Signing with the hometown Toronto Blue Jays and playing for the Canadian Olympic Team are among the highlights of Greg O'Halloran's two-year pro career. But meeting Dunedin Blue Jays coach Garth Iorg rivals them both.
"The Blue Jays were the only team I ever watched," said O'Halloran, who grew up and attended high school in the Toronto suburb of Mississauga, Ontario. "I had never heard of any of the guys from the other teams, except for the superstars. But I knew all the old Jays. Meeting Garth Iorg was bigger than meeting anyone else. And meeting (former Dunedin manager) Doug Ault was a thrill, too."
The fact that O'Halloran didn't play high school baseball (his school didn't have a team) didn't hurt his development as a player. The Blue Jays had seen him play in several competitive summer leagues.
"Baseball was something I did in the summer when I wasn't playing hockey," O'Halloran said.
At 17, he caught the baseball bug in a big way when he made the Canadian National Junior Baseball Team, a traveling squad representing the best youth players the country had to offer.
"I remember that year I told my parents that I wanted to play in the major leagues, and everyone laughed," he said. "This winter I even found a journal I had kept where I had written what I said and how people told me, that's great Greg. Hope you do it. But nobody took me seriously."
But nobody chuckled when O'Halloran became the starting catcher for the 1988 Canadian Olympic Team _ the same team that handed the United States (a team that included current St. Petersburg Cardinals Mike Fiore and Mike Milchin) its only loss in the Seoul games.
After a season at Orange Coast (Calif.) Junior College, a school he discovered through a friend and borrowed $7,000 from an uncle to attend, O'Halloran began hearing from major league teams. The Philadelphia Phillies were interested. So were the Minnesota Twins, Milwaukee Brewers, and, of course, the Blue Jays.
O'Halloran knew who he wanted to play for. With a scholarship to the University of Illinois as leverage, O'Halloran told everyone but the Jays he wanted to go to school.
"I said the only thing I wanted to do was play big time college in the U.S.," he said.
Toronto made O'Halloran its 32nd pick in 1988, and he signed after the Olympics. He's been ranked among Toronto's top 10 prospects by Baseball America, and O'Halloran (.358 batting average, 22 runs scored) is certainly playing like one.
"I like playing the game," he said. "If I didn't, I wouldn't be here. I don't care if I was a No. 1 prospect, if I wasn't having fun I would get out."
Is he in a rush to get to the next level of the organization?
"The biggest thing for me to do is just take each game as it comes. I try to think about where I am now and try to do the best I can each day.
"If I think about where I want to be, or where I may be in the future, I'm thinking too far ahead."
O'Halloran, Timmons Honored: O'Halloran and Dunedin Blue Jays relief pitcher Mike Timlin were honored as the Toronto organization's Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Month respectively for April. It marked the first time two players from the same Jays minor league club had been honored as Toronto players of the month.
O'Halloran hit .370 for the month with two home runs and 22 RBI. Timlin went 4-0 in April with five saves and a 0.54 earned run average.
O'Halloran was also honored as the Florida State League's Player of the Week for April 22-28, hitting nearly .500.
Notes: St. Petersburg Cardinals catcher Tim Redman was promoted to Class AA Arkansas last week and the Cardinals filled that vacancy on the roster by acquiring catcher William Fielitz from Class A Savannah. Entering Saturday, Cardinal outfielder Lonnie Maclin's .377 average was second best in the league.
Clearwater Phillies' outfielder Pat Woodruff went 5 for 5 against Miami Thursday, driving in two runs in a 9-6 loss. The Phillies released pitcher Kevin Fynan and first baseman Jimmy Barragan last week. Barragan was signed in 1987 out of Oklahoma State and was considered a top prospect after a .318 season at rookie league Utica in '87. To replace Barragan, the Phillies called up 6-foot, 235-pound first baseman Brian Cummings from their extended spring training camp. Cummings hit 22 home runs in his two seasons with rookie league Batavia, but isn't certain he'll go on a tear in the Florida State League. "The parks are a lot bigger here," he said.
Tony Trevino was named the Philadelphia organization's Player of the Month for April. Trevino hit .292 with 14 RBI. The Cardinals placed relief pitcher Danny Hitt on the disabled list early last week with a broken hand. They then added left-hander Don Green from Class A Savannah. Another Cardinal reliever, Dean Weese (five saves), is among the league leaders in saves along with the Blue Jays' Mike Timlin (six saves).
The Cardinals had a five game win streak snapped Friday with a 5-2 loss to Fort Lauderdale. Phillies pitcher Andy Carter struck out 10 in just six innings in the Phils' 7-1 win over Winter Haven Friday.
They're rare, but the Blue Jays and Cardinals pulled off triple plays last week. The Jays' triple play came Friday against the Tigers. With runners on first and second and the score tied 3-3 in the seventh inning, Jays pitcher Vince Horsman leaped to snag a liner up the middle, then threw to second baseman Jeff Kent who then threw to first baseman Chris Beacom to complete the play. Dunedin went on to win the game. The Cardinals pulled off their triple play in a 5-0 win over the Yankees Saturday in Fort Lauderdale. With Yankees runners on first and second, Jay Knoblaugh lined to Cards first baseman Henry Hernandez who tagged first and threw to shortstop Tripp Cromer who tagged the runner sliding into second base.