Eightface

On Smoak as the Jays’ next slugger

From Cathal Kelly’s Globe & Mail article on Justin Smoak’s transformation into Jays’ next-gen Jose Bautista:

His final at-bat of the series against Yankees’ David Robertson was a minor-note master class. To hear Robertson – one of the most cunning relievers in baseball – tell it, he ran out of ideas after eight pitches. Smoak put the ninth one over the centre-field wall. It was a grand slam and the game winner.

When someone asked Smoak if he was thinking curveball on that ninth pitch, he said, “Maybe. Maybe not. I’m just glad I was thinking the way I was thinking.”

Which is not actually an answer.

Smoak is a throwback in a lot of ways, but none so pleasing as the fact that, unlike many of his colleagues, he isn’t demystifying the game. He’s mystifying it.

I was at the exhibition games in Montreal last year, just before the start of his breakout season. One of my friends asked me if I could describe Smoak in a word. My near-instant reply was “Derp”. I stand by that.

April 11, 2018 ·

The man in the van

Daniel Norris van

Daniel Norris, a rookie pitcher with the Toronto Blue Jays, lives in a van during the off season.

This is where Norris has chosen to live while he tries to win a job in the Blue Jays’ rotation: in a broken-down van parked under the blue fluorescent lights of a Wal-Mart in the Florida suburbs. There, every morning, is one of baseball’s top-ranked prospects, doing pull-ups and resistance exercises on abandoned grocery carts. There he is each evening, making French press coffee and organic stir-fry on his portable stove. There he is at night, wearing a spelunking headlamp to go with his unkempt beard, writing in his “thought journal” or rereading Kerouac.

He’s made the starting rotation, looking forward to seeing him and the Jays in action this year. There’s quite a lot of youth in the squad this year, one of those things that could go either way. Wishing the best for him and the rest of the team.