‘BoniBlog – “Sacrifice” Has Many Meanings

By John Iaboni, Sports Media Canada special correspondent

The sacrifice bunt and the sac fly are both well known terms in baseball but so is the word “sacrifice” for many covering the beat.

Ken Fidlin, Toronto Sun

Ken Fidlin, part of the Sun Media/Toronto Sun baseball crew along with Bob Elliott (the Sports Media Canada Lifetime Achievement Award recipient in 2008) and Mike Rutsey, is passionate about the game. However, he also knows that doing his job to cover the Blue Jays at Spring Training for any length of time does have another side to it.
“It’s a lot of work and it is nice to be in the warm weather but most of us are married with families,” he says. “In most cases we’re leaving them behind because anybody who has children going to school just can’t uproot them for three weeks or a month in the winter time. There are sacrifices that way.
“I’ve often had to talk my way through minor family crises from down here, just simple things like snowstorms and having kids stranded here or there whatever. It’s kind of stressful from that standpoint in a way. But other than that it is a wonderful way to spend three weeks in February or March.”
Fidlin initially covered the Blue Jays for a partial season in 1983 but went on the beat full-time the following year. There was a time during the 1990s when he was a general columnist that he missed Spring Training but otherwise he’s found a way to make it to Dunedin on a regular basis.
This year, he’s the first Sun Media baseball writer in Dunedin. Rutsey was to follow, with Elliott handling the tail end of Spring Training right into the road trip that will launch 2010 in Arlington, Texas on April 5.
Of all he’s covered in his lengthy career, Fidlin places baseball at the top of his batting order.
“It’s always been my favourite,” he says. “It’s been the one that I know the best. I know the people; I know the game pretty well. And I like its rhythms.
“We spend a lot of time at the ballpark – and it’s a wonderful place to spend time if you’re going to be working. I thoroughly enjoy it. I love seeing the young guys. It’s a time of the year where we get a really good opportunity to be around them close up throughout their workday essentially.
“We’re right here in the middle of it if we want to be and you get to know these guys on a different level than you do during the season when they’re really focused. Down here it’s a little more laid back during this period and you get to know them as people a little bit.”
His career began with The Woodstock Sentinel Review in 1971 although from the outset he wondered what he was getting into considering the bombshell announcement that came out of Toronto.
“My first day on the job was the day it was announced that The Toronto Telegram was folding,” he says. “I remember our newsroom, even in a little town called Woodstock, was shocked because most of us were young people who aspired to go to places like The Telegram. Boy to have a major outlet like that go by the wayside scared us.”
His journalism journey next took him to Kingston for a year before he joined The Ottawa Journal for seven years until it folded in 1980. That’s when Sun sports editor and Sports Media Canada co-founder George Gross phoned Fidlin and offered him a job at The Toronto Sun.
My first encounters with “Fids” occurred when I was covering the CFL for The Toronto Sun and I’d get to Ottawa to cover the Rough Riders. Always great to talk to especially over postgame beers, I was delighted when The Baron brought him to Toronto and enjoyed the years we shared until I left The Sun in 1984.
Whenever we’ve run into each other over the years, it’s always a hoot to reminisce. Sacrifices aside, “Fids” and I agree one simply can’t beat Spring Training for work and covering all the bases on the latest scuttlebutt in sports and otherwise.