Theo aims for field day

Former Flames hockey star Theo Fleury takes batting practice with the Calgary Vipers on Thursday....

Former Flames hockey star Theo Fleury takes batting practice with the Calgary Vipers on Thursday. (Sun Media/Jack Cusano)

WES GILBERTSON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 6:02 PM ET

You have to wonder if this could come back to haunt Jorge Mejia.

It took a bit of sweet-talking -- and a reported price of two steak dinners -- to convince the Calgary Vipers regular to switch sweaters so Theoren Fleury can sport his trademark No. 14 when he suits up for the Snakes in tomorrow's twinbill against the Yuma Scorpions (5:05 p.m., Foothills Stadium).

Turns out that's not the only thing the Dominican infielder could be losing his grip on.

Fleury is likely to be pencilled in as the designated hitter, but Vipers brass won't rule out the possibility the former Flames star could see some action at second base, a spot usually occupied by you-know-who.

That heat Mejia is feeling is not necessarily coming from the sweltering August sun.

"Oh yeah, he should be really concerned, for sure," Fleury quipped. "There's nothing wrong with a little healthy competition in the clubhouse."

Fleury signed a contract with the Golden League outfit yesterday -- a deal Vipers president Peter Young assured will pay "well under four figures" -- and stuck around Foothills Stadium to take batting practice and shag ground balls with his teammates.

Despite making the transition from Rock'em Sock'em to a concrete coating business a couple years back, the former Stanley Cup champ and Olympic gold medallist is out to prove he hasn't lost the athletic prowess that made him an icon here.

After hooking a line drive just inside the third-base line yesterday, he turned to Vipers manager Mike Busch and suggested, "That's a double, eh?"

"Depends how fast you run," Busch replied with a wide smile.

Jokes aside, there's no doubt Fleury is taking his professional baseball debut seriously. Publicity stunt? Not if he can help it.

"I'm probably the most fierce competitor that ever played the game of hockey," he said. "I've lived my life that way, so when I come here (tomorrow), I'll be mentally prepared.

"I don't want to be embarrassed, so I'll give it everything I've got."

The Vipers crowded around the batting cage to watch Fleury take his cuts yesterday.

He's been a welcome addition to the clubhouse, even if several Snakes have never been on skates and even the ones who have didn't always root for Fleury. Vipers third baseman Travis Drader played for the Calgary Midget AAA Royals, but was born in St. Albert and admits he cheers for Alberta's other guys.

"Yeah, I told him I was an Oilers fan and he wasn't too happy about that," Drader said. "But he always talked about how he loved the Battle of Alberta, playing in that, so ..."

Fleury called the opportunity to suit up for the Vipers "one of my all-time dreams come true" and admitted it'd be a thrill "to be mentioned in the same breath as Bo Jackson as a two-sport professional athlete."

After waging a well-documented battle with substance abuse, just being on the field is something he's proud of.

"Probably the best part about all this is where I'm at in my life and all the things I've battled through," said Fleury, who turned 40 in June and is expecting a baby with his wife in September.


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