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Russell Martin bids farewell to Blue Jays fans after retiring in May

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By John Chidley-Hill in Toronto

Russell Martin’s favourite memory at Rogers Centre is the same as many Toronto Blue Jays’ fans: Jose Bautista’s infamous bat flip in Game 5 of the 2015 American League Division Series.

“Just the electricity of the crowd, you could feel the ground trembling and the energy was insane,” said Martin. “That’s definitely one moment that just sticks out more than any other.”

Martin added another memorable moment on Friday, throwing out the opening pitch in front of a packed Canada Day crowd at Toronto’s ballpark. He formally announced his retirement from baseball on May 28 and making an appearance at Rogers Centre was his opportunity to say thanks and farewell to Blue Jays fans.

Before the game Martin said he hoped for a “couple of claps, a couple of laughs” when he came out to throw the opening pitch. Instead, he got a rousing standing ovation from the packed ballpark and a tribute video narrated by Bautista featuring messages from several former teammates.

He threw the opening pitch to Blue Jays catcher Gabriel Moreno, who wears No. 55 as a tribute to Martin. Mustafa (Moose) Hassan, Toronto’s clubhouse operations manager, told Martin last season that Moreno was going to wear his number and connected the two catches by phone.

“It’s awesome,” said Martin. “He gave me a call and I just told him there’s a lot of a lot of hits left in that jersey and I wish him the best.”

Born in Toronto and raised in Montreal, Martin is one of the most accomplished Canadians to ever play for the Blue Jays. The catcher had a .225 batting average, 66 home runs and 211 runs batted in, as well as an all-star game appearance, in his four seasons with Toronto.

He said that playing in Toronto on Canada Day has a different feel than a typical game at Rogers Centre.

“You feel the energy of the crowd and the crowd gets hyped for Canada Day,” said Martin, sitting in the Blue Jays dugout before the matinee game against the Tampa Bay Rays. “It’s special because you get the red jerseys and the crowd feels like you’re in the playoffs, even though it’s not the playoffs.

“You have that energy that you don’t really don’t get in a regular-season game.”

Martin began his career with the Los Aneles Dodgers before moving on to the New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Pirates, Toronto, and then playing one last season back with L.A. He finished his career with a .248 average, 191 home runs, 771 RBIs, and four all-star games.

He said that he has generally stopped watching baseball, instead focusing on raising his children and playing golf. When asked if he might come out of retirement and represent Canada at an international tournament like the 2023 World Baseball Classic, Martin said it was unlikely.

“I’m so out of shape right now. As much as I’d like to think I could do it, I’m  not even close to being in playing shape,” he said with a laugh. “I have too much respect for the guys that spend a lot of time in their off-season, they go to work and they’re in tune.

“They’re like fine-tuned racecars right now. I’m like a beat up Chevy.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 1, 2022.

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Canada’s men’s U18 team defeats Finland 4-1 to advance to Hlinka Gretzky Cup final

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RED DEER, Alta. — Canada’s men’s under-18 team defeated Finland 4-1 to advance to the Hlinka Gretzky Cup final Friday night.

Ethan Gauthier scored the opening goal in the first period, his tournament-leading fifth of the competition.

Calum Ritchie added another for his second in the past two games. Matthew Wood and Denver Barkey scored 19 seconds apart around the halfway mark of the final period to put the game out of reach.

Finland got on the board with only 18 seconds remaining, courtesy of Arttu Alasiurua.

Scott Ratzlaff made 23 saves, conceding his first goal of the tournament in three appearances for the undefeated Canadian team.

In the other semifinal, Sweden defeated Czechia 6-2 to set up another showdown against the Canadian squad. Sweden lost 3-0 to Canada in the final game of the preliminary round on Wednesday.

Canada will seek its first gold medal since 2018 when the two sides meet Saturday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 5, 2022

The Canadian Press

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Canada goes unbeaten in preliminaries after 3-0 win over Sweden at Hlinka Gretzky Cup

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RED DEER, Alta. — Canada’s men’s under-18 team closed out preliminary play undefeated after a 3-0 victory over Sweden on Wednesday at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.

Calum Ritchie and Brayden Yager each recorded one goal and one assist, while Zachary Benson added a score of his own. Scott Ratzlaff made 18 saves in the win.

The Canadians dominated offensively for much of the way, firing no less than 12 shots on goal within each period of play and totalling 43 for the night.

Canada had previously defeated Switzerland 14-0 on Sunday, and Slovakia 9-1 on Tuesday in Group A action.

Finland, which finished second in Group B awaits Canada in the semifinals on Friday. The gold and bronze medal games will take place Saturday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 3, 2022

The Canadian Press

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