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Maple Leafs razzing Matthews ahead of first pitch: ‘Maybe he puts one in the dirt’ – Sportsnet.ca

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TORONTO — Auston Matthews is under fire to bring the heat.

The NHL’s reigning MVP and former Arizona Little Leaguer is set to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at Tuesday’s Toronto Blue Jays–New York Yankees game.

And if there wasn’t enough pressure to avoid a 50 Cent moment at a packed Rogers Centre, what with the Jays gathering playoff momentum and Aaron Judge barreling toward history, Matthews’ teammates are doing their best to get in the pitcher’s head.

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“It’ll be fun if he does chunk it or throw like (poop),” Mitch Marner chides. “It would be quite funny.

“Yeah, we’re gonna get on Auston tonight. Make sure that he knows he’s gotta throw some heat in there, and there’s some high expectations.”

Because Judge is sitting at 60 home runs (hey, the same number of goals Matthews scored last season), just one shy of tying Roger Marris’s Yankees and American League record, Leafs defenceman Morgan Rielly is predicting a few chirpping Leafs will be part of a packed dome.

“I think it’s going to be pretty packed because of what Judge is chasing. So, there might be a little bit extra pressure. He was talking about using some Spider Tack, so we’ll get the umps out and make sure it’s legal,” says Rielly, wryly.

“I think you got to put a little pressure on him. Maybe he puts one in the dirt. That’d be nice.”

Has Rielly ever seen Matthews throw?

“I mean, we don’t exactly play a lot of catch. But I know he’s a good athlete, so I’m sure he’ll be fine,” Rielly replies. “Might throw some off-speed stuff.”

Matthews knows what his buddies are up to, with all their encouragement to light up the gun.

“Maybe embarrass myself?” Matthews says of their objective. “I wasn’t much of a pitcher, honestly. I had a pretty wild arm, so I usually caught. I pitched a little bit, but not very good.

“I’d like to think growing up and playing that I have a decent throw. I should be able to get it there, I think.”

Matthews’ roots in the American pastime are legit.

His father, Brian, was a strong pitcher in his day. And Matthews himself played competitively — including one season of travel ball — until age 13, when he ultimately chose hockey after missing too many baseball practices.

In his youth, Matthews’ specialty was Judge’s — the long ball. A strength the lefthanded hitter showed off back in 2017 at Rogers Centre, when he crushed a home run taking batting practice:

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“Growing up, my dad always told me the hardest thing in sports is to hit a little white baseball coming at you 100 miles an hour,” says Matthews, who knows a thing or two about crushing longstanding team records. “So, it’s pretty cool to see what (Judge) has been able to do and the history of that franchise and how far back it goes.

“It seems like the last two months this guy is hitting homers every night.”

How far Matthews will go Tuesday is all the way to the rubber. He won’t cheat and lob his pitch in front of the mound, although Marner has warned him that the bump will make the toss more difficult.

Marner recalls his own first pitch, in June of 2017.

“I was too nervous to kind of throw some heat,” Marner admits. “I was nervous as hell.”

Marner was too shook to trot all the way out to the mound, until he got some advice and some guilt from the Blue Jays players.

“They’re telling me how serious it is and that (extra) couple feet is how people ground the balls into home plate. I wasn’t gonna do it,” Marner says.

“Then Marcus Stroman forced me to do it, which ended up being a lot cooler of a moment. A cooler feeling, seeing how they really feel up there and how lonely it is and how far it is.”

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Matthews plans to warm up well before his big moment tonight. He doesn’t want to give Marner, Rielly and the boys any dressing-room ammunition with an errant throw.

“I wasn’t much of a pitcher, honestly. I had a pretty wild arm, so I usually caught. I pitched a little bit, but not very good,” Matthews says.

“It’s been a minute since I’ve thrown a baseball, but I’m looking forward to it.”

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Croatian coach feels disrespected by Canadian coach's comment at FIFA World Cup – Toronto Sun

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DOHA, Qatar — Croatia head coach Zlatko Dalic said he felt disrespected by Canada head coach John Herdman for his comment in a group huddle following a loss to Belgium on Wednesday.

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After the emotional 1-0 loss at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, Herdman gathered his troops on the field and gave an impassioned speech.

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When asked following the game what he told his team, Herdman admitted he told his group to ‘F’ Croatia, in reference to Canada’s second game at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

On the eve of the game Sunday (11 a.m. ET) at the Khalifa International Stadium, Croatian coach Zlatko Zlatko Dalic was again asked about the comment at the pre-match press conference here on Saturday.

