Monday, July 09, 2012


Snakes and Ladders

Snakes and Ladders

Many of you readers may remember the board game called “Snakes and Ladders”. You rolled the dice, and counted spaces to try to win the game. If it so happened that you might land on a ladder, you saved time and space by climbing to another level; however, if you landed on a snake, you catapulted down, and had a struggle getting back up to be in contention.

I would suggest that such is, and will be the case for the Toronto Blue Jays for the rest of this season. In fact, that will be the case for all of the teams in the American League East. Currently, the Baltimore Orioles head the League. There is not much a chance that will last. The Yankees and the Red Sox are snapping at the heels of the Blue Jays. Because they spend zillions of dollars with no real recourse or penalty, they will be contention at the end of the season. The Jays are currently mixing it up with the Tampa Bay Rays. They have tons of talent, but always seem to struggle going down the stretch.

You must get to the ball park to check out the action. The Jays play 81 games at home every season. That gives you plenty of opportunity to organize an excursion around Aunt Betty’s Strawberry Social, and the Sunday School picnic.

There are always wonderful events that take place at the park which you may miss by watching the games on television. For instance, in the game I caught last week, I witnessed the Major League debut of Yan Gomes. Yan was born in Brazil, and is the first Brazilian-born player ever to play in the Majors. I found that quite remarkable. I would venture to say, without research, that every other Latin American and South American country has had at least one representative prior to Gomes’ appearance. Mind you, Brazil has always had stronger ties with Portugal than with Spain.

In front of a respectable crowd of 31 000 fans at the Rogers Centre, Gomes smacked a single in his second plate appearance in the fourth inning. The ball was tossed into the infield after the hit to Derek Jeter, the Yankee short stop. Jeter held up the game to make sure that the ball arrived safely into the Jays dugout, as a souvenir for Gomes. One of the New York press guys enquired, “How did Jeter know it was Gomes’ first Major League hit? Do they really pay attention that closely?” My response was to the affirmative. They are all members of a very special club, and Gomes had just become a full-fledged member. It was a classy gesture on Jeter’s part. To be expected from the future Hall of Famer.

Gomes ended the day with two hits, earning a spot on the roster, for the present. He was called up from Las Vegas, and the Jays sent Adam Lind down to the Pacific Coast AAA team. Gomes spent much of his childhood in Miami, and went to high school there before attending The University of Tennessee and Barry University. Rest assured, there was some cheering and shouting in Sao Paulo and Rio.

But there is so much more to cheer about for the Blue Jay faithful. Bautista has found a groove, and J. P. Arencibia is contributing nicely. In fact, he was named the American League Player of the Week for his work. He is batting in the .330 range, with lots of power. Edwin Encarnacion is also in the midst of his finest major league season. He ranks second in runs batted in and home runs in the American League. He has solved the first base mystery for the Jays, consistently digging the errant throws out of the dirt to record the outs.

Yunel Escobar is a treat to watch at short stop. He covers all of the territory effectively, and throws effortlessly to first base. His partner at second base, Kelly Johnson, has worked well in the field and at the plate. He has hit 55 home runs as a second baseman dating back to 2010, third most by any second sacker in the major leagues.

Omar Vizquel was picked up in the off-season as a utility player. He is 45 years old. But he still has cat-like reflexes, and can turn sure base hits into double plays in an instant. He will also enter the Hall of Fame some day, and is surely a fine influence in the locker room.

Yikes! I have run out of space without a word about pitching, which has been phenomenal this year. Stay tuned! More ladders, less snakes!

James Hurst

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