By Alexis Brudnicki
Canadian Baseball Network
TORONTO, Ontario – Chris Leroux has stepped out of the Bachelor Canada spotlight and has ventured back into Canadian baseball.
The 34-year-old Mississauga native retired from the game last March, after pitching the final inning of his career for Team Canada at the World Baseball Classic, the finale to 11 years of professional baseball.
From there, when last season began for many of his friends and former teammates, Leroux’s tenure as Canada’s Bachelor officially began. For nine weeks, he travelled the globe with a harem of beautiful women, handed out roses, and shared his thoughts and feelings with a whole new set of fans through a camera lens.
For a guy with throwing shoulder problems and few ideas of what to do after his time on the mound came to an end – playing parts of six seasons in the majors with the Marlins, Pirates and Yankees – it sounds like a solid way to fill some time. The show finished airing in December and not long after, Leroux was ready to move on, and back to a place where he isn’t the Bachelor.
But the experience brought a new set of opportunities.
“Sportsnet called me to come in and audition for the Gregg Zaun opening [on Baseball Central], and I went in and I did that and did well,” Leroux said. “I’m not going to lie, I did well for somebody who has never been in that kind of situation before. And it was fun. Obviously I didn’t get it, but they called me and asked me to come to Florida and do a couple spring training games as the colour guy and that sounded fun too.
“I’ve never thought about doing radio, but I went down there, did two games, and I guess I did well because they called me to do the Jeff Blair show for five days. That was interesting because you have to talk about all sports – you have to talk about Toronto FC, the Leafs, Raptors, Jays. I was up all night researching and reading on all the players.
“So I did that for five days and then they asked me to do Jays Talk. It’s been fun. Mike Wilner has taken me under his wing and shown me the right way to do things. Jerry Howarth has been great – we email back and forth, and he gives me constructive criticism. Even Pat Tabler, who I don’t really know that well, has given me some pointers, and Jamie Campbell, and obviously Joe Siddall.
“It’s kind of like a fraternity. They know that I’m new and I know what I’m doing but I don’t know what I’m doing at the same time. I know what people want to hear but I don’t know how to give that to them. It’s been fun with all of them in my corner.”
Though Leroux didn’t find love as the Bachelor, he does believe that the show helped propel him to the next stage of his career, where he finds himself currently.
“My brother [Tim] was pretty vocal about it,” he said. “When everything started happening, and I had the audition with Sportsnet, and then I got to go to Florida to do the colour [commentary] with the Fan 590 and he was pretty honest. My brother said, ‘You know The Bachelor was your foot in the door.’
“And yeah it’s a foot in the door but you still have to be good at it. You can get your foot in the door and not be good at it and they’re going to be like, alright see you later. So I’m grateful I did get my foot in the door but at the same time I’ve been working my butt off to be good at being on radio, being on television, and being knowledgeable about the game.”
Leroux claims to be the kind of former player who wasn’t interviewed much throughout his career, and never had any issues with members of the media, which perhaps has helped his foray into that side of the game.
“Of course it’s a big switch,” the Pan Am gold medallist said. “I’ve never been the guy that people or media want to interview. Even when I was in the big leagues, I was always just a whatever guy – nobody wanted to interview me unless I fall on my face on the field.
“So I never really had the feeling that I disliked the media because they’re always around, they’re annoying, they’re this, they’re that, like I’m sure some players think, because they weren’t ever that way to me. So I feel okay about being media now.”
With a couple of months under his belt spending more time in the press box than on the field, Leroux’s new perspective on the game has also given him a newfound respect for his peers.
“Oh my gosh there’s so much work that I had no idea about,” he said. “Like people staying up until all hours. Now I know [Toronto Star writers] Richard Griffin and Laura Armstrong, I know they put in hours just for an article and it’s so eye-opening.
“I used to read that article and I didn’t even think about how much work went into it. But now that I know them, and I’ve seen them at games and how hard they work, I read the article and I appreciate it way more. It’s different. It’s a good way to stay in the game, but not really be in the game.”
Though Leroux had never really listened to Jays Talk before joining the Sportsnet family – spending all of his playing days following the teams he was playing for – he understood that he was going to be dealing with a lot of grievances when he signed on to be a part of the show.
“It’s a sounding board for fans, that’s what it’s for,” he said. “It’s different when fans are complaining to somebody who’s been there, done that. I know baseball and you can ask me any question and I’ll answer it truthfully. And if I have to put you in your place, I will in the nicest way possible.
“The other day, four or five fans in a row called and they were talking about Jose Bautista and how he should have been dealt in 2016. I understand where they’re coming from, they want a prospect for Jose Bautista when he’s doing well, but that’s a team that has the potential to make it to the World Series. Why would you want to break up whatever chemistry you have in the clubhouse?
“Fans don’t understand how much chemistry means to a winning team. It’s great to get a couple prospects, but they’re not going to help you win a World Series. How many prospects actually work out? It’s a crap shoot, like the draft. Fans don’t understand that, and sometimes I have to tell them they’re wrong. I don’t like being mean about it but a question like that is frustrating because they don’t understand that he’s a leader, not only on the field but in the locker room, and that’s huge for a team that could potentially play in a World Series.”
As Leroux continues learning and working on his newfound skillset, he hopes to keep creating opportunities and taking advantage of the chances he is afforded to stay in the game he loves.
“Being a part of the game has been the most fun,” he said. “Still being in the game but not really being in the game. There’s no pressure to get a base hit or anything; I just have to be critical of them. It’s fun.”