Storybook Ending for Derek Jeter

USA TODAY Sports Images

USA TODAY Sports Images

It was his final home game in Yankee Stadium.

Everyone wondered how he would be honoured. Would he be pulled off the field with two outs in the 9th, allowing the fans time to appreciate him? Nah, that’s not his style. Derek would have rather ended that inning by turning a double play, or maybe by making his signature jump-spin to throw out a runner one final time.

But Baltimore is gunning for home field advantage in the playoffs and had no intentions of letting up. Two Orioles home runs later and suddenly the game was tied. It took the air out of the crowd, but only momentarily once everyone realized what had just been set up.

One more at bat for The Captain.

The Yankees executed as they almost always do, and with a runner on second in the bottom of the 9th inning, Jeter did what everyone hoped – what everyone expected him to do.

He came up big, one more time.

As the AL East dominant force that often beat up on my hometown Blue Jays, I can honestly say this was the first time I found myself cheering for a Yankee win. Why?

Because baseball, is the easy answer.

Because Jeter played the game the way a true hero was supposed to play it. With passion, with pride, and with integrity. And it’s hard not to cheer for someone like that.

Thank you, Derek Jeter. Thank you for always respecting the game.

RE2PECT.

 

2014 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame Induction & Events

Hall of Fame 2014

Hall of Fame 2014

This week signifies two very important things: The first day of Summer (finally!), and the Induction Ceremony for the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame (which falls on the same day). What better way to kick of the season?

I had the pleasure of attending the induction ceremony last year, and interviewed Rob Ducey, George Bell, Tim Raines, who were all being inducted into the 2013 Class. I also connected with Shirley Cheek, who was accepting the induction award on behalf of her late husband, Toronto Blue Jays’ broadcasting legend, Tom Cheek. More on that here.

This year, the festivities span several days, offering something for the whole family. The Hall of Fame is proud to announce this year’s inductees: Tim Wallach, Dave Van Horne, Murray Cook, & Jim Ridley.

The 3x Gold Glover was also a 5X All-Star, and 2x Silver Slugger

Tim Wallach was a 3x Gold Glover, a 5X All-Star, and 2x Silver Slugger

Van Horne was the Expos announcer for 32 years!

Van Horne was the Expos announcer for 32 years!

Murray Cook was the GM of the Yankees, Expos, and Reds

Murray Cook was the GM of the Yankees, Expos, and Reds

Jim Ridley was a player, a scout, and a coach

Jim Ridley was a player (Milwaukee Braves), a scout (Tigers, Jays, Twins), and a coach (Olympics, Pan Am Games)

The events kick-off on Thursday, July 19th with a celebrity softball game, which I’m honoured to have been invited to participate in (obviously as media, not as a celebrity!). The teams will be represented by Tim Wallach, and Hall-of-Famer Fergie Jenkins. Other celebrities include Dave Van Horne, Murray Cook, Jim Fanning, Paul Spoljaric, Billy Atkinson, many other notable former professional players, as well as representatives from Team Canada Fastball. There will also be a Slo-pitch homerun derby.

I was discussing past celebrity games with the Director of Operations of the HOF, Scott Crawford, who outlined one of his favourite memories from just a few years ago being Larry Walker hitting a homerun out over right field corner wall. Last year Tim Raines and George Bell played. This year there will be even more celebrities. This is an event you don’t want to miss!

Friday (June 20th) is possibly the busiest day of the week. The day kicks off with the 4th Annual “London Salutes Canadian Baseball” fundraising breakfast, sponsored by Lerners Lawyers and the London Convention Centre. There with be a Q & A with the celebrities, a live auction, and O’Canada by Canadian legend Michael Burgess. Also in attendance will be George Bell, Devon White, and Duane Ward.

Later that morning is the 18th Annual Celebrity Golf Classic & Sports Banquet. The list of incredible celebrities is way too long to list, but include the likes of Tom Henke, Tony Fernandez, Paul Beeston, and Babe Ruth’s Granddaughter Linda Ruth Tosetti. There is a banquet following the tournament, and tickets can be purchased separately as well.

Finally, Saturday June 21st kicks off with a Baseball Family Street Festival from 9 am to Noon, with a variety of events for kids of all ages. The induction ceremony starts at 1 pm, with a Blue Jays Honda Super Camp following, at 3 pm, where youth will get the opportunity to receive baseball instruction from Duane Ward, Devon White, and George Bell. I attended the Guelph Honda Super Camp, more on that here.

