Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Peter Quinney Enjoying the Argo Experience

Peter Quinney is ready for some football. He has been preparing for the “Labour Day Classic” for some time.

Peter plays for the Toronto Argonauts, and is relishing the opportunity to step on the field in Hamilton next Monday. The Argos dropped a decision to the Tiger Cats by four points last August 20. That did not sit well with Quinney. He is ready to avenge that loss. “We need to come out swinging next Monday,” he told me during a phone interview.

As is the case with many other local followers of the pigskin game, I have been monitoring Quinney’s progress for several years. While he was a resident of Roslin, Ontario, and a student at Harmony School, he played “pickup football” on the expansive yards north of Belleville. Then, in Grade Five, he caught wind of the Belleville Minor Football League, and he began his serious quest to become a professional football player. Mind you, he also has managed to complete an undergraduate degree at Laurier, as well as the teacher education program. He plans to do a little teaching following the football season.

“When I was at Harmony, I played every sport. I really loved the games and the activities. You name it, I played it: track and field, basketball, baseball, hockey.”

He played for Rich Elliott and Chris Gregoire during his minor football career. He credits both for igniting the flame to play organized football. In the 2000 season, he played fullback for the Knights, leading the team with four touchdowns in the final game to win the Mike Schad Bowl. He also coached the Centennial based teams in the league with Matt Lisk.

It was at the Centennial Secondary School football factory in Belleville where he really developed the love of the game. “Joe Dicresce and Dan Foley were great coaches. I also played with outstanding players who went on to play football after high school: the Pyear brothers, and Mike Botterill, to name a few.”

Following his high school days in Belleville, in 2005 Quinney moved on to Wilfrid Laurier University. He played three different positions, and won the Vanier Cup with the Golden Hawks in 2005.

He was drafted in the fifth round by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 2009, attended camp, played one game, and was released. In early January of this year, he signed as a free agent with the Argos. Following months of intensive training, and a structured diet, he is ready to face the Ticats on Monday. “No pizza, no junk food,” he reported to The Intelligencer’s Paul Svboda last January.

At that time, he realised the uncertainty of playing in the CFL. “I didn’t tell many people about it (signing with the Argos), because with the CFL you can be in and out. I know guys who signed one day and were gone the next. I’m pretty excited about it, but I’ve got to make sure I make that roster. You have to earn your stripes,” he told Svboda.

Now he is under the tutelage of Mike O’Shea, perennial CFL all star who knows a little about the Labour day Classic. He played for the Argos, and the Ticats. “Mike is a great coach. He has been really helpful in my game preparation.”

Primarily a special teams player at the present time, Quinney knows the best is yet to come. “I know I am in a great position. But I have not reached the plateau that I want to get to. I am still learning. On the field I am constantly seeing where I am, and where I need to be. Just learning the nuances of the game. I know I must take responsibility for my play on the field.”

The Argos have won five games, and lost three. The Ticats stand at four and four. The math is not difficult. This is a critical game for both teams. Chin straps will be fastened tightly for this tilt.

Keep an eye on number 44 in the Double Blue as he streaks down the field on kickoffs and punts. He will be negotiating his way to making another tackle on the turf at Ivor Wynne. And he will be relishing every minute of it.

James Hurst

Monday, August 23, 2010


Black Out of the Blue Jays

On the Toronto Blue Jays website, there is an area where fans can go to chat about the team and its activities. Messages are left for other fans, and the team.

There is one particular issue that is receiving a lot of traffic in the past two weeks. It pertains to television coverage of the Blue Jay games. Throughout Canada, fans are upset about the loss of Blue Jay games on the television screens.

As it sits at the present moment, a new channel just introduced by Rogers called Sportsnet 1, will carry seventeen of the Jays’ telecasts in September. For those of you who have followed the Jays on other outlets, there is a dark cloud overhead. If you do not have Sportsnet 1, you will be in the dark.

The waters are still a little murky in this regard; however, there is a nasty fight taking place in the television world, and Jays’ fans seem to be the losers at this point. Naturally, it is all about the money, and the dollars that advertisers are willing to spend to get you, the consumer, to buy their products.

On the “Message Board” on the Blue Jay site, fans are hot. There are miffed at the timing of this activity. Fans are starting to renew interest in the team, after several years of frustration. For the most part, the sport has been cleaned of performance enhancing drugs. Roger Clemens won a lot of games for the Jays in his brief stint in Toronto, but those victories appear to be hollow. He is now on the hot seat for allegedly lying to the American Congress.

