Fernandez to Upshaw, Stolen Bases, Roof Homers, Brookmede Tennis Courts, Adam hits always.
Those are just a few of the games and locations we used to play, dreaming up different games of baseball to hone our skills, the game we love, the game that built a friendship and still builds upon it to this day.
In the mid 1980′s, the Toronto Blue Jays were in the infancy of what would lead to back-to-back World Series titles in 1992/93, years before Winfield wanted noise, and Joe “Touched em’all”, long before the Yankees dominated the AL East, two young boys from Erin Mills would gather every weekend to watch Jesse Barfield, Willie Upshaw, George Bell and Tony Fernandez, our heroes, battle it out with the rest of the American League “bad guys”, like George Brett, Bill Madlock and Don Mattingly.
When we weren’t watching our favourite Blue Jays, we were pretending to be them outside on the front lawn, in the street until it was too dark to see, at the park challenging kids from other streets to take on the “Blue Beech Bombers”, or playing in our local baseball leagues between Erin Mills and Cawthra. Ryan was (still is) a right-handed defense oriented first baseman, stubbornly priding himself on never missing a ball that came his way, still to this day he rarely does, I was at the time, a left-handed outfielder with speed and a decent bat, later becoming a pitcher after moving to Calgary for a year and meeting an excellent coach who realized I had an arm and said to me “how about trying to pitch a game?”, I did, it seemed easy, I loved controlling the game and I never returned to the outfield.
That year, my team in Calgary came within one out of going to the Little League World Series, my father, Frank Paddle was subbing in for an umpire and called me out at home plate after I tagged on a short fly to left to end the game, it was a fair call (a very close call) but did we ever argue on the way home after that one! looking back it was a call he had to make, and I am glad he made the right one favoring the integrity of the game.
These moments, unbeknownst to us at the time, were all leading up to one game where two best friends would reach the pinnacle of our baseball dreams together in a AAA game for the Erin Mills Athletics.
1990 after my grandmother had passed away, we packed up and moved back to Mississauga from Calgary, I still remember sitting on Ryan’s front porch, glove in my lap, as he returned from a baseball card show with his younger brother Adam (of Adam hits always fame), and his father Pat whom I consider like a second father to me, without any knowledge of my return, we didn’t skip a beat, the Blue Beech Bombers were back.
1992, while playing for the Erin Mills Athletics, we had a player fall ill before a game against Brampton, my coach, the late Randy Smith who was the father of another great friend of mine, Chad Smith, had asked me if I knew anyone that we could call up to play for us, my choice was simple, Ryan Konkle. I was scheduled to pitch that day, and what better first basemen could I possibly ask for than one that practiced pick-off moves with me all day long?, I made the call to Ryan who was overjoyed with being asked to play for a team a year older, not only did it pay off, we both played the game of our lives, in the only league organized baseball game that we had ever played together.
That day, August 13th, 1992, I threw a no hitter, striking out 17 and walking 5, not one of those walks resulted in a runner getting further than first base, a simple look or nod over to Ryan at first base was all we needed, five runners picked off. Ryan went 4-4 and stole 4 bases which in itself was a miracle as Ryan was never known for his wheels!
August 13th, 1992. No Hit Ball
A few years later while pitching for a scout from the Yankees, I tore my rotator cuff, what once was a 92mph fastball was suddenly in the mid 80′s, that was the beginning of the end for my pitching career, but I wouldn’t change a thing.
The love for a game brought two friends together, and I’m sure if you look hard enough you will see us in the stands for a few games in 2013 at the Rogers Centre, still watching our Blue Jays.
Ryan & I currently belong to the reigning 2012 Champion “Hooligans” Slo-Pitch team in Burlington, and will be returning to defend that trophy in 2013, playing alongside our brothers, Ken, Dave & Adam, and many others who can call themselves “Blue Beech Bombers”.
Viewer Left: Rick Paddle
Viewer Right: Ryan Konkle
The morale here, why not put your kids in Baseball?, if they don’t like Baseball, try Hockey or another organized team sport. Sports build character, friendships, loyalty and of course a healthier lifestyle.
I hope to see some kids out there playing Reyes to Encarnacion, welcome back Toronto Baseball.