By Jay Blue
Blue Jays from Away
Pitching for the country of his birth, against the team his father was drafted by and became a legend with and playing in the ballpark he still plays in on occasion as a high school pitcher, there were a lot of memories and symbolism in play for 17-year-old Braden Halladay.
Billed as a day of legacies, Halladay was one of several players at different phases of their journey to become a second generation major leaguer on the field at Dunedin Stadium on Saturday as the Canadian Junior National Team faced a split squad of Toronto Blue Jays, most of whom were the sons of former big leaguers who are currently working their way through Toronto's minor league system.
The Blue Jays came away with an 11-3 win on the back of a huge day from a second generation Bichette. Bo Bichette hit a home run in the first inning, on his way to a 3-for-5 day that included four RBI, two runs, a deep sacrifice fly that was about three feet shy of the fence and a stolen base. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Montreal, Que.) was 2-for-4 with two runs and a walk while Kacy Clemens was 2-for-4 with two RBI, a walk and a run. Canadian Connor Panas (Toronto, Ont.) was 2-for-3 with a walk, an RBI (from a sac fly) and two runs while Dwight Smith Jr. was 1-for-2 with a double and Cavan Biggio was 1-for-1 with a walk, two runs and an RBI. Branden Grudzielanek, the nephew of former Montreal Expo Mark Grudzielanek was 1-for-2 with an RBI coming off a sacrifice fly.
Clemens said that the the other "legacy" players all feel the same way about coming from baseball families.
"We're here to make our own trail, make our own path to the big leagues and set our own legacy for ourselves," he said.
He did acknowledge his father's shadow, saying "we have big shoes to fill . . . if I can have half the career that he had then I'm doing pretty good."
But the emotional moment of the day went to Braden Halladay, who was born in Toronto. The young man got a huge ovation when he entered the game for the bottom of the eighth inning pitching for Team Canada. Halladay, who has a Canadian flag embroidered on his glove, retired all three batters he faced for a perfect inning and left the game to another ovation.
Halladay isn't quite the same pitcher that his father is but he's a very self-aware young man. At 6-foot-3 and 150 pounds, he calls himself "projectable" and relied most on his curveball, throwing the 67-69 mph offering to disrupt the timing of the three professional hitters he faced (Mc Gregory Contreras, Mattingly Romanin and Bo Bichette). His fastball topped out at 85 mph but sat more in the 82-83 mph range. He works on location, saying that "if I try to throw a fastball down the middle, it goes 400 feet and I look stupid."
Team Canada was in a tough situation to start the game with Marcus Stroman on the mound for his first outing back. Stroman sat about 91-92 mph and retired the first three batters in order, walking Mississauga, Ont., native Noah Naylor (one of Team Canada's best young prospects for the 2018 draft and whose brother, Josh, was selected 12th overall in 2015 by the Miami Marlins).
Canadian Shane Dawson (Drayton Valley, Alta.) took over for Stroman and pitched two scoreless innings, giving up only one hit and Maverik Buffo took over for another two innings, striking out two in the fifth inning. In the sixth, Buffo gave up a single to Damiano Palmegiani and a double to LaRon Smith before getting out of the inning with two ground ball outs and a strikeout (giving up two runs).
In the seventh, another Canadian, Brayden Bouchey (Vancouver, B.C.), who pitched in Vancouver in 2017, walked Noah Naylor and gave up a single, followed by a ground out, a strikeout and another groundout to escape the inning without giving a run. Dalton Rodriguez handled the Canadians easily in the eighth, giving up a single between a fly out and two strikeouts. Orlando Pascual gave up another run, walking Naylor and giving up a triple to Denzel Clarke (Pickering, Ont.) before retiring the next three batters.
Other Canadians involved in the game included catcher Owen Spiwak (Mississauga, Ont.), who took over from Riley Adams and Mattingly Romanin (Burlington, Ont.) who was 0/3.
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