‘BoniBlog – Canadian feel to opening of Grapefruit League

The weather: Sunny but frigid for Florida – 48 degrees Fahrenheit, with a cold north wind clocking in at 21 miles per hour (that’s nine degrees Celsius and 34 kilometres per hour for us Canucks).

Jays (on the first base side) and visiting Tigers at Dunedin Stadium

The crowd at Dunedin Stadium: Dressed as warmly as possible, many sporting Canada Olympic gear – and proudly one might add.
The suds man: Brad The Beerman, a fixture here and always a hit with the fans, was back doing his rounds … in shorts … bellowing out his motto: If you can’t catch a ball, catch a buzz! The line never changes, year after year, and it always draws gleeful reaction.
Welcome to the start of game action for the 2010 Blue Jays on Wednesday. It was a good way for the opposing Detroit Tigers to play in this weather, too. Come April when these teams head north, the Jays will be in temperature-controlled Rogers Centre while the Tigers will be outdoors at Comerica Park in conditions very much like today. Bank on it.

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I finally caught up to Blue Jays pitcher – and North Vancouver native – Scott Richmond who was delighted to talk about the Olympics with a guy who’d been there for 18 days. Me.
“Best 18 days of your life,” Richmond said. Sure was I said telling Richmond he must be bursting with pride.
“Absolutely,” he said. “Just being from there, knowing it’s all there, having my friends going down to Robson Street and partying with everybody, it brings everybody together and closer.”
The topper for Richmond was Canada’s win over the USA in men’s hockey on the final day.
“To win in our sport on home ice in Vancouver is just a dream come true for those guys and every Canadian out there,” Richmond said. “I’m pretty proud of those guys. We’re in our own country and hockey is the sport we’re known for and they did it. It was so great to watch them. I think 80 per cent of Canada watched that game at some point.
“Being the smaller country of North America and having the big U.S. below us we’ve got to really take advantage of those opportunities when we have them on the international stage and they came through. They played a great game. That goal with 24 seconds left really shocked the room I was in and everybody else was going crazy around me. But it was just amazing to see them come back to win it quickly in overtime. What better than Sid The Kid (Crosby) to do it, too?”
Where did Richmond watch the Gold Medal game?
“At Innisbrook (Resort and Golf Club) in some conference room,” he said. “They had a big TV with like projection on it and had it catered. It was full of Americans except for me, Adam Loewen and Shawn Hill. So we had to get really loud when we scored.”
Richmond also clarified the replica medal he had around his neck to commemorate the victory. It turns out it was his idea and concoction.
“I did make one,” he said. “I had an old Baseball Canada lanyard that I had from the WBC (World Baseball Classic) or whatever. I wrapped it in tin foil, got a little yellow spray paint, couldn’t find any gold, and made something out of it. I had one of our trainers draw on it the exact thing they do on the other medals. It was fun. It was just my way of letting them know that we got the Gold.
“They were all going to be wearing me out if the USA won so I wanted to make sure they knew that and I wore it around quite a bit. I’m not a big loud, rah-rah-rah, cheerer in front of everybody but it’s what I wanted to do and I walked out of the clubhouse all the time with it. Nobody could say anything.
Does he have that in his locker?
“No, I don’t, some culprit ripped it up but I’m going to tape all their stuff in their locker when I find out who it is,” he said. He then smiled and added: “That’s rude, that’s obviously not a true Canadian fan!”

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Jays manager Cito Gaston watched the Gold-Medal game at his Florida home last Sunday with his wife, Lynda, who hails from Canada but has dual citizenship.
“We couldn’t lose,” he said. “It was fitting the way it went. Overtime. It just shows you what great a game it was. It’s unfortunate someone had to lose but to me they both were Gold Medal winners in their own way.”