If you needed any more reasons to attend, this year is very special in that the inductees cover all facets of the game of baseball. Tim Wallach played for the Expos for the majority of his career, Dave Van Horne was an announcer for the Expos for 32 years and now covers Marlins games, Murray Cook is a Canadian who was the General Manger of the Yankees, Expos, and Reds, and Jim Ridley was a scout from 1976 – 2002. The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame continues to build and expand, and is well worth the drive to St Marys.

For more information click here, or call the Hall of Fame directly at: Phone: 519-284-1838, Toll-free: 877-250-2255

Jays Honda Super Camp Guelph

Devo gives batting instruction

Devo gives batting instruction

The Toronto Blue Jays Honda Super Camps kicked off this past weekend, starting in Guelph, Ontario. Boys and girls between the ages of 9-16 had the opportunity to attend the two or three-day baseball camp and receive instruction from George Bell, Lloyd Moseby, Devon White, Roberto Alomar, and Sandy Alomar Sr. I connected with a Jays rep and discussed the camps, and also spoke with an employee from the Royal Distributing Athletic Centre, where the camp was held. You can hear those interviews and more, here.

Robbie Alomar works on fielding drills

Robbie Alomar works on fielding drills

HSC-bell HSC-Sandy HSC-Shaker HSC-Shaker2HSC-Devo2

 

In a recent blog post I wrote for Model Sports Fan, I discussed why I thought that Colby Rasmus might not be a Blue Jay too much longer. I went into more detail about this in my latest podcast.

 

 

 

The Future of Baseball Gloves

Carpenter Trade

Carpenter Trade – Premium Baseball Gloves

Interview with Scott Carpenter discussing the advantages of using synthetic baseball gloves.

When discussing the importance of tradition in sport, baseball often tops the list, possibly being the most “traditional” of all. Yet in some cases, holding onto what is traditional can possibly hold the sport back, or even hurt it. Sounds and smells associated with the sport are, “the crack of the bat”, “the feel of the grass”, and “the smell of the glove”. That smell of course being a leather baseball glove. However, one man who has become a pioneer in the development of new baseball gloves is Scott Carpenter. His business is certainly located in a traditional baseball town, being Cooperstown, NY. That’s where the tradition ends though, as his baseball gloves that are made with synthetic materials are proving to be lighter, stronger, and superior to the traditional leather gloves used by most. But this isn’t just a gimmick or a fad. Many professional ball players are now starting to use Carpenter gloves.

RA Dickey wearing a Carpenter Glove

RA Dickey wearing a Carpenter Glove

So why are they better?

Most players are stronger and faster today than they were 20 or 30 years ago. While one can argue that performance-enhancing drugs are the cause of that, it is an argument for another day. It does mean that the balls are sometimes being hit harder, and players need to react faster. In baseball, timing and specifically reaction time right down to fractions of a second can be the difference between safe and out, a home run or a fly ball, and even be the difference between a catch with a glove, or taking a hard-hit ball of a body part or worse, the face. Baseball has seen some serious injuries over the past season or two, as a result of a pitcher taking a come-backer off the head, not getting the glove up in time to protect themselves. It makes sense then, that buy wearing a lighter glove, one’s reflexes can move the glove faster, which means more plays made and more balls caught.

Another advantage to using synthetic materials Scott mentioned, is that the gloves don’t “wear” or stretch as traditional leather gloves do. Carpenter gloves are not only lighter, but also stronger. That means the feel doesn’t change, and the comfort remains the same throughout the life of the glove.

Want proof they’re better?

As I mentioned, professional players are already using Carpenter gloves. Something more significant is that the Pro players are opting out (or are going to be opting out) of glove contracts (I didn’t even know that was a thing!) to wear Carpenter gloves. Scott stated in his interview with me that he doesn’t pay players to wear his gloves. So what does this mean? It means that players are choosing to wear Carpenter gloves over a glove they would be paid to wear. To me, that speaks volumes to the quality of the product.

Frank Viola III is the proud new owner of a Carpenter Trade glove:

Frank Viola III's Carpenter Trade Glove

Frank Viola III’s Carpenter Trade Glove

If you’re looking to learn more, listen to my interview with Scott Carpenter here.

