Your yearly update, Tom Cheek

By: Bob Elliott

CLEARWATER _ Hello Thomas.

I’ve been wondering for a while how you would have described it.

What you would have said?

It’s been 148 days between Game 5 of the American League Championship Series and Thursday’s visit to Sylvan Abbey Memorial Park (est. 1853). An exuberant crowd filed into Rogers Centre. Edwin Encarnacion homered off Cole Hamels to tie the score in the sixth. Then it got whacky in the seventh:

Russell Martin’s toss back to the mound hit Shin-Soo Choo’s hand and Rougned Odor scored, fans tossed beer cans, then three straight clanks came ahead of misplayed pop to score while a runner was forced at second and then Jose Bautista hit a three-run homer. The bat flip wasn’t in-your-face, more like in-your-dugout style.

You wouldn’t have said “touch ‘em all Jose, you’ll never hit a bigger home run in your life!” a la Joe Carter as it was only the seventh.

And you wouldn’t have been like the walk-off homer by Jorge Vazquez giving Mexico the win over Venezuela to win the Caribbean Series. That sounded like a soccer go-aaaaaal. 

Your little friend did well, very well, on The Fan. 

You know how Jerry says usually says on no doubters “And there she goes!” or sometimes when it’s dramatic it comes out `ThereSheGoes!” One word. This time he said “Yes sir! There. She. Goes” followed by 48 seconds of crowd noise.

Buck Martinez and Chris Berman did the same on ESPN when Cal Ripken broke Lou Gehrig’s record. Buck wasn’t on air for this one. Rogers Communications had the rights but didn’t air, so the FOX crew -- Kenny Albert, Harold Reynolds and Tom Verducci -- was on air.

This spring is a lot like 1997 back when the Jays were going to move to Sarasota and Ed Smith Stadium. You had the solution saying that the Jays could expand beyond the tree line at the Englebert Complex. They did so expanding from two and a half diamonds to the five, and presto: the Bobby Mattick Training Center. 

The Jays are in Dunedin for one more year. Will they stay? Or move elsewhere in Florida or Arizona. New president Mark Shapiro moved the Cleveland Indians from Winter Haven, Fla. to Goodyear.

Old Grant Field is spruced up a bit: murals of the goggle-wearing Jays after they clinched Sept. 30 in Baltimore are all over.

And words of the prophets are written on the clubhouse walls:

SUCCESSFUL people do what unsuccessful PEOPLE aren’t prepared to do.

SUCCESS travels in the company of HARD work.

Don’t aim to MAKE THE TEAM, aim to make the TEAM BETTER.

It brings to mind the arrival of a former Indian Sudden Sam McDowell, the Jays employee assistance program director. He put up catchy signs in the dugout and halls at SkyDome in 1991:

“Excellence Is Not A Destination But A Journey.”

“Progress, Not Perfection, Is The Basis Of A Champion! Each Day!” 

“This Pitch, This Moment And What I’m Going To Do With It. Then Bleep It. Let The Chips Fall Where They May!’’ 

If we had five dollars for the number of times a hitter mocked those signs on his way to the field we’d be renting Level 400 suites and giving them to charities. Cito Gaston’s Jays won 91 times that year, and once during post-season play.

Oh, we heard Cito sold his Toronto house and is moving to northern Michigan. The great state of Michigan ... where ex-Jays retire: Pat Hentgen, Pat Gillick and now Cito.

You already know Howard Starkman and Hentgen will join you in St. Marys in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. 

Business isn’t good at home whether it be TV, newspapers or radio. Not that many people are advertising. Unlike here.

You can hardly find a George Strait or a Willie Nelson song on the radio among the ads for Tuesday’s Republican and Democratic presidential primaries.

Have been to your bench -- the one Saint Shirley invited everyone to visit way back in February 2006 -- before and found a baseball and always flowers.

Saint Shirley has some bright red mums in a vase.

How bout this? Someone has placed a Titleist 3 at the bottom of the bench. Was former trainer Tommy Craig on the next course?  

Heard Tommy wants to write a book. And your old pals Ken Carson and Larry Millson are getting together on one “From Hockey to Baseball: I Kept Them in Stitches.”

And there is talk former president Paul Beeston is researching a book entitled The Top 100 Fairways I Have Discovered (in my 1,000 rounds).

Not sure what relationship you and Saint Shirley had when it came to baseball. My wife never cared about the Jays. Then she retired and her sister Lorraine arrived in August for a visit. Well, Thomas they got to watching the Jays.

At a corner store, the barber or minding my own business someone will ask why didn’t they bunt? Remove the starter? Steal? 

Yet home was always a sanctuary.

Mike Moustakas lined a disputed homer to right in Game 6 of the ALCS. The Jays argued while a fan told a TV audience he had not reached below the line.

“Why would they allow someone from Kansas City to testify?” my wife asked.

Ah, I don’t think his answer was considered by the umpiring crew in the war room in New York.

Once the Jays were knocked out I thought the questions would end. Arriving home from New York the first words I heard were “why did they leave Matt Harvey in?”

Thomas after 43 years I am living with a ball fan.