Elliott on Baseball column

BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:19 AM ET

Huricane Katrina this past week turned New Orleans, or at least what's left of it, into a scene resembling a Red Cross emergency food drop in some far-away corner of the globe.

New Orleans suffered the direct hit, but Katrina also swooped through Mississippi and Alabama.

"We were on the road playing Carolina (in Zebulon, N.C.) when the hurricane hit," said George Kottaras of Markham who catches for the double-A Mobile BayBears.

"When we came back, downtown Mobile was flooded, there were power outages and roofs of buildings were torn up," Kottaras said from Jacks, Tenn. "The outfield walls at our park (Hank Aaron Stadium) were knocked down."

The BayBears stayed an extra night in Zebulon before the Wednesday and Thursday games against the Montgomery Biscuits, scheduled as Mobile home dates, were moved to Montgomery, Ala., before eventually being cancelled.

Players then headed to Mobile to pack and close up their apartments for their season-ending four-game series in Jackson.

Most stores had closed and many restaurants were out of food.

"It was messed up. People were buying generators for power. There were long lines for gas," said Kottaras who, like his teammates, has been watching on TV the flood waters, the crowds outside the Superdome and the convention centre longing for water and food.

"We weren't as terrified as people in New Orleans. That is devastating it's a natural disaster," Kottaras said."People are fighting for their lives."

U.S. federal disaster aid was declared Monday for Alabama.

It seems silly to ask questions about baseball when there is so much death and damage, but ...

Kottaras has played 26 games since being promoted to double-A by the San Diego Padres. He has a .297 average with two homers and 15 RBIs.

Kottaras started the season with the single-A Lake Elsinore Storm where he hit .300 with nine homers and 50 RBIs.

After playing with the Ontario Blue Jays, he played for the Connors State College Cowboys.

While Kottaras was worried about what damage Katrina would do, his father, Peter Kottaras, and his younger brother, James Kottaras, were celebrating winning a Canadian championship.

While George and Danny Bleiwas were coaching Markham at the national bantam tourney at Windsor, James seldom made an out, going 8-for-11, while driving in five runs.

Ontario beat British Columbia 6-3 in the final. Lefty Andrew Ledger pitched 3 2/3 innings for the win, taking a 4-0 lead into the fourth. Ontario had jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first when Tyler Wheeler knocked in two runs.

After giving up three runs, Ledger was replaced by Billy Hurley, with a man on second and two out.

Hurley didn't allow a hit or a run the rest of the way against B.C., which had pounded out 65 runs in six games. Hurley walked two and struck out a pair.

Ontario won three medals -- a gold in midget at Brampton won in Trois-Rivieres, a silver in bantam girls and the bantam gold.

Quebec and British Columbia each won four medals at the nationals at the peewee, bantam, midget, junior, senior and bantam girls level championships

OH, YEAH?

Josh Towers wasn't impressed when he lost 4-1 last Sunday to the Cleveland Indians, allowing homers to Casey Blake and Aaron Boone.

"Those aren't good hitters," Towers told reporters after the loss. "Nothing for nothing, but they're hitting .240 for a reason."

Boone read the comments on Monday.

"I took it as a frustrated, idiotic comment, especially considering the slop he was throwing up there," Boone said. "I mean, who is Josh Towers?"

Well, Blake knows. They were teammates with the Orioles in 2002.

"Let's just say if we talked face to face, I probably wouldn't be doing a whole lot of talking," said Blake, who then smiled. "I'm kidding!"

SQUEEZE THIS

The San Diego Padres have found new ways to see the suicide squeeze result in run production.

Dave Roberts missed a bunt attempt Wednesday at Petco Park when Arizona Diamondbacks' Javier Vazquez threw a low fastball. Ben Johnson was easily tagged out on the play. Two pitches later, Roberts hit an opposite-field homer.

Two innings after that, in the bottom of the sixth and the Padres ahead 4-1, Johnson got the sacrifice sign with runners on first and second and none out, but failed to get the bunt down. He then hit a three-run homer off Vazquez.

HI GRAMPS

The matchup between Felix Martinez, 19, and Randy Johnson, soon-to-be 42, saw an age difference of 22 years, 210 days.

That's the largest difference between opposing starters since Florida Marlins' Charlie Hough (46 years old) and Padres' Joey Hamilton (23) faced each other June 4, 1994, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

TOP THIS

The Minnesota Twins had 13 hits Wednesday at Kauffman Stadium and were shut out 1-0. Now, that's like picking each and every NFL game and getting each one wrong.

Kyle Lohse held the Royals to three hits in seven scoreless innings.

The Twins squandered several golden opportunities to score. Take your pick as to which one bugged manager Ron Gardenhire most:

Jacque Jones and Mike Redmond hit into inning-ending double plays. Nick Punto grounded to first with one out in the fifth and runners on second and third.

Jones tried to score from second and was thrown out at home after Terry Tiffee beat out a double play ball. Punto was caught stealing in the seventh after taking a bad jump against Royals lefty Andy Sisco.

Jason Bartlett's double put runners on second and third with one out and Gardenhire used Brent Abernathy to run for Redmond at third. Royals closer Mike MacDougal bounced a pitch past catcher Paul Phillips and, 90 feet from victory, Abernathy started for home.

The ball bounced off the backstop and came back to Phillips who was about halfway to home plate. Abernathy tried retreating, but Phillips threw him out by two feet.

VOTTO TO RESCUE

When Simon Pond elected to stay with the double-A Bowie Baysox, rather than go with Team Canada, general manager, Greg Hamilton hit his speed dial. He called Etobicoke's Joey Votto with single-A Sarasota. Votto flew from Tampa to Newark to make his connection to Amsterdam and the World Cup.

Votto had a pair of hits and knocked in the lone Canadian run in a 4-1 exhibition loss to Team USA. Ottawa's Sebastien Boucher, Regina's Ben Van Iderstine and Geoff McCallum of London, Ont., had the other hits.

Canada opens the World Cup tonight against Sweden.


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