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'Ass' backwards: Joey Votto reverses his harsh words about Canada

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Saying his comments came from an "absolutely silly, short-sighted, selfish place," Cincinnati Reds slugger Joey Votto apologized Wednesday for saying that he doesn't care about Canada, Canadian baseball or his hometown of Toronto.

Votto, who played for Canada at the 2009 and 2013 World Baseball Classics and won the Lou Marsh Award as Canada's athlete of the year in 2010 and 2017, distanced himself from his home country in an interview with Yahoo Sports' Major League Baseball podcast.

"I don't care almost at all about Canadian baseball," said Votto, who was also the National League MVP in 2010. "I wasn't raised inside of Canadian baseball really. I'm coming up on half of my life being in the United States working and being supported by American baseball."

Votto later issued a statement saying he was "terribly ashamed," and apologized for the comments again Wednesday on a conference call.

"I cringed hearing it because I'm so embarrassed by what I said," Votto said. "I feel very strongly that it couldn't be less in line with how I feel about Canadian baseball, Toronto and [Seattle Mariners left-hander] James Paxton."

'I am saddened … that I offended so many people'

In an email posted on the Canadian Baseball Network website after the Reds lost 5-3 to the San Francisco Giants Tuesday night, Votto said he is "terribly ashamed" of his comments and called them "ridiculously selfish and short-sighted."

Votto added: "I am saddened that I was so flagrant with my remarks and more importantly that I offended so many people that mean so much to me."

Votto's initial comments came after he was asked about Paxton of Ladner, B.C., throwing his recent no-hitter against the Blue Jays in Toronto, becoming the first Canadian in MLB history to do so on home soil.

"As far as Toronto, and Canadian baseball, and the country of Canada, and [James Paxton] being Canadian, I don't care at all," said Votto. "[Paxton], or the Jays, or Canada, in general, may disagree with that, but I really couldn't give a rat's ass about that."

Votto did clarify in the podcast that he was happy for Paxton as a baseball player, but not as a fellow Canadian.

'Side of jealousy'

In his apology, Votto said being asked about baseball in Canada, the Blue Jays and the Paxton no-hitter recalled his resentment for not making Team Canada or being drafted by the Blue Jays out of high school, and not being picked for the Olympic team while in the minors.

"Clearly my reply came out of a side of jealousy for a Canadian baseball athlete being celebrated in the city of Toronto. It was an odd reply and one I am terribly ashamed of," he wrote.

"I go back to Toronto each off-season and feel renewed every time I cross the border to my home and native land. I would not be where I am now without the efforts of so many Canadian baseball people and the fans of Canadian baseball.

"To James Paxton, the Blue Jays, the Toronto fans, the women and men all across Canada that work so hard to promote and support Canadian baseball, I am sorry for my selfish comments and I humbly ask for your forgiveness."

Social media lit up as news of the comments circulated Tuesday night. Outfielder Dalton Pompey of Mississauga, Ont., currently with triple-A Buffalo after a stint with the Blue Jays, posted a reply on Twitter to a Yahoo story link.

Comments 'cringe-worthy'

"Damn Joey, tell us how u really feel. Smh [shake my head]," Pompey tweeted.

Votto took questions for about 15 minutes on a conference call Wednesday before the Reds' afternoon game at San Francisco. He called his podcast comments "a complete miss by me."

"It couldn't have been more cringe-worthy," he said. "I just did everything wrong and it came from a bad place. I am so regretful."

Drafted by the Reds in 2002 out of Toronto's Richview Collegiate Institute, Votto made his big-league debut in 2007 and has spent his entire career with Cincinnati.

While in the minor leagues, Votto played for the national team at the World Cup. He also made appearances for Canada at the World Baseball Classic in 2009 and 2013.

Perennial MVP candidate

Baseball Canada national teams director Greg Hamilton said Votto is a great teammate who has been "tremendously supportive" of the program.

"I've always judged people by their actions and not so much their words," Hamilton said from Ottawa. "His actions have showed complete care and respect. He's been heavily involved with who we are and with our national team program, and been very consistent in doing it."

Votto, a five-time all-star, has finished in the top 10 in MVP voting in each of the last three years.

Last month, Votto was presented with the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame's Tip O'Neill Award for the seventh time in eight years. The honour is given annually to the Canadian player judged to have excelled in individual achievement and team contribution while adhering to baseball's highest ideals.