The Jays have some fine young players igniting an interest in the team. Fans are returning to the ball park. Attendance is up significantly from the past few years. The farm system continues to roll out stellar prospects.

I checked with Rogers about the situation. A spokesperson stated: “I doubt that it (coverage of the Blue Jay games) will be provided to companies that have satellite dishes. They have not paid for the licensing of the channel. Our agreement with them has expired. Bell Expressvu was not showing due diligence by letting the contract expire. They just don’t care about their customers. There will not be any games on Expressvu until Bell gets off their butt and does their job.” Pretty hefty wording!

When I asked about areas where there is no Rogers coverage, he added: “We are trying to get our cable everywhere. We are now in Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland.” That leaves a good portion of the country in the dark.

A straw poll of local Blue Jay fans indicated there is a group of very unhappy campers. Brad Wilson has been an ardent fan since the Jay days at Exhibition Stadium. “They’ve got all those fine young pitchers like Romero and Rzepczynski to keep them in the game. It would be a shame if we could not watch them for the rest of the season.”

The Emersons, John and Carol, have been avid Jays fans throughout the years. They recall the great time they had at the opening of the SkyDome, in downtown Toronto. They are not thrilled with the prospect of losing the television reception for the rest of the season.

Many of us will continue to follow the Jays on our satellite radios. Sirius carries all of Major League Baseball broadcasts, with a few extra stations of inane baseball chatter.

Local sportscaster Jack Miller has seen his share of corporate battles in the broadcasting world. He recalled the early days of Expo broadcasts on the local Quinte broadcasting stations, from the opening game in Montreal until 1994. The Jay games were on the local network for one season, 1995. This followed the nasty days of strikes and lockouts, and the advertising dollars were hard to come by after the turbulence.

“The Raptors went through similar growing pains when they moved over to the TSN 2 channel. I believe that public demand will get the satellite dish companies to pick up the Jays games. This could be taken as a “money grab” by Rogers. But in reality, it is a decision based on business. They are trying to enhance their profit level. Decisions like this are noticed more often when there is something going on. At this point in the season, there is some interest in the team.”

We are most fortunate to have so many fine networks available to us. Granted, there is a ton of junk available as well. At the best of times, baseball as a business in Canada will never be an easy proposition. The Blue Jays do not need the hassle of this petty corporate skirmish at this time. Fans will walk away. The team needs all the attention it can muster.

Perhaps Rogers can find a spot in its programming schedule to fit in a few live ball games. We are challenged with billiards, air racing, “X games”, horse racing, poker, martial arts, darts, and other time fillers. We have even given token appreciation to some soccer. But it is after all, a sports network. Stick with the games. Let them continue.

James Hurst
August 23, 2010

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Rogers Cup 2010

They must be doing something right in Toronto. The Rogers Cup finished up last Sunday, with Andy Murray repeating as Men’s Singles Champion. No small feat in itself, as this was the first time in more than ten years that a singles champion was able to repeat.

But the most impressive feature about the tournament was the company Murray kept all week. All, repeat, ALL of the world’s best tennis players took part in the tournament. One of the good reasons for this is that the players consider the Rogers Cup to be a nice warm up for the United States Open. Another might have been the two million dollars plus in prize money.

But take nothing away from the organizers of this year’s Rogers Cup, aka the Canadian Open. In reality, it is not known as the Canadian Open, and has not been referred to as such for many years. That is what it is.

Murray plowed his way through competitors without losing a set. He finished up by beating Roger Federer in the final on Sunday. Despite a couple of rain drops here and there, the tournament was most successful, especially for Murray. As has been the case for many years, the crowd was decidedly in Federer’s court, to no avail.

He is the king, as least in the minds of most tennis fans. And rightfully so. He has done it all, and is on the top three list of men’s players of all time. Certainly, Pete Sampras is on that list. There might be some debate about the other qualifier. But Roger has handled himself with grace and aplomb all these years, and deserves all the accolades.

One bright spot for Canadian fans was the play of a young pair of Canucks: Vasek Pospisil and Milos Raonic. They threw their names into the hat for doubles play, and were matched against a couple of wily veterans. Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. They are ranked as the top two tennis players in the world at this time.

The Canadian boys had nothing to lose. They played with the kind of abandon needed to steal a game or two against the big boys. Much to the delight of all Canadian tennis fans, Pospisil and Roanic won the match to move on to the second round. Perhaps one of the greatest accomplishments ever in Canadian tennis. And not totally surprising, as Nadal and Djokovic had never played as a doubles team before the event.

