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Alberta

Edmonton’s connection to the defection of Baltimore Orioles’ superstar Jose Iglesias

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Here’s the simplest possible message for all and any who are bothered by the realization that the real world has interfered with the world of sport, so often described with great accuracy as “the world’s playpen” — it has happened before and surely will happen again.

For many, the most dismal example of politics destroying a major sports event is the 1936 Olympics, when Adolf Hitler’s prejudices were on open display. Memory of the brilliant sprinting by Black American Jesse Owens during those Games stands as civilized society’s best-known antidote to such critics of what now is identified as “social justice.”

In some ways Alberta is central to this debate: strong statements were made in support of Black Lives Master by players in the anti-Covid bubble designed to keep them healthy enough in Edmonton to complete the NHL’s first-ever late summer Stanley Cup playoffs at Rexall Place.

The international response, pro and con, will continue for some time, close observers predict.

“…. (Castro) was really angry. He was loud.”

It surprised me during the weekend to recall that a hubbub, but smaller, touched international baseball in 2008, when 18-year-old Cuban infielder Jose Iglesias defected from his national team during the world junior baseball championships in  Edmonton’s North Saskatchewan River Valley. The memory was triggered by coincidence: Iglesias showed on television as a member of the Baltimore Orioles in a series against the Toronto Blue Jays.

That world championship was one of several conducted in Edmonton by a group of volunteers headed by the late alderman, Ron Hayter. There was immediate evidence that the shortstop with excellent defensive skills was important in his nation: Premier Fidel Castro called personally to object..

Longtime Edmonton resident Don Clark of Edmonton has spoken often of the experience. He wound up taking a long-distance call initially intended for Hayter.

“I only got on the phone because Ron wasn’t around,” Clark said. “At first, I didn’t know who I was talking to, but soon it got pretty clear.  There was nothing any of us could do. They were gone.”

Smiling at the discomfort of that distant moment, Clark recalled the sound of Premier Castro’s voice.

“There’s no doubt he was really angry. He was loud.”

Years later, in an interview with a Detroit newspaper, Iglesias explained the departure from team headquarters on the University of Alberta campus. During a stretch of about two hours when the team was not under direct supervision, “We just got up and walked out.”

At the time, Iglesias spoke no English.

“It was tough. Really tough. I had no family. No friends. I just wanted to do what I loved: play baseball.”

He signed a big-league deal with the Boston Red Sox in 2009 and made the all-rookie team before signing his current $3-million one-year deal with Baltimore. He  also played with the Cincinnati Reds and Detroit Tigers. With Detroit, he signed long-term contract for about $6 million a year.

Major League Baseball lists 32 active players as defectors from Cuba, including promising Toronto outfielder Lourdes Gurriel, New York Yankees pitcher Aroldis Chapman and other stars.

Read more of John’s stories here.

 

Alberta

Veteran CFL quarterback Dakota Prukop among 16 players released by Calgary Stampeders

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CALGARY — Veteran CFL quarterback Dakota Prukop was among 16 players released Thursday by the Calgary Stampeders.

Prukop, an American, signed with Calgary in January. He spent his first three CFL seasons with Toronto (2017-19), completing 18-of-30 passes for 284 yards with three TDs and two interceptions.

He was a member of Toronto’s Grey Cup-winning team in 2017.

Also released were offensive linemen Kwabena Asare and Jay Gutherie, receiver Malcolm Thompson, linebacker/long-snapper Benjamin Whiting, defensive back Michael Asibuo and linebacker Shaydon Philip. All are Canadians.

The Stampeders also let go defensive backs Corrion Ballard, Greg Ducre, Trae Elston and Javien Hamilton, linebacker Cory James, receivers Shawn Bane, Fred Trevillion and Aaren Vaughns as well as running back Trey Williams. All are Americans.

The club also announced that American defensive lineman Cassanova McKinzy has retired.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 29, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Veteran defensive lineman Shawn Lemon among 16 players released by the Edmonton Elks

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EDMONTON — Veteran CFL players Shawn Lemon, Thaddeus Coleman, Vontae Diggs and Kenny Shaw were among the Edmonton Elks’ final cuts Thursday.

Edmonton made its final roster decisions ahead of the CFL’s deadline of 10 p.m. ET on Friday.

The final roster moves come after receiver Kenny Stafford and linebacker Kevin Brown II, also CFL veterans, were let go earlier.

Lemon signed a one-year contract with Edmonton in February. The six-foot-two, 248-pound defensive lineman has played nine CFL seasons, registering 70 career sacks and 22 forced fumbles over 107 regular-season games.

Lemon is a two-time Grey Cup champion with Calgary (2014) and Toronto (2017).

The six-foot-two, 230-pound Diggs, a linebacker, was Edmonton’s outstanding rookie nominee in 2019 after recording 73 tackles, 11 special-teams tackles, one interception and two sacks.

The six-foot-seven, 320-pound Coleman was in his second stint with Edmonton. The towering offensive lineman had played for the franchise from 2013-16 before joining the Saskatchewan Roughriders (2016-19).

Shaw had spent time with Toronto (2015-16), Ottawa (2017) and Saskatchewan (2018). The receiver registered 94 catches for 1,223 yards and five TDs in 25 career CFL regular-season games.

Edmonton opens the 2021 CFL season hosting the Ottawa Redblacks on Aug. 7

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 29, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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