You can visit his web site at: www.carpentertrade.com

 

Cardinals HOF Inductees on Cardinals Museum

Base-Stealing Legend, Hall-of-Famer Lou Brock. Pic via Robert Rohe, rrohe.com

Base-Stealing Legend, Hall-of-Famer Lou Brock. Pic via Robert Rohe, rrohe.com

The St. Louis Cardinals fans have a lot to be proud of. A Championship-calibre team, a thriving baseball city, Hall-of-Fame alumni like Lou Brock & Ozzie Smith, and now, a world-class facility called Ballpark Village, which features a series of bars and restaurants, new seating decks in left field (across the street from Busch Stadium), and a new Cardinals Hall-of-Fame and Museum. In a recent series of interviews, I connected with Lou Brock, Ozzie Smith, Chris Carpenter, and Museum Designer Kelly Giles. You can listen to my review of the facility, the weekend, and some clips from the aforementioned interviews here.

You can check out more pics from Ballpark Village and the stadium in a recent blog post, here.

Kelly Giles , graphic designer from PGAV Destinations planned and designed the Museum, you can learn more about them here.

Ozzie Smith on Twitter: @STLWizard

Cardinals 2014 Home Opener & Ballpark Museum Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

Busch Stadium at Night

Busch Stadium at Night

Listen to my interviews with Lou Brock, Ozzie Smith, Chris Carpenter, and Cards Museum designer Kelly Giles.

I rode the metro link from my hotel and got off right at the foot of the stadium. It was the night before the Cardinals home opener, as well as the official ribbon cutting for Ballpark Village’s Museum and Cardinals Hall of Fame. There’s something special about a baseball stadium at night. It could be the stories it holds. It could also be the excitement in the air, and the anticipation of another potentially successful season for the baseball-crazed city.

Cards fans camp out in hopes of getting home opener tickets.

Cards fans camp out in hopes of getting home opener tickets.

I took some time to admire the bronze statue of Stan Musial, then continued my walk and stopped to check out more statues honouring Cardinal greats, some of whom I would be interviewing the following day.

Stan The Man

Stan The Man

The Greatest Cardinal Ever.

The Greatest Cardinal Ever.

Cardinals Greats

Cardinals Greats

Upon approaching Ballpark Village, I heard a familiar voice. ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball was being broadcast on the giant outdoor screen, so of course it was Dan Shulman I was hearing. Dan was a guest on my show last year, you can listen to that here. What a terrific spot to watch ball games, especially when the weather is nice!

Ballpark Village

Ballpark Village

There was a brief press conference the following morning, and the official ribbon cutting for the museum. After being the first official group to tour the museum (along with the inductees), I had the opportunity to interview Tony La Russa, Lou Brock, and Ozzie Smith. I made friends with a local photographer, Robert Rohe, who was kind enough to snap these great shots for me.

Interviewing 2014 HOF Inductee Tony La Russa. Pic via Robert Rohe, rrohe.com

Interviewing 2014 HOF Inductee Tony La Russa. Pic via Robert Rohe, rrohe.com

Base-Stealing Legend, Hall-of-Famer Lou Brock. Pic via Robert Rohe, rrohe.com

Base-Stealing Legend, Hall-of-Famer Lou Brock. Pic via Robert Rohe, rrohe.com

I even managed to grab former Toronto Blue Jays pitcher, and Cardinals 2006 & 2011 World Series Champ Chris Carpenter for an interview. Following my interview, he bravely ventured downstairs and through a sea of Cardinals fans. Can you spot him? It’s like playing a giant game of “Where’s Waldo”.

Cardinals Ballpark Village has one of the largest TV's I've ever seen!

Cardinals Ballpark Village has one of the largest TV’s I’ve ever seen!

Despite the steady rain that had been falling all day, the Cardinals home opener commenced. The “Cardinals Nation” boasts a strong following of some pretty serious fans. In St. Louis, baseball is #1. After what I witnessed, I would say it’s really a culture. Cards fans take their baseball seriously. One group of young fans I made friends with snapped this great shot for me from a balcony in Ballpark Village. You can see what a terrific view you get of the field from across the street.

Pic via Christina

Pic via Christina

Overall, I would have to put Busch Stadium & Ballpark Village toward the top of my list of “must-see” baseball destinations. Regardless of whether or not you are a Cardinals fan, touring through the museum and Cards Hall of Fame is a real treat, and you can grab a frosty beverage from any number of happening spots to watch the game live, or on any number of ridiculously large televisions.

Cardinals Ballpark Village

Those seats under the “Cardinals Nation” sign are in Ballpark Village across the street!

To learn more about Busch Stadium and the hot spots to visit in St. Louis, Alicia from Ballparksonabudget.com did a review of Busch Stadium in 2012.

Also, my good friend Malcolm from Theballparkguide.com has plans to visit Busch Stadium in the future. Malcolm was a guest on my show recently, you can listen to that here.

