Thursday, June 22, 2017


Keeping Score, and Modern Technology

Nothing is certain, but I think that I will be able to live out my days without a cell phone. It is a matter of convenience, and expense.

We have a land-based phone here in Wellington, and one in Florida. When we are absent from either location, we subscribe to a “Holiday” rate, much cheaper than the normal rate. Joanne has a cell phone, and she does not go too far without it.

There is a chance that I may have to get a cell phone as part of a “package” that will be much cheaper than the land-based phone. That will be determined when Joanne's current plan expires. I really do not understand all of the nuances of the cell phone plans, nor do I care.

Naturally, if I do not have a cell phone, I cannot “text”. I assure you, that does not bother me. I do not send out “Tweets” from a cell phone. I do have a “Twitter” account, but I don't use it.

During a recent Blue Jay telecast, I noticed that a fair number of fans were busy with their cell phones, in some way or another. Obviously, it is a distraction from the game. Then again, not everyone goes to the game to watch the game. Many could care the less about what is going on between the lines. The day at the ball park is more of a social outing.

For those of you who really enjoy the game, but find there are moments when you have little to do, I recommend keeping score. There are a fair number of folks scateererd around the park, keeping score. There is no specific rule about how you keep score. But at the end of the game, you should be able to tell what each player did throughout the game.

When I attend a game, I do not use a laptop computer. I use a score sheet to record the information. I also use a pencil, and have an eraser handy. Official scorers tend to change their minds occasionally. Usually, it involes a batted ball that might be construed as an error. The judgement of the official scorer is important for those who are keen on statistics. Keep the eraser close at hand.

I have my score sheet in front of me from the game I attended a week ago. In the eighth inning, the Rays scored three runs. It is easy to see how they scored their first two runs: Evan Longoria singled to open the inning, and Logan Morrison hit a home run. Two runs scored.

Steven Souza Jr. followed with a base on balls, and moved to third on a single by Daniel Robertson. Derek Norris flied out to right field, deep enough to score Souza Jr. That tied the game. Score that as a sacrifice fly.

Russell Martin led off the bottom of the eighth, facing relief pitcher Jose Alvarado. His home run stood up as the GWRBI (Game winning run batted in), and Roberto Osuna shut the Rays out in the ninth.

Not everyone's cup of tea, keeping score. Most of the marks on my page were learned in high school, Homer “Red” Townsend used some of the time in our health cl;asses to teach us the art of scoring. I am certain he was more comfortable with that, than dishing out pointers of sex education.

June 21, 2017.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017


The Tools of Ignorance

As a member of the Chicago Cubs, David Ross won the World Series last year. Following the victory, he cleaned his locker and retired from baseball. He played primarily as a catcher, starting in 2002. He toiled behind the plate for the Dodgers, Pirates, Padres, Reds, Red Sox on two separate occasions, Braves and Cubs.

His career batting average was .229, not the highest in history. He stood six feet, two inches, and weighed 230 pounds, a fair target for any pitcher. He had a strong arm, and threw out 35% of base runners trying to steal. One year, he threw out 48% of the runners, leading the league.

Ross now sits behind a microphone, sporting a headset. He follows a long list of former catchers who became announcers. Joe Garagiola was one of the best. Buck Martinez works the games for the Toronto Blue Jays. I really enjoy Ross's commentary during the game. He shoots straight, and does not play favourites.

During a recent telecast, Ross was asked about foul balls that hammered him on the mask. He did not pull any punches. He said that he often had headaches for three or four days after taking one to the head. At that time, there was no “protocol” for concussions. A catcher was expected to “shake it off”, and get ready for the next pitch. Ross then went into detail about a new type of mask.

Blue Jays' catcher Russell Martin has been tagged many times with foul tips. In a recent game, his mask was violently wrenched from his head with a foul tip. Some of these pitches are moving at more than a hundred miles an hour, and the blow is not softened by a tip from the bat. As is the case with all veteran catchers, Martin has had his share of broken fingers, and bruises on every unprotected part of his body. Catching requires special skills. The ability to take serious punishment is one of them.

As is the case of many Blue Jays games recently, the one I attended a week ago was no cake walk. The Tampa Bay Rays put up three runs in the top of the eighth inning to tie the game at six runs apiece. Martin led off the bottom of the inning for the Jays, and smacked the ball into the seats. The run held up as the winning run.
Football helmets are designed to protect players. Air is pumped into the helmet to help cushion the blows during the game. Hockey helmets protect players as well, and are constantly re-designed to better absorb the blows. After many years, the catcher's mask is now undergoing serious transition.

