Shawn is Canada's king of the Hill

BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:02 AM ET

When Shawn Hill made his first major-league start since 2004 on May 27, he faced his old roomie, Russell Martin of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Washington Nationals right-hander from Georgetown hit Martin with an 0-1 pitch in the top of the third.

When Hill came up in the bottom half of the inning he dug in.

"You okay, Russell?" Hill asked his fellow Canadian.

"Didn't hurt a bit," Martin, the Dodgers catcher, said from his crouch.

Martin would later double off Hill in the seventh.

"I jammed him good on the hands," Hill said, demonstrating an awkward swing. "And he hit a jam shot inside the base at first. I made a good pitch to a right-handed hitter and he hits it the other way.

"I was backing up the play and walking back to the mound when I said 'Russell!' On the replay you can see him sheepishly look up from underneath the bill of his helmet."

Martin and Hill roomed together with Team Canada in Panama at the 2003 Olympic qualifier, which saw Canada earn the right to play in the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Hill, who gets the call tonight for the Nationals against the Blue Jays, grew up playing for Paul Sullivan's Mississauga North Tigers and Bob Smythe's Ontario Blue Jays.

He is just another of the Canucks to infiltrate the major leagues of late, a group that includes Hill; Martin, of Chelsea, Que.; lefty Adam Loewen of Surrey, B.C., who was recently demoted by the Baltimore Orioles; Philadelphia righty Scott Mathieson, of Aldergrove, B.C.; and Cambridge's Scott Thorman, who plays for the Atlanta Braves.

This was supposed to be a down year for Canucks with the retirement of Larry Walker, of Maple Ridge, B.C., and Paul Quantrill, of Port Hope. But Thorman's arrival made it 21 Canucks in the majors, the most since 1884 when 28 Canadians played in three major leagues.

This blip isn't because of expansion. In 1884, there were eight teams in the National League, 12 in the Union Association and 13 in the American Association, making it 33 teams in three major leagues.

"Canadians began to get more notice a few years ago (2002) when Jeff Francis and Loewen went in the first round," said Hill, 26. "There are a lot of good Canadian kids in the minors now. It would good to get the number to 25-30 players in a few years."

There will be upward of 25 members of the Hill clan, led by his mom Heather and pop Rick, at the Rogers Centre tonight to see the local kid on the local hill.

After his debut against Martin and the Dodgers -- a 3-1 loss in which he allowed just one run in seven innings -- Hill followed it up by getting nicked for three runs in six innings in a 5-3 loss to the Atlanta Braves.

He next pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing two hits, in a 6-0 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. Hill, signed by scout Alex Agostino, then worked six innings, allowing three runs to earn a no decision in a 7-5 loss to the New York Yankees.

In his most recent start, he took the loss in a 9-3 setback to the Boston Red Sox, pitching 52/3 innings one week ago.

Going into tonight's start Hill is 1-2 with a 4.26 earned run average, with four quality starts in his five outings.

His first career win came July 4, 2004, when, pitching for the Expos, he tossed five innings of a 6-4 win over the Jays in Puerto Rico.

Hill was first spotted at the Major League Bureau camp at Connorvale Field in Etobicoke in 1998.

FINALLY

Say a prayer for ESPN baseball analyst Peter Gammons, 61, who was felled by a brain aneurysm yesterday morning at his summer home on Cape Cod, Mass.

Gammons was air lifted to a Boston hospital and underwent surgery yesterday. He was voted the winner of the J.G. Taylor Spink award in 2004 for his pioneering baseball coverage with the Boston Globe.


Videos

Photos