Thursday, July 14, 2011


At the All Star Break 2011

The crème de la crème of Major League baseball players has assembled in Phoenix, Arizona, for the annual all star break. Festivities got under way Monday night with the Home Run Derby.

Players work their way through various rounds until they face the best from the game in a head-to-head confrontation. On Monday night, the New York Yankees' exciting second baseman, Robinson Cano, entered the final against Adrian Gonzalez from the Boston Red Sox. Yet another classic Yankees-Red Sox confrontation.

Cano did not have to search too far to find a decent pitcher for the contest. His father Jose was there for his son. They hail from San Pedro de Macoris, in the Dominican Republic. There have literally been dozens of All Star baseball players from the same community in the Dominican, about an hour from Santo Domingo.

Jose Cano had a cup of coffee in the Major Leagues with the Houston Astros, hurling six games before spending several years in baseball in the minors. He has been pitching to his son for almost 29 years. “Robbie” is 28.

Robinson, who is named after Jackie Robinson, wears number 24 as a tribute to the great Brooklyn Dodger who broke the colour barrier in baseball. Jackie wore number 42; however, that number has been retired from baseball. For Cano, 24 was the next best thing.

Robbie entered the Yankee household via the “non-drafted, free agent” route as a teenager in 2001. He spent the majority of his first season with the Gulf Coast Yankees, hitting .230 with 3 home runs in 57 games. He got the call to the Big League Yankees in 2005, and has never looked back. He truly has surpassed all expectations of most professional baseball observers, quietly attaining All Star status.

He now has more than one thousand hits, a third of the total of his Yankee teammate Derek Jeter. Last week Jeter had five hits in one game, including a home run for his 3000th hit. Over the years, there have been countless New York Yankees who have had illustrious careers, and have been ushered into the Hall of Fame. But only one Yankee has ever had 3000 hits-Derek Jeter.

Jeter is normally a cool customer, but he admitted to feeling the pressure as he approached the 3000 hit plateau. “I'm glad it's over,” he said after the game. “I was nervous!” Memory serving me correctly, I believe that Bobby Hull and Roger Maris experienced the same feelings as they approached their respective record-breaking marks.

Hull recorded fifty goals in fifty games to shatter a National Hockey League mark. Maris had sixty-one home runs in 1961 to top Babe Ruth's total. Hank Aaron also experienced pressure as he approached Ruth's career total. He also had to put up with death threats, as he was African American, and it did not sit well with some fans that he might break Ruth's record. Water under the bridge at this point, thank goodness.

The Blue Jays' Jose Bautista also took part in the Derby. He leads the Majors in home runs, and broke the Blue Jays' team record of a fellow Dominican, George Bell, just before the All Star break. Bautista now has 31 dingers, Bell had 29 at the break. Unfortunately, he did not get untracked in the Derby. No big deal. I recall a few players who took months to get back into their groove following success in the Home Run Derby. Jose should enjoy the break, and prepare for the grind until October, truly a long season.

The Yankees head into Toronto this coming weekend for a four game series. The Jays are eleven games back of the Bronx Bombers, and will need to make up ground quickly if they want to experience post-season play. Bring on the Dog Days of Summer!

James Hurst
July 14, 2011

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