By going to bat for the Houston Astros on Tuesday night, Abraham Toro made his mark in Quebec baseball history by becoming only the second player born and raised in La Belle Province to participate in a major league playoff game.
Before him, according to these same criteria, only the pitcher Éric Gagné took part in the series, three times rather than once, in 2004, 2007 and 2008. The gunner from Mascouche notably won the World Series, in 2007, with the Boston Red Sox.
The name of receiver Russell Martin, born in Ontario but having lived his development as a baseball player in Quebec, can reasonably be added to the list. And if we want to be chauvinistic, there is the Dominican Vladimir Guerrero son, native of Montreal, who also participated in the playoffs, with the Toronto Blue Jays, in 2020. One thing is certain, Quebecers who have lived such an experience are count on the fingers of one hand.
A goal on balls
In Toro’s case, he was batted as a backup hitter by Astros manager Dusty Baker in the ninth inning in a 5-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday. Combative, the 23-year-old athlete who grew up in Greenfield Park faced eight pitches, ranging from four foul balls, to eventually hovering a walk.
“I am very happy for him and with this excellent presence knowing Dusty Baker he certainly liked what he saw and he will not hesitate to use it again if the opportunity arises and if the series cons the Rays are prolonged a bit, ”observed the former Quebec pitcher Claude Raymond who, from his home in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, closely follows the progress of the present series.
Regarding the small number of Quebecers who have participated in the major baseball series in history, the one who teamed up with Baker for the Braves in 1968 and 1969 obviously reminds us that the playoff format was very different when he was playing.
“Before 1969, there were only two teams that went through and they were competing for the World Series,” he noted.
Despite everything, Claude Raymond himself remembers having come close to making the playoffs, twice. In his 1959 debut with the White Sox, the Quebecer played in three regular season games, but was no longer with the team when Chicago lost the World Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers that year. .
“In 1969, I was with the Atlanta Braves until August 19, we were in the first row when my name was placed on waivers and the Expos called me,” remembered the now elderly Quebecer. 83 years old. It’s the closest I’ve come to making the playoffs. ”
A month and a half later, the Braves faced the New York Mets in the first National Championship series in history. The Atlanta club had then undergone a sweep in three games.
“I never think about it, I’m very satisfied with my career,” added Mr. Raymond. There are a lot of good players of my time who have never made the playoffs. ”
A bright future ahead of him
Speaking of Toro, Claude Raymond believes he will continue to make his mark on the Astros as the club ages.
“I can’t wait to see next year, he might play more often,” he predicted. He’s an ambidextrous hitter and can play in different positions on defense. It’s always good to have such versatile players. ”