The new mask has several small springs on both sides. It also has foam pads, lined with Kevlar. It was designed by Jason Klein, a former minor league umpire. It has been approved by major league baseball. One MLB catcher, Tyler Flowers of the Atlanta Braves, recently raved about the mask. Flowers has been behind the plate for more than 500 games. “It's astonishing when you see how much it absorbs the ball. It just falls down to the ground”.

David Ross loves the newly-designed mask. I am certain the mask will be adopted, and will change the game, a better tool for those behind the plate.

James Hurst
June 20, 2017

Tuesday, June 13, 2017


Tennis, Anyone?

That was a very common expression in the Sixties. I can neither tell you its roots, nor its true meaning. But I do love the game, and I am more than happy to write about it.

Rafael Nadal won the French Open last weekend, for the tenth time! None of the great players from the past has come close to that total. One of the main reasons that he has done so well at the French has to do with the surface of the court. The courts at Roland Garros are based on clay. Players slide back and forth across the court, chasing shots. One commentator indicated that no one has ever understood clay courts as Nadal does. He hit many forhand and backhand winners right to the corners, often smudging the tape.

The Australian Open and the U. S. Open are played on hard surfaces. Wimbledon is played on grass. Understandably, balls bounce differently on each surface. Players often tap their sneakers in a manner similar to a batter approaching home plate to clean the bottom of their shoes. Clay courts generally play much “slower” than the hard courts. Players tend to play from the base line, whereas on the hard courts there is more “serve and volley” tactics.

Nadal's opponent in the final was Stan Wawrinka from Switzerland. Stan was exhausted after his semi-final victory over Andy Murray. It was a five set affair that went on for several hours. Nadal, on the other hand, breezed into the final, and easily disposed of Wawrinka in three straight sets: 6-2, 6-3, 6-1. There was a major upset in the women's singles' final as Simona Halep fell to her unseeded opponent Jelena Ostapenko, from Latvia. Halep won the first set 6-4, then dropped the next two 6-4, 6-3.

Nadal has victories in 15 major tournaments, one more than Pete Sampras. Roger Federer has won 18 major titles, and is still playing very well. They could conceivably meet at Wimbledon.

Gabriela Dabrowski, a Canadian player from Ottawa, won the mixed doubles title with her partner Rohan Bopanna. She is the first Canadain woman to win a major title. Quite an accomplishment! Previously, her best finish in a major event was an advancement to thr third round at the Australian Open in 2015. They lost the first set, but went on to take the title, winning 12-10 in the fianl set.
Three Canadian men have won doubles titles: Daniel Nestor, Sebastien Laureau, and Vasek Pospisil. No Canadian has ever won a singles event in a major championship.

The Toronto Blue Jays returned home from their west coast trip with more victories than they normally have on those tough coastal trips. Canadian fans showed up in big numbers in Seattle to add support. They began a five game home stand last night at the Rogers Centre.

The Pittsburgh Penguins captured their second consecutive Stanley Cup on Sunday night. There was a disputed goal called back on the Predators. But the official had lost sight of the puck, he had blown the whistle, and that was all she wrote. Sidney Crosby continued his stellar play, winning the trophy as the MVP of the playoffs. Hia name should be mentioned in the top ten best players ever. He is that good.

And the Golden State Warriors returned home Monday night to continue the series with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Game, set, match. That is now finished for another year.

James Hurst
June 13, 2017

Wednesday, June 07, 2017


Stanley Cup Finals-2017

With their win on Monday night, The Nashville Predators have evened the seriers with the Pittsburgh Penguins. The series now moves on to Pittsnurgh for one game, then back to Nashville. It is now a “Best out of three” series, and the the first team to win two games gets to hoist the Stanley Cup.

With their two convincing wins in Nashville, the Predators have taken the momentum away from the Penguins. They have a massive following in Nashville; it was reported that almost 50 000 fans stood outside the arena to catch the flavour of the game. Keep in mind that they are not exactly experiencing Ontario weather at this time. The city is in Tennessee, warm, sunny, free of pounding rain.

The Preds have gained one new and very prominent fan: Charles Barkley, from the basketball world. On a recent NBA telecast, I heard Barkley announce that he was leaving the booth to go back to his hotel room to watch hockey. It was a bit of a slap in the face to his game, and an endorsement of hockey.

