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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.

 

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Alberta

WHL Roundup: Corson Hopwo sends Rebels to 10th loss in a row

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MEDICINE HAT, Alta. — Corson Hopwo scored two power-play goals, and the Medicine Hat Tigers came from behind to beat the Red Deer Rebels 4-2 on Friday in Western Hockey League play. 

Brett Kemp and Eric Van Impe also scored to help Medicine Hat improve to 6-0-1 in its last seven games.

Garin Bjorklund made 23 saves for the Tigers (10-3-1).

Ben King had a pair of goals to put his team up 2-0, but the Rebels (2-13-2) gave up four unanswered for their 10th loss in a row and third straight since Brent Sutter stepped down as head coach.

Ethan Anders stopped 33-of-37 shots for Red Deer. 

SILVERTIPS 5 THUNDERBIRDS 3

KENT, Wash. — Gage Goncalves scored twice while also setting up both of Cole Fonstad’s goals for a four-point outing, and Evertt (10-3-0) topped Seattle (7-6-0) to avoid a third straight defeat.

ICE 5 BRONCOS 4

REGINA — Michael Milne’s second goal of the night stood as the winner and Owen Pederson had a goal and two assists as Winnipeg (13-5-0) dealt Swift Current (3-14-1) its seventh loss in a row. 

COUGARS 5 ROYALS 2

KELOWNA, B.C. — Taylor Gauthier kicked out 19-of-21 shots and was led by five different goal scorers including Jonny Hooker who put Prince George (4-3-2) ahead for good against Victoria (1-8-1), losers of five in a row.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 16, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Canadian champ Kerri Einarson leads the way at Grand Slam of Curling event

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CALGARY — Reigning Canadian women’s champion Kerri Einarson is off to a 3-0 start at the Grand Slam of Curling’s Humpty’s Champions Cup.

The Manitoba rink beat Japan’s Satsuki Fujisawa 8-2 in the second draw on Friday.

After six draws at the event, Einarson is the lone women’s rink at 3-0.

Manitoba’s Tracy Fleury and Scotland’s Eve Muirhead lead Pool B at 2-0.

Fleury edged Manitoba’s Jennifer Jones 7-6 on Friday morning, while Muirhead beat Switzerland’s Silvana Tirinzoni 9-3.

On the men’s side, Canadian champ Brendan Bottcher of Alberta tops Pool B at 2-0. Bruce Mouat of Scotland leads Pool A at 2-0.

The event is the first of two Grand Slams at WinSport’s Markin MacPhail Centre, which already has hosted the Canadian men’s, women’s and mixed doubles championships as well as the men’s world championship.

The women’s world championship, with Einarson representing Canada, will close the Calgary curling bubble next month.

The Slam events feature 12 of the top men’s teams and 12 of the top women’s teams from around the world.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 16, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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