “OK Blue Jays!” You can listen to him sing it here.
-It’s a little out of my price range, but if you have a couple million to invest, former Blue Jays right-hander Pat Hentgen is selling some property in Coe Hill, Ont., which is located 230 km northeast of Toronto. It looks perfect for hunting and fishing, if that’s what you’re into. You can read all about it here.
-If you’re looking for a great Christmas gift for a Montreal Expos fan, I can’t think of anything better than a personal message from Expos legendary broadcaster Dave Van Horne. You can find him on Cameo here and you can have him send your loved one holiday greetings for as low as $41.
-Happy 51st Birthday to former Blue Jays outfielder Willie Canate, wherever he is. When people talk about the Blue Jays’ 1993 World Series-winning squad, they tend to wax nostalgic about players like Joe Carter, Roberto Alomar, Paul Molitor, John Olerud and Devon White, but Blue Jays autograph collectors will tell you that Canate’s autograph (on a single-signed baseball) is the most difficult to track down from that team. The 6-foot, 170-pound Venezuelan hit .213 in 38 games that season after the Blue Jays purchased him from the Cincinnati Reds on April 13. That turned out to be Canate’s only taste of big league action. He played in the minors in the Blue Jays’ organization in 1994 and 1995, in the Mexican League in 1997 and in the Italian Baseball League from 2002 to 2006. He has since seemingly disappeared. He could not be located for the reunion of the 1992 and 1993 Blue Jays teams that was organized by Joe Carter in August 2009.
-The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame ‘s annual Holiday Silent Auction ends tomorrow at noon E.T.. There are dozens of exciting items up for bids, including autographed bats and balls from current Blue Jays and Canadian stars. You can also bid on an opportunity to have dinner with ex-Blue Jays GM Gord Ash or to get pitching lessons from former Colorado Rockies left-hander Jeff Francis. You can view the items and bid here.
-This week’s trivia question: Much is rightfully made of Joe Carter’s World Series-winning home run in Game 6 of the 1993 World Series, but one other Blue Jays player also homered in that game. Can you name him? Please provide your answer in the Comments section below.
– The answer to last week’s trivia question (Don Mattingly won his only American League MVP Award in 1985. Two Toronto Blue Jays players finished in the top 10 in AL MVP voting that season. Name one of them) was either Jesse Barfield (seventh) or George Bell (eighth).
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