Elliott on baseball

BOB ELLIOTT

, Last Updated: 8:14 AM ET

A team with a clubhouse lawyer is usually a handful of games below .500 and spinning south.

Not the Blue Jays.

The other day in talking to former Jays shortstop Alfredo Griffin, now with the Los Angeles Angels as a coach, he mentioned how he was active in the Dominican Republic's player's association.

He said former Cincinnati Reds righty Mario Soto is the president and former Expo Miguel Dilone, ex-Jay George Bell and Sandy Guerrero, Epy Guerrero's son, are on the board.

"Our lawyer is in that clubhouse," Griffin said, referring to Jays reliever Miguel Batista.

"Oh, yes," Batista said. "I fight for the players and fight for their rights. The Dominican is supposed to be the biggest market for producing players -- next to the United States."

Batista says he has made strides. Outfield walls are finally now padded in the Dominican winter league.

"That was embarrassing," he said. The players' association also has made strides in labour issues.

"We have free agency for players after three seasons," Batista said.

But there is still work to do. When the Gigantes Del Cibao in San Francisco de Macoris began play a year ago, it was difficult to find players.

"Some of the established teams held the rights to over 400 players on their protected lists," Batista said. "It wasn't fair to the new team."

Batista told of Inacio Javier, who died at age 38, leaving a wife and young family.

"We make sure his family gets 1,800 pesos a month," he said.

Felipe Alou, a veteran of many winters in Santo Domingo, once told us that the best arguments he had ever seen were between ownership and players in the Dominican.

Is there much yelling when Batista is at the meetings?

"Mario Soto and I have some real good arguments," said the Jays closer, who makes his entrance with a skip-to-my-loo hop, step and skip leaving the bullpen.

GOLD FOR ONTARIO

When British Columbia won the Canada Summer Games in London in 2001, it was because of their twin 6-foot-6 lefties, Jeff Francis, now with the Colorado Rockies, and Adam Loewen, now in the Baltimore Orioles' system.

Ontario extracted revenge Friday in Regina, thanks to Guelph's twin lefties, Dan Zehr and Scott (Baby Face) Diamond.

They aren't as tall as the B.C. twin towers -- Zehr is 5-foot-10, while Diamond is 6-foot-2 -- but they were as effective

Diamond fanned 12, including striking out the side in the final inning, pitching Ontario to a 5-1 win over B.C. in the gold medal game.

The game was scoreless with two out in the third when Ontario scored as Brad McElroy was hit by a pitch with two out. Mississauga's Branson Joseph tripled to right centre and Toronto's Tim Smith singled to centre to make it 2-0.

A single by Windsor's Kevin Mailloux and a walk by Kleinburg's Randy Schwartz loaded the bases. Milton's Liam Tennant was hit with a pitch, giving Ontario a 3-0 lead.

With two out in the fourth, McElroy singled and Joseph followed with a single to left. Smith hit a two-run double down the right-field line.

Diamond was 4-6 with a 4.15 ERA for the Binghampton University Bearcats this spring as a freshman, where he walked 35 and struck out 58 in 691/3 innings. This summer, he pitched for the Guelph Royals and manager Kevin Hinton.

McElroy, Smith, Mailloux and Joseph each had two hits apiece for Ontario.

To get to the title game, Ontario manager Rick Johnston gave the ball to Zehr, who attended Northeastern University in the spring. Zehr allowed five hits in a complete-game, 8-2 win over Alberta. Schwartz and Mailloux each hit three-run homers.

Ontario coaches were former Jays scout Greg (Chopper) Miner, Mike McRae, Canisius University coach, and Danny Thompson, formerly of Team Ontario and now of the Guelph Terriers. The majority of the contributors played for Thompson and Team Ontario.

CANADA CUP

After four years of elite teams fighting with each other and Baseball Ontario over players, this province finally has access to the vast majority of the best players.

Wayne Parro of the OBA, among others, mended fences, teams made players available and the result was no less than 183 players showing for Ontario coach Jason Chee-Aloy and his staff to evaluate at the open tryouts held at Pearson Field in Guelph.

"Have I ever seen this many players on the same field? Not in Canada," said Minnesota Twins scout Jim Ridley.

Attending were the likes of Jon Waltenbury, Brad Cochrane and Jordan Wideman of the Ontario Blue Jays; Steve Anderson, Justin Mulrain and Jeff Skehorne-Gross from Team Ontario; and Matt McCarney of the Ottawa Nepean-Canadians.

While every province sent its best 18 players, previous Ontario coach Mike Lumley started off with the 30th, or 40th best -- depending upon whom you ask.

Team Ontario last represented the province in 2000 when it won bronze in Brandon, Man., losing to B.C. and future No. 1 pick Adam Loewen.

Ontario's roster has been pared to 42 players, as the team preps for the Canada Cup Aug. 18-21 in Medicine Hat, Alta.

Massaging the facts

The Detroit Tigers have a trainer and a strength coach, but they also have a team massage therapist. She's Lynne Newman, 31, who attended Gloucester High School in Ottawa. Newman took classes in Windsor and Salt Lake City before working in Athletes' Village during the 2002 Olympics.

Most teams have massage therapists at home, but the Tigers and the San Diego Padres, who hired Kelly McCord, are the only two clubs with a therapist travelling full time.

Newman predicts that within five years, every team will have the same position on its staff.

IMPROVED PRODUCT

Team Canada, which qualified for the worlds in The Netherlands this spring in Bradenton by winning its three-country pool, will be stronger when World Cup play begins next month in The Netherlands.

Manager Remo Cardinale had independent league players at his disposal. Now, minor leaguers not on 40-man rosters are allowed to compete.

Team Canada will be a mix of both. If GM Greg Hamilton gets all his releases, indy players such as Pickering's Lee Delfino of the Quebec Capitals; London's Geoff McCallum, of the Schaumberg Flyers and Edmonton Cracker Cats; outfielders Kyle Leon, of Guelph, and Orangeville's Jeremy Ware will be available.

Minor leaguers Hamilton hopes to have include Uxbridge's Chris Begg of Double-A Norwich (Giants); Ottawa outfielder Sebastian Boucher, of Single-A Inland Empire (M's); Mississauga's John Ogiltree, of Single-A Potomac (Nationals); Toronto infielder Hyung Cho, of Single-A Hickory (Pirates); and Mississauga lefty A.J. Wideman, of Single-A Lansing (Jays).

Scott Mathieson, of Aldergrove, B.C., who pitches for Single-A Clearwater (Phillies) and appeared in the Futures game as well as catcher Luke Carlin, of Aylmer, Que., at Double-A Mobile (Padres), are other possible additions.


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