By Pat Payton
On Saturday, Sportsnet’s broadcaster Hazel Mae noted that she was the first female MC in the history of Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum inductions.
–At Saturday’s induction ceremony, retired St. Marys lawyer Bob Stephens and London lawyer Tony Little were specially honoured with the Randy Echlin Lifetime volunteer award for 2019.
Stephens and Little are long-serving CBHFM board members who are retiring. Jeremy Diamond, vice-chair of the CBHFM, made the presentation.
–Sportsnet baseball analyst Jeff Blair was presented with the Canadian Hall of Fame’s 2018 Jack Graney Award. The Hall presents the award annually to a member of the media who has made significant contributions to baseball in Canada through their life’s work.
–In Pittsburgh, Jason Bay won the National League Rookie-of-the-Year Award. He’s the only Canadian in history to ever win the award. He spent six years with the Pirates and is ninth on their all-time home-run list.
When asked by the Independent about hitting home runs, the Trail, B.C. native said he’d rather hit a 95 miles-per-hour fastball than hit a stationary golf ball. “It’s so frustrating,” he said with a laugh.
“I hope my teammates say I’m a better person than a player,” Bay summed up Saturday.
His sister Lauren, meanwhile, played for the Canadian Senior women’s softball team.
–Over the course of his 11-year Major League career, Bay was named the winner of the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Tip O’Neill Award, as top Canadian player, three times (2004, 2005 and 2009). He also suited up for the Canadian national team at the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classic.
–Gord Ash, who has had a 40-year career in baseball, is one of just six Canadians to serve as a big league general manager. The others are George Selkirk (Huntsville, Ont.), Murray Cook (Sackville, N.B.), Doug Melvin (Chatham, Ont.), Alex Anthopoulos (Montreal, Que.) and Farhan Zaidi (Sudbury, Ont.).
–Ash spent seven years as Blue Jays’ GM, starting in 1994. At Saturday’s induction, he noted that he has worked with over 30 Hall of Famers in his career.
Ash said former Jays’ GM Pat Gillick took a chance on him when he was promoted to assistant GM in 1989. “He taught me how to think creatively. It has served me well in my career. I’ve always said, ‘baseball is not a career, but a way of life.’”
After his tenure with the Jays, he was hired as assistant GM of Milwaukee Brewers. He served in that role for 12 seasons and helped build the roster of the 2008 Brewers that advanced to the post-season, ending the club’s 26-year playoff drought.
Since 2015, Ash has worked as the vice-president of Baseball Projects for the Brewers.
–With the New York Yankees, team owner George Steinbrenner called Rob Thomson “The Canuck.” Thomson spent 28 years with the storied franchise.
“George was a bear to work for, tough, but he always did his best to help the ball club win. And I loved him for that,” he said. Thomson, who grew up in Corunna, Ont., won five World Series rings with the Yankees.
The icing on the cake for Thomson, he said, was having “the greatest player (Fergie Jenkins) to ever play baseball in Canada put this (Hall of Fame) jacket on me. This is the finest honour I will ever receive.”
–Being with pro ball teams from spring to fall, Thomson said “we spend a lot of time away from our families.” But on Sunday, he was looking forward to spending Father’s Day with his wife Michelle and their girls Jacquie and Christina.
He makes his home in Sebringville in the off-season.
–Thomson also had a message for people who coach young ball players. “The biggest thing about being a coach is caring for the kids you coach,” he said from the podium. “And have fun. We want these kids to have fun, or we’re going to lose the game.”
–Sechelt, B.C. native Ryan Dempster spent nine years with the Cubs in a 16-year Major League career. “A wonderful ambassador for the Cubs,” the Chicago team stated in a message to the Hall Saturday.
To be successful in baseball, Dempster said the two most important things are “work ethic and discipline.” “I wanted to be a baseball player since the time I was a young kid,” he said. “When you come from a small town, you have to work hard.”
He capped off his Major League career by winning a World Series ring with the Red Sox in 2013.
Dempster is currently an analyst with the MLB Network and an assistant to Cubs’ president Theo Epstein.
–A local foursome, sponsored by JMRD, won the 23rd annual Baseball Hall of Fame Celebrity Golf Classic last Friday. Three teams tied with 11-under-par 61s, but the team of Reg Clinton, John Bolton, John Schwartzentruber and Brian Switzer earned the victory based on retrogression.
A total of 28 foursomes played in ideal weather conditions at St. Marys Golf and Country Club.