On last night's telecast, Barkley was interviewed by a somewhat giddy Scott Oake. Oake was impressed by “Sir Charles”, and his interest in the game. The conversation ended when Barkley stated that of all the major sports, he loved the way hockey playoff games end: sudden death. No coin flip, no last bats, no running out the clock. The puck crosses the goal line, legitimately, and everybody goes home.

Distractions have become more pronounced in the year's playoffs. There is the usual bickering and whining. But other ingrediendts have been thrown into the mix this year. Take Listerine, as an example. Huh?

Sidney Crosby of the Penguins supposedly accused P. K. Subban of the Preds of having bad breath. I assume he ascetained this during a heated argument. Naturally, Crosby denied the allegation, with a smile. Subban was last seen lugging a bag full of Listerine down the hall in the arena. Talk about subliminal advertising!

Distractions have been part of the process for time immemorial. I vaguely remember an Aesop fable when a crow talked a fox out of a piece of cheese, by telling him how beautiful he looked. There are so many instances in hockey involving split second timing, and intense concentration. Getting the jump in a face off is so important, as an example.

Rick Meagher once told me the most difficult opponent to face off against was the Los Angeles Kings' Bernie Nicholls. “When we were getting ready for the puck to drop, he would start talking about all the new rides and attractions at Disneyland. He was just being sociable, but it was most distracting!”

They now have coaches being interviewed at stoppages in play. They have reporters in between the benches to “capture the flavour of the game”, with a delay on the audio, hopefully. There are players being “Mic'ed up” during the game. There are cameras running in dressing rooms before the games, in the intermissions. All of these things are unnecessary distractions. Not required.

But a little input from “Sir Charles” never hurts.

James Hurst
June 6, 2017.

Thursday, June 01, 2017


Joey Votto Wins Award for the Sixth Time

For the sixth time in the past eight years, Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto has won the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame's Tip O'Neill Award. The award goes to the Canadian player judged to have excelled in individual achievement and team contribution, community and charitable endeavours, and support in fan voting.

Scott Crawford, the Hall's director of operations, was proud to announce Votto as the award winner. The Reds are in Toronto this week, part of the inter league play of Major League baseball. He received the award prior to the game on Monday. “Joey Votto had another outstanding year on the field in 2016. But he also continues to be very active in charitable endeavours away from the field. He's an excellent ambassador for the game of baseball in Canada,” Crawford added.

An native of Etobicoke, Votto put up impressive numbers last season. His .326 batting average was third in the National League. More impressively, Votto batted .408 after the All Star break. Only six other players in major league history have batted over .400 after the All Star break in a season. He led the National League in several batting categories, and had 181 hits last season.

Votto is heavily involved in the Reds' community affairs. He reularly visits the Children's Hospital Medical Center, and greets with patients and staff at the ballpark throughout the season. Previously, he helped raise funds for the construction of the training centre at the MLB Urban Youth Academy. He has also participated in “Make A Wish” experiences in Cincinnati at the Great American Ball Park.

In his acceptance speech on Monday, Votto referred to the fact that he and a few others have been successful as Canadians from Eastern Canada. Most Major league players from the Great White North hail from the more seasonal climates of the west. He offered that as an example to younger players.

Tip” O'Neill, a Woodstock native, was one of the early pioneers in baseball. In 1887, with the St. Louis Browns of the American Association, he set records in hits, doubles, slugging percentage, and total bases.

The first Canadian to be recognized with the award was Terry Puhl, when he played in Houston. Other notable Canadians who have been honoured include: Russell Martin, Rob Ducey, Rob Butler, Jason Dickson, Corey Koskie, Jeff Zimmerman, Jutin Morneau, Jason Bay, and Eric Gagne. Larry Walker, perennial All Star who played most of his career in Montreal, won the award nine times!
The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame is in St. Mary's, Ontario. It contains wonderful artifacts, and information about the Canadian presence in baseball. Its hours of operation are:

May – weekends only
Saturday 10:30am – 4pm and Sunday 12pm – 4pm
June 1 to August 31 – open daily
Monday – Saturday 10:30am – 4pm and Sunday 12pm – 4pm

September 1 to October 7 – open 4 days a week
Thursday – Saturday 10:30am – 4pm and Sunday 12pm – 4pm

October 8, 2017 to May 4, 2018 – open by pre-booked group tours only. Minimum 6 people or $30 for a one-hour tour.

