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Blue Jays alumni bring lessons, funding to Paradise baseball diamond

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Just five years removed from his days as a power-hitting catcher with the Toronto Blue Jays, J.P. Arencibia was on the field in Paradise this week to teach kids the fundamentals.

He brought a small roster of Blue Jays alumni with him, along with a $150,000 cheque from the Jays Care Foundation.

The money will be used to put lights on the Peter Barry Duff Field so the growing Paradise Phantoms minor baseball organization can extend its schedule into the evenings.

"It's awesome what they do," Arencibia said of the foundation.

"It's an amazing thing to still be able to put on a uniform and come out here and affect the lives of kids and teach the game of baseball."

Joined by Jays from different eras

Arencibia was joined by Homer Bush, Jesse Barfield, Denis Boucher and Brian MacRae — all former Jays of different eras since the 1980s.

"These guys really know everything when it comes to baseball," said Paradise Phantoms peewee player Kody Thistle.

"It's been really fun to learn from all these great people and listen to all the inspiring things they had to say."

Kody Thistle swings at a whiffle ball in a batting drill at the Toronto Blue Jays Honda Super Camp in Paradise on Friday. (Ryan Cooke/CBC)

The addition of lights on the field will make things safer for the kids, who said they sometimes run into issues during evening games.

"When the ball is coming we can't really see it, so when the lights are on we'll be able to see it better," said Phantoms player Max Carter. 

"It's gonna be good."

Growing the game

Part of the mandate for the alumni is to help grow the sport across the country. They are making 14 stops nationwide this summer, with camps sponsored by Honda in each town.

"I like to visualize things in five-year increments," said Bush, who went into coaching after his retirement in 2005. 

"I'd like to see what baseball is going to look like [here] in five years, especially having some big-time superstar players from Canada in the big leagues."

Homer Bush ran an infielding clinic on Friday, teaching kids the best ways to turn double plays. (Ryan Cooke/CBC)

As much fun as it is for the kids, it's also fun for the players — travelling across Canada to towns they likely would have never visited otherwise.

"Yesterday I took a trip out to Cape Spear, so I was as far east as possible, and last week I was in Nanaimo [B.C.], so I was on the other side of the country," Arencibia said.

"The one thing that's very awesome about this opportunity is we do get to see a lot of the country."

J.P. Arencibia watches as a young player takes a few swings during a skills camp at Peter Barry Duff Field in Paradise. (Ryan Cooke/CBC)

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Koivu has three points as Wild rout Canucks

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ST. PAUL, Minn. — Mikko Koivu had a goal and two assists, and the surging Minnesota Wild beat the road-weary Vancouver Canucks 6-2 on Thursday night.

Eric Staal had a goal and an assist, and Charlie Coyle, Nino Niederreiter, Matt Dumba and Jason Zucker also scored for the Wild, who had a season high in goals. Ryan Suter had two assists, and Devan Dubnyk made 25 saves. Minnesota has won four of five and 11 of 14.

Bo Horvat and Markus Granlund scored for Vancouver, which lost three straight in regulation to conclude its second six-game road trip of the season. The Canucks have played a league-high 14 road games, double its number of home contests.

Koivu scored one of the easiest goals of his 14-year career on the power play to make it 2-0 less than eight minutes into the game. Canucks goalie Richard Bachman passed from behind his net directly to Koivu feet from an empty net.

The goal came just over two minutes after the Wild captain assisted on Minnesota’s opening tally by Coyle.

Koivu has 10 points, including two goals, in his last six games.

Bachman, who played last season and the start of this season with AHL Utica, was in goal for Vancouver for the first time since April 9, 2017. He made 23 saves.

Jacob Markstrom started the nine previous games, Anders Nilsson remains out with a fractured finger and top prospect Thatcher Demko is out with post-concussion symptoms. Nilsson took some shots during morning skate but has not been medically cleared to play.

With Vancouver’s spotty defence, Bachman was forced to make sprawling saves, and a couple other pucks trickled just wide, especially late in the first.

On the power play, Niederreiter redirected Koivu’s pass 1:46 into the second for a 3-0 lead.

Horvat got the Canucks within 3-1 with a power-play goal later in the period, but Staal scored on a wraparound 36 seconds later to restore the three-goal lead.