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“Canadians must have respect for us and this way of putting words together is not a sign of respect,” Dalic said through an interpreter. “We are the runners up (2018 World Cup), it wasn’t Brazil or Spain or any other country. We are the runners up, we were second in the world, we are worth of respect the way we played, the way we behave, the way we respect all others, is the reason we are worthy or respect.

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“I shall not focus or comment on other people’s comment. We will be prepared, be fit and we will demonstrate respect from Canada and from everyone else. We expect respect just as we exercise this view.”

Croatia was a surprising World Cup finalist four years ago in Russia, beating England in the semifinal before losing to France. Along the way, Croatia also beat Argentina in the group stage.

Croatia was held to a scoreless draw in its opening match by Morocco on Wednesday. Croatia concluded the group stage against Belgium on Thursday.

“The Croatia team deserves respect from everyone; we have proven that by the way we’ve played with our conduct at the World Cup; since the very beginning we’ve deserved respect and dignity,” Dalic said. “We have two (World Cup) medals in the last 30 years and we’re up there with Germany and France and countries like that have such an achievement. We respect everyone equally so we expect our opposing teams to respect us. We are worth of their respect.”

Croatia striker Ivan Perisic was also asked for his thoughts on Herdman’s comments.

“I second the head coach,” he said. “And I cannot wait for the match to begin.”

Email: dvandiest@postmedia.com

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Canada coach Herdman jokes about Croatian tabloid – CTV News

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DOHA, Qatar –

Canada had just lost its first World Cup match in 36 years, outplaying Belgium for much of a 1-0 defeat, and an emotional John Herdman revealed in the on-field interview what he had just told his players during a postgame huddle.

“I told them they belong here. And we’re going to go and F Croatia,” the coach said with a smile, using a single letter to avoid a televised profanity. “That’s as simple as it gets.”

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His words reveberated all the way to Zagreb as Sunday’s Croatia-Canada game approached.

Croatia’s 24 Sata (24 Hours) tabloid ran a fullpage photo of a naked Herdman with Maple Leaf flags over his mouth and private parts and a headline that translated to: “You have the mouth, but do you have the (guts) as well?”

Commenting Saturday on Herdman’s words, Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic used the word “respect” 13 times in a 90-second span.

“This way of putting words together is not a sign of respect,” he said through a translator. “The way we play, the way we behave and the way we respect all others are the reasons we are worthy of respect.”

Sitting next to Dalic, winger Ivan Perisic said simply: “I second the head coach and I cannot wait for the match to begin.”

Speaking before Dalic, Herdman used humour in an attempt to defuse tensions.

“When you get a text from your wife telling me you need to start working out before you get home, yeah, you think you know something’s going on,” Herdman said, noting the newspaper image was of a trimmer midsection than his own.

“My wife’s coming after you guys,” he told a reporter from that Croatian paper, laughing. “She wishes she got that guy. I’ve got a bit more of a belly than that. I’ve been eating too much.”

On Thursday, Herdman had explained what his intent was.

“You say those things in an impassioned moment trying to inspire your team in a huddle, and when you’re asked the question what you said in that huddle, yeah, it was what I said,” he said.

“It’s not massively respectful to Croatian people and the Croatian national team. I understand very well where they’re at on the world stage. But in that moment, you’ve taken your men to that next place,” he added.

Playing Croatia for the first time, Canada could be eliminated with another defeat.

Croatia, which lost the 2018 final to France, is the world’s 12th-ranked team and opened with a 0-0 draw against Morocco. Star Luka Modric, playing what is likely his last World Cup at age 37, put a first-half shot over the crossbar.

Canada has played just four World Cup games in its history and still is searching for its first goal. The Canadians outshot the Belgians 21-9 but gave up a 44th-minute goal to Michy Batshuayi from a long pass. Alphonso Davies had a chance to put Canada ahead in the 11th minute but his penalty kick was saved by goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

“We know exactly what our slingshot is and we’ve got to be ready to attack that across different games now because, as I say, the cover’s off from Canada,” Herdman said. “I think people come into this game, the next games respecting us a little bit more.”

Captain Atiba Hutchinson, at 39 the only member of the current roster alive when Canada went 0-3 at the 1986 World Cup, can make his 100th international appearance Sunday — Julian de Guzman is second with 89.

Midfielder Jonathan Osorio is looking forward to facing the last World Cup’s runner-up.

“We like to play the best,” he said after the Belgium match. “We’re excited for the challenge.”

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‘We don’t fear anybody’: Canada ready for Croatia challenge at World Cup – Sportsnet.ca

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