The Hall is a 30 minute drive from London. It is also 15 km from Stratford. You can catch a play or two in the theatre, then enjoy the baseball experience in St. Mary's. Culture, the Canadian way!!

James Hurst
May 29, 2017

Thursday, May 25, 2017


Prince Charles and Camilla to visit Wellington

Charles and Camilla to visit the County


The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall will visit Wellington during their Royal Tour to Canada next month.

Mayor Robert Quiaff made the announcement at the opening of Thursday’s Committee of the Whole meeting, noting he has been working with Bay of Quinte MP Neil Ellis and security teams to arrange details.

Mélanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage, released the cities and dates Thursday which include Iqaluit, Nunavut, on June 29; Canadian Forces Base Trenton and Wellington on June 30 and Ottawa and Gatineau for the 150th Canada Day celebrations July 1.

Celebrations are focusing on four themes of Canada 150: diversity and inclusion, reconciliation with indigenous peoples, young people and the environment.

In Wellington, a community gathering will be held at the Farmers’ Market.

The full itinerary will be released before the start of the Tour.

This will be the 18th visit to Canada for the Prince of Wales and the 4th for The Duchess of Cornwall.

This will be the first official visit to Nunavut by the couple; however, His Royal Highness visited Iqaluit, then part of the Northwest Territories, in 1970. In addition, he has also visited the Northwest Territories and Yukon in 2001, 1979 and 1975.

Excluding the capital region, The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall visited cities and communities in Ontario in 2012 and 2009. The Prince of Wales also visited Ontario in 1996, 1991 and 1970.

The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall will be attending the Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill for the first time.

Read more

Wednesday, May 24, 2017


A Busy Spring in the Sports World

An understatement, to be sure. Baseball, hockey, basketball...and football is just around the corner. As an almost avid Bills' fan, I listen to 550 on the am dial for all the news from the Bills' camp.

The Royal Bank Cup wrapped up last Sunday in Cobourg. The Cougars won the title with a dramatic 3-2 overtime victory. Ryan Casselman, from Napanee, tied with game with just over a minute remaining. Nick Minerva scored the winner to seal the deal.

Minerva's comments after the game: “I saw the puck come out, it kind of bobbled a little bit. I saw that the Brooks guys didn't challenge me at all. I blacked out and closed my eyes, took the hardest shot I ever took in my life, and it went in! It still hasn't hit me, to be honest with you.”

Cobourg had defeated Penticton in the semi-final. Cobourg forward, Theo Lewis, gearing up for the final game, summarized his thoughts. “It means the world. I kept thinking today that I don't want this to be my very last day of junior hockey. I want to keep fighting. I want to do everything that it takes to win the game, and be competing for the national championship. So I was fortunate to come up with that game-winning goal.”

Brooks defeated Terrebonne in the other semi-final. Captain Nick Prkusic, was also ready for the final. “Tomorrow is my final junior game, no matter what. Everything I've been through with these guys, this would be so spectacular just to finish it off this way with a win). I can't wait to get out there and give it our best.

For those of you who were expecting to see the game on TSN, as advertised, there was a glitch. The World Hockey Championship, that thing they have for losers in the Stanley Cup playoffs, ran overtime, including a shootout. It cut well into the RBC time. I think Sweden beat Canada in the final, in case you are remotely interested.

The Nashville Predators knocked off the Anaheim Ducks last night to gain a berth in the Stanley Cup final. Pekka Rinne was his usual spectacular self, leading the team to win the Clarence Campbell Bowl. As is tradition, no one dared to touch the trophy. Bad luck. The only silver that the players touch is the Stanley Cup, but only after they win it.

The Golden State Warriors advanced to the NBA finals on Monday night. The Boston Celtics have momentarily halted the progress of the Cleveland Cavaliers. I am certain LeBron will rectify that in the next couple of days to set up a date with the Warriors.

                                                                   LeBron James

And yes, the Toronto Blue Jays had a bit of a hot streak, only to be followed by a few losses. They dearly miss Donaldson and Tulowitzki, among others, at this point in the season. They are a very competitive club, but they are running out of time, even at this point in the season. I am sure the club brass is seriously mulling over dramatic changes.

A great time for sports fans!

James Hurst
May 23, 2017.

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