At the inductee press conference that took place Saturday morning at St. Marys Town Hall, just up the hill from the second annual downtown street festival, former Montreal Expos manager Felipe Alou commented on what it’s like being inducted into the Canadian Hall as a Dominican.
“I’m kind of surprised they’re choosing me to be in the Hall of Fame of Canadian Baseball,” he said, noting that just five years ago he was inducted into the Latin American Baseball Hall of Fame. He went on to tell a story about taking a fishing trip once with the former French play-by-play radio voice for the Expos Jacques Doucet.
“The lake was closed and there was a truck stocking the fish with good-sized trout,” said Alou, 80. “We went up to them and asked how come they had closed it. The guy working there said, ‘Hey, that’s Felipe Alou!’ And he told me to put down my bucket.” The man, obviously an Expos fan, proceeded to fill the bucket up with five trout.
“Before this, I felt like I was sort of a French Canadian,” he said. “I believe there’s a feeling now that I belong to the entire country of Canada because of this induction. A lot of people went out of their way to make me feel good here,” he said. “I appreciate it.”
Alou, who managed the Expos from 1992 to 2001, called the honour “one of the greatest days” of his baseball career. “I had the privilege to play with my two older brothers, and managed my son on two Major League teams,” he said. “But, today is one of the best days of my professional career.”
Alou, along with former Blue Jays first baseman Carlos Delgado, was one of two non-Canadians who got the call to be a part of this year’s induction class, with Canadian inductees Matt Stairs, Corey Koskie, and Toronto Sun writer Bob Elliott.
Also at the pre-ceremony press conference, Stairs commented on the growth in the sport in Canada lately that has led to more and more Canadians playing in the MLB, and being drafted by big league teams.
“Canadians are getting more opportunities to play year round,” he said. “When I first signed, you signed as a free agent. You didn’t get drafted… The guys who have led the way of showing the talent in Canada have opened up a lot of eyes for scouts. Now you see international scouts coming to Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, wherever. Throughout Canada. That’s why you see guys being drafted.”
Sitting nearby, Koskie took that opportunity to point out that it had been the team captained by Canadians, not the one captained by Alou and Delgado, who had won the celebrity slo-pitch game the night before.
“I’m not Canadian, but Canada has been great to me,” Delgado said, explaining how he went through the minor league system playing for Toronto before the Blue Jays gave him the opportunity to be a major leaguer.
“I’m grateful for that opportunity,” he said. “I’m grateful for the support the country has shown me over the years. The fans kind of adopted me and made me feel like home.”
Koskie called Elliott, who was happy mainly to just observe the goings on throughout the day (until his chance to speak onstage during the induction ceremony), “an icon in Canadian baseball.” Each of the other inductees had long histories with the sportswriter, dating back to some of their earliest days in the Major Leagues and earlier, and commented on his ability to tell the truth (for better or worse).
“Now that I’m press – and I never thought I’d say that – Bob is somebody I always look forward to talking to,” said Stairs, who is now a broadcaster in Philadelphia for the team he propelled to a 2008 World Series title.