Dumba’s shot from the blue line beat a screened Bachman late in the period. It was his seventh goal of the season, one behind Toronto’s Morgan Rielly for the league high by a defenceman.

NOTES: Wild LW Zach Parise missed the game with an illness. C Matt Hendricks, who’s missed 11 of 12 games with a lower-body injury, returned. … Minnesota is tied with Ottawa with a league-best 17 goals scored by defencemen. … Horvat leads the Canucks with 18 points, including 10 goals. … Vancouver rookie C Elias Pettersson, who has 10 goals and 17 assists, was held pointless for the fourth straight game.

UP NEXT

Canucks: Start two-game homestand Saturday against Montreal

Wild: Host Buffalo on Saturday

___

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WARREN GAME REPORT: Sens' Batherson scores winner in NHL debut, Anderson closes the door

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Senators 2, Red Wings 1

The firsts never seem to end for the Ottawa Senators.

The game-winner Thursday night at the Canadian Tire Centre came off the stick of Drake Batherson, who scored his first NHL goal in his first NHL game. Batherson’s second-period power-play goal broke a 1-1 tie and the Senators nursed that tender 2-1 lead home for the final 33 minutes.

“I guess you couldn’t draw it up any better,” he said. “To score a goal in my first NHL game is something I’ve dreamed of since I was a kid. Scoring my first goal and having my whole family here. It was a special night.”

What made it all the more special is that goaltender Craig Anderson closed the door with the rarest of third-period performances. He stopped two — yes, two — third-period penalty shots to keep the Senators ahead.

Cody Ceci also scored for the Senators, while Michael Rasmussen replied for the Red Wings.

The first Red Wings penalty shot came was taken by Andreas Athanasiou with 10:50 remaining. The second was from Rasmussen with 4:01 left on the clock. Athanasiou was awarded his shot after being slashed by Cody Ceci. Rasmussen was given his attempt following a trip by Chris Wideman.

It was the first time the Senators had faced two penalty shots in the same game, let alone the same period.

“Their guys were on breakaways and we did everything we could to try and disrupt it,” said Anderson.

“It’s a penalty shot, so at least you know it’s one-on-one. You try and stay focused and not worry about the call or the penalty and what happened. Some mistakes are made that create that breakaway for the penalty shot, but you can’t worry about that.”

The Senators controlled the game for much of the first two periods, outshooting the Red Wings 28-19. The final tally was 36-35 in favour of the Senators, showcasing just how hard Detroit pushed in the third.

But if not for the play of Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard, the Senators could and probably should have been two or three goals ahead by the end of the second.


Drake Batherson (79) celebrates his first NHL goal with teammate Mikkel Boedker.

Sean Kilpatrick /

THE CANADIAN PRESS

Rasmussen’s goal, a deflection of a Mike Green point shot past Anderson, had tied the game 1-1 early in the second period.

Coming in, the Senators had the benefit of rest, improved health and new blood.

Idle from game action since splitting a pair in Florida last weekend, the Senators welcomed back Zack Smith, who suffered a broken bone in his face on Oct. 26.

Batherson, who was called up from Belleville of the AHL after scoring seven goals and 13 assists in 14 games, was also inserted into lineup, with Max McCormick sitting out as a healthy scratch. On defence, rookie Christian Jaros sat out for the first time since being recalled from Belleville on Oct. 13, a stretch of 14 games.

While the Senators have been on a roller-coaster ride in the early going of the season, the Red Wings entered the CTC on a roll following a weak start. Before meeting the Senators, they had won four in a row and seven of their previous eight, climbing out of the Atlantic Division basement.

Athanasiou had strung together three consecutive one-goal, one-assist efforts.

For all that, the Red Wings came out sleepy and the Senators jumped on them.

An early Dylan DeMelo goal was disallowed — after video replay, it was deemed that Batherson had interfered with Howard — but Ceci scored with 31 seconds remaining, allowing the Senators to carry a 1-0 lead into the intermission.

Anderson wasn’t overly busy, but he stoned Justin Abdelkader in close with 2:30 remaining. Earlier in the period, Abdelkader lost a fight to Brady Tkachuk and was levelled by an open-ice hit from Mark Borowiecki.