Jackie Robinson Day – More Than Just The Colour Barrier

Kadir Nelson's "Safe At Home" painting featuring Jackie Robinson hangs proudly inside the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

Kadir Nelson’s “Safe At Home” painting featuring Jackie Robinson hangs proudly inside the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

On April 15th every year we celebrate Jackie Robinson day. Jackie was a pioneer of the civil rights movement, as a result of breaking major league baseball’s colour barrier in 1947. To say that Jackie was an incredible baseball player, is just listing one of his many significant accomplishments, as his brave actions paved the way for other civil rights activists, where Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. followed suit years later. Worthy to note is that Jackie was really just one of many talented ball players who made sacrifices far greater than most of us have experienced, and endured racism and hatred far worse than what most of us can even fathom. Several weeks ago I did an interview with the President of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, Bob Kendrick, which you can listen to here. I had the pleasure of meeting up with Bob recently and he took me on a tour through the museum:

Jackie Robinson with Branch Rickey signing his Major League Contract

Jackie Robinson with Branch Rickey signing his Major League Contract

John “Buck” O’Neil, was the first black coach in the Major Leagues, and discovered the eventual Hall-of-Famer Lou Brock, signing him to his first big-league contract. In a press conference for the Negro Leagues Baseball “Hall Of Game” Ceremony on April 12th, 2014, Lou said jokingly that, “Buck thought he was my father”. Truth be told, Buck was a father figure to many, especially Brock, as well as another Hall of Fame player, Ernie Banks. He was also instrumental in signing Toronto Blue Jays World Series hero, Joe Carter.

Buck O'Neil with his young stars, Ernie Banks (left) & Lou Brock (right)

Buck O’Neil with his young stars, Ernie Banks (left) & Lou Brock (right)

If it weren’t for Jackie making the sacrifices he did, when he did, who knows how different the history books might have been. It’s possible we could be much further behind in both baseball and human civil rights.

Some of the greatest ball players to have ever played the game had reached the end of their careers before major league baseball started signing black and Hispanic players. Bob Kendrick stated that Buck always used to say, “the Negro Leagues Museum represents the men who built the bridge over the chasm of prejudice in our country”. Indeed then, it was Jackie Robinson, and many others following him who would be the ones to cross over that bridge.

Is Video Replay Ruining Baseball?

Pic via @MarcSRousseau

Pic via @MarcSRousseau

In the off-season, baseball changed some rules. The changes were meant to improve the game. The collision rule at home plate was meant to prevent serious injuries such as the one that was the beginning of the end of Ray Fosse’s career at the hands (or should I say helmet) of Pete Rose in 1970, and more recently (2011) the collision that ended Buster Posey’s season. While catchers blocking home plate has been a part of the game for so long, I can see the upside to the new rule.

The other change was implementing video replay to help overturn blown calls at pivotal times in the game. Traditionalists might say that you’re taking away a natural part of the game – human error. This very same human error cost Detroit pitcher Galarraga a perfect game in 2010, and also cost the Blue Jays a triple play in the 1992 World Series.

What video replay has done for the time being, is take away an element of the game which if for no other reason provides fans with entertainment value. When an ump blows a call (or appears to) in the past the manager would fly out of the dugout and argue the call. Sometimes, these arguments would turn heated, complete with yelling, swearing (one magic word supposedly gets you tossed instantly), kicking of dirt, tossing of bases (Lou Piniella), and ejections from the game. While I’m not an advocate of abusing the umpires, some might even say that a manager getting tossed can be a ploy to fire up his team.

Sweet Lou's soccer skills (pic via nydailynews.com)

Sweet Lou’s soccer skills (pic via nydailynews.com)

Sweet Lou turns a base into a projectile (pic via 90feetofperfection.com)

Sweet Lou turns a base into a projectile (pic via 90feetofperfection.com)

Sweet Lou performs his patented cap kick (pic via chicago-cubs-fan.com)

Sweet Lou performs his patented cap kick (pic via chicago-cubs-fan.com)

You just spit on me! (pic via bullpenbrian.com)

You just spit on me! (pic via bullpenbrian.com)

Will we ever see these arguments again?

Over the course of the past few games, baseball has seen many calls challenged via video replay. Some calls have been overturned, which means the rule change was a good one, right? Sure, but what we’re seeing now, is a manager taking a slow stroll out to the ump, and talking about anything non baseball-related while waiting for a signal from his dugout (who are waiting for the team in their video-control room to let them know if the call was blown or not).

