TORONTO - Jack Janssen coached his son, Blue Jays closer Casey Janssen, in Fountain Valley, Calif.
Like all fathers coaching their sons there were the fun parts:
“He’d let me make up the lineup to compare it with his when I started to understand the game at maybe 12 or so,” said Casey.
And the not-so-fun parts.
“Sometimes I’d go 3-for-4 and he’d want to talk about the bad pitch I swung at,” said the Jays closer. “But he knew when to pat me on the back too. My dad knew what he was talking about or I wouldn’t have reached this level.
“My father is the reason I’m still in the game. He threw to me and the whole team countless hours of batting practice. We’d enjoy it when he was throwing BP without an L-screen, we’d square one up and make him grimace.”
Jack Janssen is at the Rogers Centre this weekend along with other fathers as part of a WestJet’s excellent promotion which saw the airline fly in the dads for Father’s Day.
Jack is asked if he’s the man who made Casey Janssen?
“More like the other way around,” the father says with a laugh.
As a project manager Jack was always there to run 4 o’clock practice whether it be t-ball, coach-pitch or PONY league all the way up to high school.
“If Casey fooled around during a drill or if we he had to run and he didn’t, he got into the same amount of trouble as anyone else,” said Jack. “I may have picked on him a little harder than the others.”
Jack saw his son get the save in Friday’s 3-0 win over the Philadelphia Phillies and still gets antsy watching his son pitch as he sits with his wife Diane.
“I have a lot of confidence in him, but sometimes I don’t agree with his pitch selection and my wife gets angry with me,” Jack said. “He didn’t strike anyone out Friday, but he threw a lot of strikes. He got the job done, that’s what matters.”
As a high schooler Janssen led the county in homers (12) and RBIs (44) earning all-county honours as an infielder. From there he went to UCLA and was bored as a bench player as seniors occupied short and third.
“He’d be jumping up against the fence catching balls during batting practice,” said Jack. “The coach told him to stop or he’d get hurt and Casey said ‘but Coach I’m bored ... you know I pitch too.’”
Soon, he was the Bruins fourth starter appearing in 13 games and making four starts. He made eight starts as a sophomore, 14 as a junior and was drafted by Jays scout Billy Gasparino in the fourth round as a senior, signing for a bonus of $150,000.
Papa Janssen made the Los Angeles-Toronto flight through Calgary.
“Those WestJet people were real nice to deal with, said they might even come to a game,” said Janssen, who has not been at the Rogers Centre since his son made his debut, April 27, 2006.
The elder Janssen remembers Casey phoning on a Wednesday that he was pitching on Thursday, arriving in Toronto at 4 o’clock and rushing off to the park. After Casey worked four innings allowing two runs on three hits and three walks and took the loss against the Baltimore Orioles, Jack followed the Jays to New York.
This weekend Casey the son took his father Jack on a tour of the Jays clubhouse.
“He introduced me to everyone, even maintenance men and they all knew his name,” said Jack.
Next to Jason Frasor, Janssen is second in terms of service.
Americo Bautista, Roscoe Davis, Doug Drabek, Elpido Encarnacion, Frank Frasor, Scott Hutchison, Bill Johnson, Russ Lawrie, John Morrow, Tony Rasmus, Ricardo Romero and Sam Lovullo will be here with their sons on Father’s Day.
Father-and-son day at the ball yard on Father’s day: What could be better?
Well with being a major-league dad there are worries too.
Whether it be your son’s pitch selection or his health.
For the fears of a father about his child last 365 days a year. As UCLA hoops legend John Wooden used to say “as a parent you are only as happy as your unhappiest child.”
John Morrow worries about his son, Brandon, sidelined for roughly two months with a strained oblique.
Doug Drabek awaits word from his son, Kyle, who heads to Dr. James Andrews and possibly a second Tommy John surgery, which means at least a year of rehab.
Scott Hutchison’s has concern over his son, Drew, and his sprained right elbow.
It’s a good thing the roof has been open for the sky is falling on the Jays rotation ... maybe for this year.
And next year too.
Briefly: Former Markham Mariner Carson Kelly, a second-round pick of the St. Louis Cardinals, has agreed to a $1.6 million US contract. The third baseman now lives in Portland, Ore. His bonus exceeds the assigned value for his pick ($574,300 at No. 86) by more than $1 million, the largest difference thus far. Kelly was named the best defensive catcher at the 2007 peewee nationals playing for Ontario in Quebec City ... The Jays’ Canada Day adds done by Kevin Foley’s Project 10 should win an award ... Seven Canadians have signed led by lefty David Otterman of the University of British Columbia, who received $141,700 from the Milwaukee Brewers and Pickering third baseman Eric Wood of Blinn College, who signed for $100,000.