"There's a home and a place here for Joey at any time where Joey is available and able," Hamilton said. "We would love to have him in any context. We value him obviously as a player and we value him every bit as much as a human being and a person.

"Personally my view is he's a really good caring person that does get it. That's my personal opinion from experiences with him and the actions that he's shown."

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Canada's RJ Barrett pours in 35 points in Duke's pre-season win over Toronto

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MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — Two games into his college career, Canada’s R.J. Barrett has stepped seamlessly into a starring role for the Duke Blue Devils.

The 18-year-old from Mississauga, Ont., was the Blue Devils’ top scorer for the second straight game, pouring in 35 points in a 96-60 pre-season rout of the University of Toronto on Friday.

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“It’s just being competitive. I think I am really good. I think I belong here. So just competing, really,” said Barrett, who shot 15-for-26 on the night and grabbed nine rebounds.

Zion Williamson added 24 points, as he and Barrett were a two-man wrecking crew for the second consecutive game, dazzling the crowd at the Paramount Fine Foods Centre in Barrett’s virtual backyard with a dizzying array of dunks — seemingly enough to fill a season’s worth of highlight reels.

“It’s just us playing. It’s really easy to play with (Williamson), and the rest of our teammates do a good job of helping us out, spacing the floor and we just make the right reads after that,” Barrett said.

Joey Baker, with 11 points, was the only other Blue Devil to score in double figures. Barrett and Williamson received a standing ovation when they left the game with just under four minutes to play.

Nikola Paradina led the Varsity Blues with 15 points.

“It was a great atmosphere, and for our players an opportunity to play on a big stage, so I think that’s exciting,” said U of T coach John Campbell.

“For us to get a chance to play in big venues and play against historical institutions, and one in this case that has such a tremendous recruiting class, there’s so much buzz about this team, for us to be involved on this stage is great.”

The game was the second of Duke’s three-game pre-season Canadian tour, and the first trip north of the border in the storied program’s history. The Blue Devils beat the back-to-back Canadian university silver medallists Ryerson Rams 86-67 on Wednesday, in Barrett’s much-anticipated college debut.

Barrett and Williamson combined for 63 points in Wednesday’s win, and over the two pre-season games have provided a tantalizing preview of the upcoming NCAA season.

Barrett and Williamson were ESPN’s No. 1 and 2-ranked freshmen. Duke also boasts No. 3-ranked Cam Reddish, who hasn’t played yet due to injury.

And while Barrett has been touted as the NBA’s No. 1 draft pick next spring, the six-foot-seven, 285-pound Williamson — who has a unique combination of bulk, splendid ball skills and athleticism — could give the Canadian a run for his money.

“I knew he was good but coaching him now, he’s a very special player, and R.J. is too,” said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.

Williamson, who was trending on Twitter during the game, brought the fans out of their seats when he drove to the hoop with an fierce hop, step and dunk in the third quarter.

“(I thought) ‘Alright, I’m up here, I might as well dunk it,” he said post-game in the locker-room.

Asked if he ever surprises himself, Williamson said: “Actually, eah, sometimes I do.”

Barrett followed it up with an alley-oop dunk of his own on Duke’s next possession.

Krzyzewski had kind words for Toronto and Mississauga, saying its been a “great trip.” The team’s Hall of Fame coach, with five NCAA titles to his name, noted a crowd of almost 10,000 is expected for Sunday’s game in Montreal where the Blue Devils face McGill in their final game of the tour.

The 71-year-old coach said the Canadian competition his team faced was “a little bit better” than he’d expected.

“We played two different teams, Ryerson is more athletic and plays more of a conventional, really good system. I think both teams are very well coached,” the coach said. “We played against two different systems, which is good for us.”

The arena — formerly the Hershey Centre, normally home to Raptors 905 — was filled to its 5,400-seat capacity for both games, and Friday’s crowd included Canadian sprinter and three-time Olympic medallist Andre De Grasse, Washington Capitals winger Devante Smith-Pelly, Las Vegas Golden Knights goalie Malcolm Subban and 10-time NBA all-star David Robinson, whose son Justin plays for Duke.

Just like Wednesday’s game, the arena was awash in Duke blue.

Back-to-back three-pointers by Barrett late in the first helped send Duke into the second quarter with a 23-14 lead.