So...do you like fishing? (pic via sports.nationalpost.com)

So…do you like fishing? (pic via sports.nationalpost.com)

This slows the game down even more, and let’s be honest: it’s a really slow game already.

Here’s what I propose: give the manager a challenge flag, like in football. Give them a time limit in which they are allowed to challenge a call (say, before the next pitch). And if a manager is still looking for a way to get tossed, they can argue balls and strikes. That way we’re not having more conversations about what to get Jimmy for his wedding, because you can only talk about candle sticks for so long before things get awkward.

Why Do Catchers Make Great Managers & Broadcasters?

Joe Siddall & Jerry Howarth (pic via Windsorstar.com)

Joe Siddall & Jerry Howarth (pic via Windsorstar.com)

Click here to listen to my interview with Sportsnet’s Joe Siddall.

Through tragedy comes opportunity.

Joe Siddall is the newest member of the Sportsnet broadcast team, taking the booth alongside longtime play-by-play man Jerry Howarth. Joe recently had lost his young son Kevin to cancer, and when Jerry reached out via email to express his condolences, an opportunity presented itself, almost by accident.

Joe said in an email reply to Jerry, “I look forward to seeing you in Detroit…or maybe I’ll see you in the broadcast booth one day”.

Not even really knowing why he typed those words, suddenly he was looking at a reply from Jerry that read, “How about right now?”.

The rest as they say is history, and now Blue Jays fans have the perspective from a former catcher in the broadcast booth alongside Jerry, replacing former pitcher Jack Morris who has returned to his hometown of Minnesota to broadcast Twins games this season.

So why is it former catchers make the best broadcasters and managers?

I’m sure there are figures that might show my broad statement is exactly that, but I choose not to ignore that Mike Scioscia and Joe Torre had successful playing careers behind the plate before becoming managers. Tim McCarver and Bob Uecker are broadcast favourites of many, who also spent time behind the plate. Heck, even Crash Davis at the end of Bull Durham was considering a managing gig with a minor league team.

I asked Siddall what he thought the reason was. Drawing on experience from his own catching career, he mentioned that his manager Felipe Alou liked having him around because “it was like having another coach on the field”. It either comes naturally, or catchers are trained to make note of opposing hitters strengths and weaknesses, in addition to keeping track of their own pitchers. Essentially, it is a management role in itself.

So what does this former catcher think of the Blue Jays current pitching situation?

Click here to find out.

Follow Joe Siddall on Twitter: @SiddallJoe

What Is The Hall of Game?

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, Kansas City

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, Kansas City

Click here to listen to my interview with Negro Leagues Baseball Museum President Bob Kendrick.

It happened before Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, in 1963.  It happened before Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus, in 1955. It was in 1947 that Jackie Robinson broke the major league colour barrier, when he played baseball for the Brooklyn Dodgers. It was this single event that is said to have been the catalyst of the modern-day civil rights movement, paving the way for Parks, King, and many other great civil rights activists.

So who paved the way for Jackie Robinson?

It is hard to say that just one person was responsible for laying the foundation. Surely there are far too many to mention. In 1920 the Negro Baseball Leagues were formed, led by Rube Foster, owner and manager of the Chicago American Giants. One player/manager named Buck O’Neil was indeed instrumental in the development of players and talent, and eventually the formation of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Buck, Jackie, and too many others to mention are celebrated in the Museum, and I discussed the history of the leagues and formation of the museum with the President, Bob Kendrick in an interview you can listen to here.

On April 12th, 2014 the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is launching an annual awards gala called the Hall of Game, to honour former Major League Baseball greats who exhibited the same passion, determination and swagger that the heroes of the Negro Leagues did. James Timothy “Mudcat” Grant will be recognized at the gala, receiving the Jackie Robinson Lifetime Achievement Award, and the inaugural class will also include Joe Morgan, Lou Brock, the late, great Roberto Clemente, and Dave Winfield. Surely Toronto fans remember Winfield’s heroic two-run double in the 11th inning of the 6th game in the 1992 World Series.

Buck O’Neil & Dave Winfield

As a result of the kindness of many contributing to my indiegogo campaign for the book I am writing, I can say that I am fortunate and excited to be attending the Hall of Game ceremony in Kansas City in several weeks to cover the event and conduct interviews. I look forward to visiting this world-class establishment, expanding my baseball history knowledge, and sharing the stories of legends with all of you. The Hall of Game awards event and gala is April 12th, 2014, and you can learn more about the event here and purchase tickets directly here.

Follow the Negro Leagues Museum President, Bob Kendrick on twitter: @nlbmprez

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