June 11, 2023
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
Some Canadian baseball news and notes from the past week:
-A statue of Canadian baseball legend Fergie Jenkins was unveiled in his hometown of Chatham, Ont., on Saturday afternoon. Several hundred people attended the ceremony, including fellow Cooperstowner Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.), legendary Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jesse Barfield and many of Jenkins’ family members. The statue is a full-size replica of the bronze statue of Jenkins outside of Wrigley Field in Chicago. It was gifted to the city of Chatham by a private donor. Jenkins now lives in Texas, but he has family in Chatham and has been returning more regularly to his hometown in recent years. Jenkins will receive another honour on induction day at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont., this Saturday when the roadway that runs through the grounds will be renamed Ferguson Jenkins Way in a ceremony that will begin at 10:15 a.m.
-Cleveland Guardians first baseman Josh Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.) is the hottest hitter in the American League. He owns an 11-game hitting and has had six consecutive, multi-hit contests. During this streak, the Ontario Blue Jays and Junior National Team alum is 20-for-39 (.513 batting average) with seven doubles and 16 RBIs. His season batting average has increased from .235 to .283.
-On Tuesday, Boston Red Sox left-hander James Paxton (Ladner, B.C.) pitched seven innings in a regular season major league game for the first time since September 3, 2019. In his latest start, the veteran southpaw allowed just two runs on six hits, while striking out nine, to pick up the win in the Red Sox 5-4 victory over Cleveland. That performance represented the fourth time in five 2023 big league starts that Paxton has tossed at least five innings and permitted two earned runs or fewer. He is now 2-1 with a 3.81 ERA and has 36 strikeouts in 26 innings this season. Paxton’s return has been a nice comeback story. He had gone nearly three years between big league starts after enduring a series of injuries, including his second Tommy John surgery.
-Dating back to May 26, Blue Jays closer Jordan Romano (Markham, Ont.) has recorded saves in seven consecutive appearances. His save against the Houston Astros on Thursday was his 17th of the season, which ties him for the second most in the American League (with Baltimore Orioles closer Felix Bautista and Angels stopper Carlos Estevez). The Ontario Blue Jays and Junior National Team alum is three saves behind AL leader Emmanuel Clase of the Cleveland Guardians.
– Last Sunday, Atlanta Braves right-hander Michael Soroka (Calgary, Alta.) was roughed up for five runs on seven hits and four walks in 3 2/3 innings by the Arizona Diamondbacks in his second start of the season. The following day, Soroka was sent back down to the triple-A Gwinnett Stripers. On May 29, Soroka had made his first regular season big league start in 1,029 days when he allowed four runs on five hits in six innings in a loss to the Oakland A’s. The 25-year-old righty had posted a 4.33 ERA in eight starts, spanning 35 1/3 innings, in triple-A prior to his big league call up. After initially tearing his right Achilles tendon on August 3, 2020, Soroka then re-tore it the following June. After two years of recovery and rehabilitation, Soroka returned to game action in August last year and posted a 5.40 ERA in six late-season starts between class-A and triple-A before being shut down with elbow inflammation. A graduate of the 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.
–Edouard Julien (Quebec City, Que.) was recalled by the Minnesota Twins prior to their game against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre on Saturday. The Canadian second baseman promptly went 2-for-3 with a single, a double and a walk at the top of the Twins’ lineup in their 9-4 win. This is Julien’s third stint with the Twins in 2023. In total, in 20 big league games, the ABC and Junior National Team alum is batting .246 with an .810 on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS). Four of his 16 hits have been home runs. He made his major league debut on April 12.
-I was excited to learn that a Canadian Heritage Minute is being produced about former All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) star and Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Mary “Bonnie” Baker in her hometown of Ogema, Sask. Baker was the first Canadian woman signed by the AAGPBL. She was a catcher who is believed to have inspired Geena Davis’s character in A League of Their Own. In total, she played nine seasons in the AAGPBL, including seven with the South Bend Blue Sox from 1943 to 1949 and two with the Kalamazoo Lassies (1950, 1952). Baker, who was selected to two AAGPBL All-Star teams (1943 and 1946), played a league record 930 games. She was one of 68 Canadian AAGPBL players who were elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998. She passed away in 2003.
-Thirty years ago today, the Toronto Blue Jays reacquired shortstop Tony Fernandez from the New York Mets in exchange for outfielder Darrin Jackson. Fernandez, who had played parts of eight previous seasons with the Blue Jays from 1983 to 1990, proceeded to bat .306 with 108 hits – including 18 doubles, nine triples and four home runs – in 94 games down the stretch with the Blue Jays to help them win their second straight World Series. Fernandez topped the Blue Jays with nine RBIs in the Fall Classic against the Philadelphia Phillies.
-On June 3, Cincinnati Reds slugger Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) began his second rehab stint with the triple-A Louisville Bats. He hit a solo home run on Friday night for the Bats against the Columbus Clippers. That was his second hit in 19 at bats since returning to action. Earlier this season, Votto cut his first rehab assignment short when he felt he wasn’t progressing sufficiently enough from the shoulder surgery he underwent last August. In his first rehab stint this year, he batted .184 in 10 games with Louisville.
-Twenty-eight years ago today, Montreal Expos outfielder Rondell White hits for the cycle and sets a franchise record with six hits. White had two singles, two doubles, a triple and a home run in the Expos’ 10-8, 13-inning win over the San Francisco Giants at Candlestick Park. He also scored five and knocked in three runs. With his performance, White became the fourth Expo to hit for the cycle after Tim Foli (April 21, 1976), Chris Speier (July 20, 1978) and Tim Raines (August 16, 1987).
-Just a reminder that the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony will take place this coming Saturday in beautiful St. Marys, Ont. It’s free to attend. Former Expos left-hander Denis Boucher (Montreal, Que.), ex-Oakland A’s right-hander Rich Harden (Victoria, B.C.) and rifle-armed ex-Blue Jays right fielder Jesse Barfield will be inducted along with longtime Manitoba baseball coach and executive Joe Wiwchar. These four 2023 inductees will be honoured alongside former Blue Jays first baseman John Olerud and legendary Expos broadcaster Jacques Doucet who were elected in 2020 but have not been able to attend the ceremony until this year. There will be plenty of other former major leaguers and past inductees in attendance as well. It’s a wonderful and inexpensive way to spend a Saturday. For more details, click here.
-This week’s trivia question: Who is the only Canadian to hit for the cycle in a major league regular season game since 1900? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below.
-The answer to last week’s trivia question (Who was the first Canadian pitcher to record a save in a MLB postseason game?) was Ron Taylor for the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 4 of the 1964 World Series.