* Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Tim Raines says he likes the looks of Marcus Knecht (North York, Ont.) and Raines is headed to Montreal this summer for a Blue Jays camp./John Lott Studios .... 2013 Top Canadians eligible for draft 2013 Canadians in College Letters of Intent 2012 Canadians in the Minors 2012-13 Canadians at Canadian schools
By Bob Elliott
DUNEDIN, FLA. - Tim Raines was hired by the Blue Jays this off-season as a minor-league outfield/base running instructor.
Yet, after a 23-year career, in which he collected 2,605 hits, he recognizes a hitter when he sees ones.
“I’ll tell you a guy who has impressed ... Marcus Knecht,” said Raines watching two games at once at the Bobby Mattick Complex Monday afternoon.
“Marcus reminds me of a young Jason Bay when he was with the Pittsburgh Pirates — except he’s stronger.”
North York’s Knecht, 22, hit .210 with 13 homers and 59 RBIs last season at class-A Dunedin.
Raines heads to Montreal this summer where he played 13 seasons with the Expos for the Jays summer camps.
“Do you think Montreal will ever get a team again?” he asks wistfully, hopefully.
Claude Raymond and Raines were the most moving speakers that final night at Olympic Stadium on Sept. 29, 2004.
They and others spoke after the Expos lost 9-1 to the Florida Marlins before 31,395 fans, many of them crying — the night a franchise died.
“Jeffrey Loria ...” said Raines shaking his head.
If there is a common thread between Florida Auto Exchange Stadium and the Mattick complex, besides the blue uniforms, it is a dislike for Loira. Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson weren’t pleased with the dismantling Loria did with the Marlins this past off-season and Montrealers, including Raines, were rightly upset when Loria sold the Expos to Major League Baseball and bought the Marlins in 2002.
Raines will be inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys June 29, along with Cambridge’s Rob Ducey, Jays broadcaster Tom Cheek, Vancouver’s Nat Bailey and George Bell, one field over working with young hitters.
“I haven’t started my speech, but it will be from the heart,” said Raines, who is here with his wife, the former Shannon Watson of Arnprior, Ont. and their two-year-old twins.
Raines is more than half-way to Cooperstown, named on 53.2% of ballots by voting members of Baseball Writers of America in January, his sixth year of eligibility.
“This spring is different, I’ve been in indy ball,” said Raines, who managed Newark in the Atlantic and Can-Am Leagues for three years until 2011 and last year was director of player personnel.
Young Jays wants to learn, but need direction.
“We had a guy on Sunday, he took his lead off, looked down to check how far apart his feet were and WHACK!” said Raines imitating the ball popping the glove. “The pitcher picked him off.”
Raines made his Expos debut as September call up in 1979, pinch running in six games.
The next year shortstop Chris Speier was injured, so second baseman Rodney Scott played short and Raines was started at second hitting third.
The rookie faced former Cy Young award winner Nolan Ryan, Ken Forsch and knuckleballer Phil Niekro of the Houston Astros and Cincinnati Reds’ Mike LaCoss.
A vivid memory from his first start was being asked to sacrifice Scott, who led off the fifth with a walk. Manager Dick Williams asked Raines to bunt the ball to the first baseman.
Raines bunted a high pitch to third, but Enos Cabell clanked the ball and Raines was safe. Later Ellis Valentine delivered a two-run single and after scoring Raines entered the dugout to ...
“Dick chewing me out for not bunting to first,” Raines said. “Man I was afraid of that man.”
After going 1-for-14 with three strikeouts he was returned to triple-A Denver.
“I had a hit off Bert Roberge in the first game,” Raines said. “I hit it good, real good — off the plate and it dribbled somewhere. Being sent out was probably the best thing that ever happened to me.
“I thought I was great. I knew then I wasn’t ready. I was 20.”
At Denver, Raines hit .354 with 23 doubles, 11 triples, six homers and 64 RBIs, stealing 77 bases in 90 tries. One of his homers was an inside-the-park homer at Mile High Stadium before more than 60,000 on July 4 fireworks night. Both triples and stolen bases totals were American Association records.
Expos sent Raines to instructional league to learn to play left field and then he headed to winter ball.
“In winter ball they bring in players for each position, I signed before the Expos moved me,” Raines remembered, “so, during batting practice, I’d take fly balls and was at second during games.”
The next spring, manager Jim Fanning and president John McHale knew Raines would hit and would steal. One day at Vero Beach he showed he could throw too, gunning down a Los Angeles Dodger at the plate.
Opening day at Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Stadium Raines walked against Jim Bibby and stole second on the first pitch.
Steve Nicosia’s throw hit Raines in the back and kicked into short right. allowing him to came all the way around to score.
After the Cooperstown announcement in 2012, MLB Network ran a show entitled “The Best Non-Hall of Famers.”
Raines ranked No. 1.