The kids served well, and played well at the net. They anticipated shots from their opponents, poached effectively when necessary. The following day, however, they were steamrolled by their opponents: Jurgen Melzner and Philipp Petzschner. Melzner, the fifteenth ranked player in the world had been beaten the previous day by another Canadian, Peter Polansky. Perhaps there was a bit of international revenge on his mind. Their doubles match was played on one of the outer courts at the tennis centre, located on the grounds of York University.

There are five courts used in the tournament, which is much more than a showcase of the world’s top players. It is a tennis extravaganza, a veritable feast for lovers of aces and deuces. There are rows and rows of tennis products from all the major manufacturers. There are games for kids of all ages. And yes, you may be able to pick up a new phone from you-know-who!

There is tennis this week in Montreal, women’s tennis. Once they are finished in Quebec, they will all reassemble in New York for the American championship. All in all, great tennis, especially for the up and coming Canadians.

Meet me at courtside. Remember, love is nothing in tennis. (A little corny?)

August 17, 2010

Monday, August 09, 2010


When You're Hot, You're Hot!

Last Sunday, Brandon Morrow was not just hot. He was on fire. He stood on the mound at the Rogers Centre in Toronto and threw 137 pitches against the Tampa Bay Rays, giving up just one hit.

With two out in the ninth inning, Ben Zobrist stood on first base, after receiving a pass from Morrow. Evan Longoria, a strong right-handed batter was at the plate. Consequently, the Blue Jays second baseman, Aaron Hill, was positioned closer to second base than he would have been, had there been no base runners. He would cover second base in case a ground ball was hit to the left side of the infield, hopefully to start a double play. (Logical) He would cover second base in case of a steal attempt. (Also logical) In baseball lingo, he was “shading” toward second base.

Longoria smacked a fastball that was on the outside part of the plate. The ball spun off the end of the bat, between second and first, just out of Hill’s reach. Hill stretched for the ball as far as he possibly could, but the ball glanced off his glove and trickled into right field. The official scorer, Dave Perkins, immediately scored it as a hit, ending Morrow’s valiant attempt at a coveted “no hitter”.

Morrow struck out Dan Johnson to end the game, his seventeenth in the game. The only other Blue Jay to strike out more batters in a game was Roger Clemens. That record, of course, has an asterisk beside it, as it occurred during the time that Clemens may have been experimenting with “performance enhancing substances”.

Morrow came close to throwing a no-hitter in his first start as a major league baseball player. He held the New York Yankees hitless through seven and two-thirds innings, striking out nine. He was with the Seattle Mariners at that time, and came over to the Jays last December in an exchange for Brandon League.

More than twenty years ago, in late September, we sat in the 500 section of the SkyDome and watched Dave Stieb work his magic against the New York Yankees. As he moved into the latter stages of the game, his velocity increased. He became even more energized as he approached the end of the game. With two out in the ninth, Stieb stormed around the mound, anticipating his first no-hitter.

There was an electric hush prior to every pitch. Roberto Kelly fouled off a couple of pitches, then smacked a sharp double to spoil Stieb’s effort. Later in his career, Stieb penned a book entitled “Tomorrow I’ll be perfect.” In fact, he remains the only Blue Jay ever to throw a no hit game.

In their somewhat unexpected sweep of the Rays, the Jays also got a remarkable performance from Jonathan Paul Arencibia. “J.P.” had been called up to replace John Buck, on the short-term disabled list. In his first at bat ever in the Major leagues, he set himself into the batter’s box, preparing for the first pitch. He drove it over the fence to the delight of the Toronto faithful.

He finished the afternoon with four hits, another round-tripper, and a double as well. A truly amazing way to start a major league career.

He hit .330 over his college career at the University of Tennessee, and was a first round draft choice by the Blue Jays in 2007. In 2004, he hit 17 home runs for his high school in Miami, Florida, Westminster Christian High. It tied a record set by another Major League baseball player, Alex Rodriguez.

Morrow is 26 years old, Arencibia 24. They both have years ahead of them to keep the fans in the seats at the Rogers Centre. A tip of the old baseball cap to the Jays’ scouting staff, after that weekend.

The Red Sox invade Toronto for three games this week. The Yankees and Tigers are slated to face the Jays at the Rogers Centre to close out the month. Still plenty of great seats available.

James Hurst
August 9, 2010

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