The Varsity Blues closed the gap to 32-26, but Duke dominated the rest of the quarter to take a 43-28 advantage into the halftime break.

Duke exploded in the third, and led 70-44 with one quarter left to play.

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Snedeker follows 59 with 67, takes two-shot lead at Wyndham

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GREENSBORO, N.C. — Brandt Snedeker couldn’t block out the buzz that surrounded his first-round 11-under 59 at the Wyndham Championship. He refocussed just in time to reclaim the lead.

Snedeker followed his historic opening score with a 67 on Friday to take a two-stroke lead into the weekend at the Wyndham Championship.

A day after becoming the 10th player in PGA Tour history to break 60, Snedeker moved to 14-under 126 halfway through the final PGA Tour event before the playoffs.

“You hear people telling you every two seconds, ‘Mr. 59,’ or saying how cool it was to watch it,” Snedeker said. “So, yes, totally on your mind.”

D.A. Points shot a 64 to reach 12 under — one stroke ahead of C.T. Pan, who also had a 64. David Hearn (of Brantford, Ont.), Peter Malnati, Keith Mitchell, Harris English, Brett Stegmaier and Sergio Garcia were 9 under.

Snedeker, the 2012 FedEx Cup champion, won this tournament in 2007 before it moved across town to the par-70 Sedgefield Country Club. He had the tour’s first 59 of the year during the first round.

But it wasn’t easy to follow a score like that. Of the nine previous players who have broken 60 on the tour, six had to play the next day and only one has shot better than 65 in that round: Justin Thomas, who had a 64 in the second round of last year’s Sony Open.

“You can’t ignore it, you can’t try to forget about it,” Snedeker said. “Hardest thing is trying to get back into a rhythm. … Now I’m better equipped for the next time I shoot 59 and play the next day.”

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Canada's Barrett pours in 35 points in Duke's preseason win over U of T

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Duke Blue Devils’ R.J. Barrett holds the ball during their basketball exhibition game against University of Toronto Varsity Blues in Mississauga, Ont., on Aug. 17, 2018.

Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press

Canada’s young basketball star R.J. Barrett scored 35 points, while rookie teammate Zion Williamson added 24, to lead the Duke Blue Devils to a 96-60 preseason rout of the University of Toronto on Friday.

A two-man wrecking crew for the second consecutive game, Barrett and Williamson dazzled the crowd at the Paramount Fine Foods Centre in Barrett’s virtual backyard with a dizzying array of dunks – seemingly enough to fill a season’s worth of highlight reels.

Barrett, an 18-year-old from Mississauga, Ont., shot 15-for-26 from the field and grabbed nine rebounds.

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Joey Baker, with 11 points, was the only other Blue Devil to score in double figures. Barrett and Williamson received a standing ovation when they left the game with just under four minutes to play.

Nikola Paradina led the Varsity Blues with 15 points.

The game was the second of Duke’s three-game preseason Canadian tour, and the first trip north of the border in the storied program’s history. The Blue Devils beat the back-to-back Canadian university silver-medallist Ryerson Rams 86-67 on Wednesday, in Barrett’s much-anticipated college debut.

The arena – formerly the Hershey Centre, usually home to Raptors 905 – was filled to its 5,400-seat capacity for both games, and Friday’s crowd included Canadian sprinter and three-time Olympic medallist Andre De Grasse, Washington Capitals winger Devante Smith-Pelly, Las Vegas Golden Knights goalie Malcolm Subban and 10-time NBA all-star David Robinson, whose son Justin plays for Duke.

Just like Wednesday’s game, the arena was awash in Duke blue, thanks in part to a ticket presale to the school’s alumni.

The Blue Devils will travel to Montreal to face the McGill Redmen on Sunday.

Barrett and Williamson combined for 63 points in Wednedsay’s win, and over the two preseason games have provided a tantalizing preview of the upcoming NCAA season.

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Barrett and Williamson were ESPN’s No. 1- and 2-ranked freshmen, while Duke also boasts No. 3-ranked Cam Reddish, who hasn’t played yet due to injury. And while Barrett has been touted as the NBA’s No. 1 draft pick next spring, the six-foot-seven, 285-pound Williamson, a unique combination of bulk and splendid ball skills and athleticism, could give the Canadian a run for his money.

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