Ottawa Senators defenceman Chris Wideman (6) blasts the puck past Detroit Red Wings left-winger Darren Helm (43).

Sean Kilpatrick /

THE CANADIAN PRESS

ROOKIE RALLY

With Batherson becoming the third Senator to make his NHL debut this season (joining Max Lajoie and Tkachuk), we took a closer look at how big an impact the Senators’ newcomers are having this season. Batherson also joins Lajoie in that rare group of players who have scored in their first big-league game.

Ottawa’s rookies (players who had played fewer than 25 games before the season started) had combined for a league-leading 17 goals and 30 points. Chicago is next up with 22 points, followed by Anaheim with 21 points and Vancouver with 19. Elias Pettersson, who appears to be a lock to win the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year, has 17 of those 19.

Nine NHL teams have yet to receive a goal from a rookie.

“It’s tough to rely on youth all the time, but we still have some older guys in here that are pulling their weight, too,” said Duchene, who is producing at better than a point-per-game pace. “We’re still really young as a team. There’s a lot to be excited about, but we haven’t done anything. We’re not where we want to be, but we’re going to keep pushing until we get there.”

WHAT ABOUT ZADINA?

On the topic of rookies, Detroit came to town without Filip Zadina, who was drafted sixth overall by the Red Wings in June. After being passed over by Montreal (who chose Jesperi Kotkaniemi) and Ottawa (who took Tkachuk), Zadina famously said, “I was telling my agent, if they will pass on me, I’m going to fill their nets with pucks.”


Ottawa Senators goaltender Craig Anderson, who stopped two third-period penalty shots, celebrates a 2-1 win as Detroit Red Wings right-winger Gustav Nyquist (14) skates past.

Sean Kilpatrick /

THE CANADIAN PRESS

Great line, but right now Zadina is trying to fill American Hockey League nets with pucks. In 14 games with Grand Rapids, he has six goals and four assists. Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill says Zadina struggled with the “time and space” in the NHL during the pre-season and the organization will not rush his development.

“We will not bring him up until he’s ready to be a full-time NHL impact player and there will be shortcuts to the process here,” said Blashill.

AND THE OTHER TOP PICKS?

For those counting, first overall selection Rasmus Dahlin has one goal and six assists with Buffalo, second pick Andrei Svechnikov has tallied four goals and four assists with Carolina, Kotkaniemi has three goals and six assists with the Canadiens and Tkachuk went into Thursday’s contest with four goals and four assists in seven games. Centre Barrett Hayton, drafted fifth overall by Arizona, has eight goals and 13 assists in 14 games with Sault Ste. Marie in the Ontario Hockey League.


Ottawa Senators defenceman Chris Wideman (6), right, defends against the Detroit Red Wings Justin Abdelkader (8), middle left, and Luke Glendening (41).

Sean Kilpatrick /

THE CANADIAN PRESS

WATCHING CHABOT

 Thomas Chabot doesn’t qualify for rookie status because he had played 64 games before this season, but that also means he’s one year closer to restricted free agency.

We bring this up because Arizona’s Jakob Chychrun, who was a pending RFA, signed a six-year, $27.6-million extension earlier this week.

Chychrun is a solid player with great bloodlines — his father, Jeff, was a well-respected NHL tough guy and a fantastic shortstop growing up on the ball diamonds in Nepean — and the Coyotes clearly foresee a long future with him.

But if this is the going rate for players with that skill, stats and age — Noah Hanifin signed a six-year, $29.7-million deal in August — how high is too high when Chabot’s RFA status kicks in following the 2019-20 season? Some numbers to ponder: Chychrun had scored 11 goals and 23 assists in 119 games before signing; Hanifin scored 18 goals and 65 assists in 239 games in his first three seasons before signing.

Chabot, meanwhile, entered Thursday’s game with 14 goals and 33 assists in his first 82 games.

Before Senators general manager Pierre Dorion can go there, of course, he must deal with the pending unrestricted free agency status of Mark Stone, Duchene and Ryan Dzingel.

Clearly, the cycle of signing stresses never really ends for big-league GMs.

