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Loving the game
Baseball is pure joy for Pat Borders
By BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

In the movie Bull Durham, Kevin Costner, as catcher Crash Davis, is asked by Susan Sarandon in what he believes.

The edited answer:

"I believe in the soul. The small of a woman's back. The hanging curve. High fibre. Good scotch. That the novels of Susan Sontag are self-indulgent, overrated crap. I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I believe there ought to be a constitution amendment outlawing Astroturf and the DH. I believe in the sweet spot, opening your presents Christmas morning rather than Christmas Eve. And I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days."

And what does the real life Crash Davis believe in?

"I believe in Todd Stottlemyre, Turner Ward and Cito Gaston. I don't believe in Sarandon," the Seattle Mariners' Pat Borders said before he caught against the Blue Jays last night.

Costner's character was a romantic, who played for the love of the game.

Borders is baseball, baseball, baseball and family. He plays for the love of the game.

It wasn't a surprise when he mentioned his teammates from the Jays' World Series years, Stottlemyre and Ward, or Gaston, his manager.

Now 41, Borders is doing what he loves, coming to the ball park, drinking Mountain Dew, chewing Red Man and blocking balls in the dirt.

Aussie lefty Travis Blackley, who started for the M's last night, was five years old when Borders made his debut with the Jays in 1988. He drove in five runs in his first start. He celebrated with din-dins at Denny's.

"It's unique in the fact that he's not playing a lot, he's not trying to attain a milestone," M's hitting coach Paul Molitor said. "He's pure in his motivation. While it hasn't gone real well for him, he's one of the best team guys we've had."

Borders, who earns $500,000 US when on the major-league roster, was appearing in his 18th game of the season last night. He singled to raise his average to .180.

The best line he has ever heard about his age?

"Last year I'm in Edmonton, playing for Tacoma, and a guy comes up and says, 'Can I please have your autograph, I watched your dad play for the Blue Jays,' " Borders said.

Naturally, Borders, who was born with a strong work ethic, talent and sense of humor, but without an ego, didn't correct him.

"A few years ago I'm with Durham and we're in Toledo on a cold, cold night," Borders said, while recalling another minor-league tale. "Hardly anyone's there. This guy, about 55 years old, with a big, bellowing voice yells, 'Hey Pat, you were my father's favourite player ... when he was a kid.'

"Their pitcher laughed so hard he stepped off the rubber."

When M's catcher Miguel Olivo, acquired from the Chicago White Sox, is activated from the disabled list, Borders will likely be Tacoma bound again.

Since the 1999 season, Borders has played 419 games in the minors and 51 in the majors.

"Guys will ask him is that the same old glove, or the same old shoes you used when you won the 1992 World Series MVP," M's first baseman/ex-Jay John Olerud says. "He honestly loves playing the game."

Since Borders earned $2.5 million for the Jays in 1994, his earnings have varied -- from $310,000 to $500,000.

"I ask (his wife) Kathy all the time, 'How long do you want me to play?' " Borders said. "She always says as long as you want."

"I try to savour every game," Borders said, "try to play it like it's my last."