Monday, July 17, 2006


The "Cat" Saves the Dog Day

Seconds after Frank Catalanotto smacked a shot down the first base line, the entire Blue Jays dugout spewed forth onto the field to mob him for his hit. It was in the bottom of the eleventh, and it looked as though the Jays might squander an ideal opportunity to salt away another victory. Zaun and Molina had opened the inning with singles, and Aaron Hill had walked.

Fans were slightly impatient, as many had endured 14 innings, and more than four hours of baseball the day before. The Seattle Mariners were not going to go away quietly. John McDonald struck out, and Reed Johnson popped out to second. Catalanotto followed with his third hit of the day, driving in Chad Mottola who was pinch running for Zaun.

Sunday was “Dog Day” at the park---yet another promotional attempt to put bums (and Paws) in the seats. More than four hundred owners proudly displayed their canine companions. Some even auditioned for the pet trick portion of the David Letterman Show.

Twenty-eight thousand fans witnessed an exciting affair. Vernon Wells made an excellent catch in centre field, and Reed Johnson’s diving grab of a sinking liner was truly remarkable.

A.J. Burnett brought his entire package to the table. He began by throwing hard, between 96 and 100 miles per hour. I spoke with him briefly after the game, and commented on his good velocity. “I gotta come out of the gate like that. It sets things up for later on.” His curve was sharp as well, although he smiled, just a little, when commenting on the two batters he hit with curves. It happens.

Manger John Gibbons was pleased with the win, and his starting pitcher’s success. “That was huge for Burnett,” he commented after the game. He was also relieved with Catalanatto’s single down the line: “If we don’t score a run in that situation, it was going to be awfully tough.”

He also implied the defense was critical, referring to the splendid outfielders’ efforts. “Great defense wins games.” It certainly helped on Sunday.

The Mariners and the Jays both entered Major League Baseball the same year, 1977. Naturally, the Jays have bragging rights, having won the World Series twice. The Mariners have come close several times, but have never put away the whole enchilada.

On the cover of the Mariners’ media guide are the words “Many Nations-One Team”. As of the date of publication, the 2006 team consisted of forty players from eleven nations. Imagine the pre game pep talks! All those interpreters!

One player, Ichiro Suzuki, is worth the price of admission, all by himself. He is a hitting machine, and has broken several records in his brief major league career. He runs well, too, and stole second base for his twenty-second consecutive successful steal. He has been joined this year by a fellow Japanese, catcher Kenji Johjima. A perennial all star in Japan, he adds a spark to the Mariners. Occasionally, he will burst out from behind the plate to the pitcher’s mound, chatting feverishly. Only Ichiro, off in the depths of right field can understand a word that is uttered.

Seattle’s staring pitcher, Felix Hernandez, celebrated his twentieth birthday in April. He had a dozen quality starts last year, and has already won 8 games this year. With a little luck, he could be a 20 game winner, a hallmark as an outstanding season for a pitcher.

Another great day at the ball park. A couple of hours on the 401 from the Quinte area, plenty of seats available. Ignore the scalpers. Go to the ticket windows. Better still, buy your tickets on line ahead of time. There is an excellent place to park, underground, almost across from the Rogers Centre. It is on Front Street, past the Royal York, just beside the CBC building. Watch for the big parking “P”.

Grab a couple of hot dogs, and a soda. Nestle in for the game. You cannot get the same experience, nor the same emotional feelings at home, in front of the television.
Take your glove as well. That foul popup just might come your way! You would not want to misplay that one!

James Hurst

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