CAGE MATCH

Smith, to Senators content producer Craig Medaglia when asked about the potential advantages of wearing a full cage: “From what I’ve noticed, some guys who wear cages seem to grow six inches and become a little tougher … it (has) got its drawbacks, but I guess it has got its benefits, too. You are more protected around the net. You don’t have to worry about our (defencemen) shooting high when you’ve got a full cage.”

PERSPECTIVE IS EVERYTHING

So you’ve had a tough day or rough week and you’re maybe thinking you’re dealing with too much stress at home or at the office? Do yourself a favour and check out the story of 13-year-old Julia Miller, a cancer survivor who dropped the puck, surrounded by her Kanata Rangers teammates,  before Thursday’s Hockey Fights Cancer game at the CTC. How about five rounds of chemotherapy, including 10 consecutive days of treatments at one stretch? For more details, you can find a full interview with the incredibly well-spoken Julia at TSN 1200-AM. Word to the wise: Keep a box of tissues nearby. You might just shed a tear or two.

kwarren@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/Citizenkwarren

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Harden scores 27 as Rockets rout Warriors

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HOUSTON — James Harden scored 27 points and the Houston Rockets routed the Golden State Warriors 107-86 on Thursday night in a rematch of last season’s Western Conference finals.

The Rockets (7-7), who announced before the game that they were “parting ways” with 10-time All-Star Carmelo Anthony, have won three straight and six of their last eight games after starting 1-5 to reach .500 for the first time since they were 1-1.

The Warriors, who were without Stephen Curry for the fourth straight game, have lost two of their last three. Curry has already been ruled out for Golden State’s next two games because of a groin injury.

Houston had a 13-point lead at the end of the third and opened the fourth quarter with a 12-2 run to make it 88-65 and spur Golden State coach Steve Kerr to call a timeout. The Warriors had two shots blocked and committed two loose ball fouls in that span to help Houston pad the lead. The Rockets got 3-pointers from James Ennis and Isaiah Hartenstein to cap the run.

The Rockets then scored the first nine points after the timeout, with six from Ennis, to make it 97-65 midway through the quarter and put the game out of reach. Both teams cleared their benches a couple of minutes after that.

Kevin Durant had 20 points for the Warriors on a night they were just 4 of 18 on 3-pointers.

Draymond Green had five rebounds and five assists in his return after serving a one-game team-imposed suspension for a dustup with Durant in Monday night’s overtime loss to the Clippers. Green addressed the situation for the first time after shootaround but did not apologize for his actions in the heated exchange.

He said he and Durant had spoken and that they were “moving forward.”

“I think there’s no secret that I am an emotional player,” he said. “I wear my emotions on my sleeve. I play with that same emotion. Sometimes they get the best of me. And (if) it doesn’t work to my favour I’m going to live with that.”

While the Warriors dealt with the drama between Green and Durant, the Rockets were left to answer questions about the decision to move on from Anthony.

Anthony played just 10 games for the Rockets after signing a one-year, $2.4 million deal during the off-season.

“In the summer we tried to hit a home run and it didn’t work out,” coach Mike D’Antoni said. “He tried everything he could. He was great while he was here. It just didn’t work out for whatever reason. I just thank him for his professionalism. It was good. He tried everything he could to make it work and it just didn’t work out.”

The Rockets led by six at halftime and opened the third quarter with a 7-2 run to stretch the lead to 54-43.

Harden scored five straight points to make it 63-47 after his 3-pointer with about 5 1/2 minutes left in the quarter.

Golden State got going on offence after that, using an 8-2 spurt to get within 65-55 a couple of minutes later.

Gary Clark ended the run with a 3-pointer, and two more 3s by him within a minute of each other late in the third extended the lead to 76-59. It was 76-63 headed to the fourth.

TIP-INS

Warriors: Curry was with the Warriors on the trip but it’s unclear when he’ll return. “We’re going to be very, very careful, and obviously he’s going to need plenty of court time before he returns,” coach Steve Kerr said. “When I say court time, I mean live action. He hasn’t had that.”… Kevon Looney scored a season-high 12 points.

Rockets: Gerald Green returned after missing the last two games with a sprained ankle. … Ennis finished with 19 points and Eric Gordon had 17 off the bench. … Houston made 16 of 47 3-pointers.

UP NEXT

Warriors: Visit Dallas on Saturday night.

Rockets: Host Sacramento on Saturday night.

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