Renteria revisits bunt heard round the world

* Chris Robinson's bunt in the ninth inning of Canada's win over Mexico in the 2013 WBC event resulted in a benches-clearing brawl after Mexico responded by throwing at Rene Tosoni. Bob Elliott caught up with Mexican manager Rich Renteria this week. .... 2014 Canadians in the Minors … Canadians in College 2015 Canadian draft list Letters of Intent

By Bob Elliott

It wasn’t like Chris Robinson had pimped a home run, his trot timed by an hour glass.

All Robinson did was drop a bunt single leading off the ninth with Canada leading Mexico 9-3 in the World Baseball Classic at Chase Field in Phoenix 17 months ago.

Bunting with such a large lead on May 10 or Sept. 10 would be against the unwritten rules and get someone plunked, but due to the tie-breaking run differential rule it was expected by some on March 10, 2013.

Third baseman Luis Cruz fielded the bunt, picked up the ball and tapped his side as if indicating to reliever Arnold Leon where to hit the next batter, Rene Tosoni.

On the third pitch, Leon hit Tosoni, who started towards the mound, and the benches cleared.

The first reaction from Team Mexico manager Rich Renteria.

“Oh my goodness,” said Renteria, who now manages the Chicago Cubs, a team of Baseball America prospects, before the opener of the Cubs-Blue Jays series Monday night at Rogers Centre.

Umps ejected Oliver Perez, Eduardo Arredondo, Alfredo Aceves and Leon from Mexico, as well as Canucks Pete Orr, Andrew Albers, Jay Johnson and Tosoni. Johnson, then a Philadelphia Phillies farmhand, threw one of the finest over-hand lefts since Marvin Hagler.

Usually our national passion reaches a boiling point after a loss to the Russians in hockey. Or when Canada loses to Argentina in hoops. Or losing to Cuba or Team USA on the diamond.

Canadian ball fans were upset as the Canuck dugout was pelted by bottles from fans. The brawl wasn’t as nasty as the 1991 Pan-Am Games when Jays bullpen catcher Alex Andreopoulos was catching for Canada against Mexico in Havana.

Last spring, Robinson, of Dorchester, Ont., was in the Baltimore Orioles' system, squatting at triple-A Norfolk. On June 20, the San Diego Padres purchased his contract and assigned him to triple-A Tucson. Renteria was a coach under Padres manager last season.

“Before the tournament started, we explained the rules about run differential, how guys might be bunting or stealing in case of a tie ... and not to get upset about it,” said Renteria. “The tie-breaking formula is a necessary evil.

“I have a lot of respect for the Canadian team and the way they came out swinging the bats that day.”

Taylor Green and Joey Votto singled with one out facing Milwaukee Brewers starter Marco Estrada. Justin Morneau had a run-scoring double, Michael Saunders singled in two and Robinson singled in another in the first inning. Morneau and Saunders each had four hits and three RBIs as Chris Leroux allowed one unearned run in three innings.

Canada lost its opener to Italy, then beat Mexico.

Mexico lost its first game to Italy, then knocked off Team USA.

Italy won its first two games, then lost to USA.

So there was a chance of a tie for top spot.

Pat Murphy, our triple-A manager, teased Chris how he’d never get a call up since the Team Mexico manager was the bench coach with the Padres,” said the Cubs manager.

Robinson was promoted when San Diego catcher Nick Hundley went on paternity leave Aug. 13 for two days and then returned to triple-A. The first person to hug him in the dugout was Renteria, and Black told Robinson how both his parents were Canadians.

He was back in September when the rosters expanded.

Robinson was hitless in five at-bats when he stepped in as a pinch hitter with the Padres leading the Arizona Diamondbacks 8-2 to face Eury De La Rosa.

Renteria caught Robinson’s eye and mouthed the words “don’t bunt”, putting his hands up as if shaking an imaginary bat. “He said it helped relax him,” said Renteria.

The former London Badger toured the bases hitting a 2-0 pitch for a three-run homer, as the voice of veteran broadcaster Dick Enberg cracked when he said “hockey player from Canada, it couldn’t have happened to a better kid.”

“For us it was an emotional moment,” said Renteria. “Everyone understands the grind of the minor leaguers. For him to play nine years in the minors before he got a shot. Our dugout reacted like it was a game-winning homer.”

Drafted in the third round from the Illinois Illini in 2005 by the Detroit Tigers, Robinson retired and now coaches the Great Lake Canadians.

“He appreciated the game and was one of our special stories last year,” said the Cubs manager. “He breathed it, it’s tough not to get emotional talking about it.”