After graduating from McMaster University a couple of years ago, I departed for Ottawa and did an internship with the Ottawa Lynx, the Triple-A affiliate (at the time) of the Baltimore Orioles. It was a great experience, and I got the chance to share a press box with some fine people, including — but not limited to — Brian Morris, Darren Desaulniers and Barre Campbell. There were several highlights that season, including yours truly catching a foul pop up through the window of the press box on the second-to-last game of the season (and then proceeding to do some sort of touchdown dance).
Another highlight came during a four-game series in May (2005), in which the Charlotte Knights were in town. That series marked the first time that Frank Thomas had seen action since July 6, 2004. Thomas, who suffered an ankle injury on that date and underwent season-ending surgery, completed an 11-game rehab assignment before rejoining the White Sox.
I was on the field during pre-game activities, and turned to see Thomas emerge from the visitor’s dugout, stopping at the top step. In a moment that seemed eerily similar to a certain movie, Thomas looked out at beautiful Lynx Stadium and wondered aloud, "Is this heaven?" to which I replied, "No, it’s Ottawa."
Okay, that didn’t happen. But Thomas did have a successful return to the field that evening, going 2-for-3 with a walk and a pair of runs scored. The walk, which came in the fifth inning, proved quite interesting. Those in the press box had already counted four balls, yet Thomas remained at the plate. It took a fifth ball before home plate umpire Josh Miller awarded him first base. Thomas, himself, thought he had only received four balls, but that was not the case. A forgotten ball in the dirt accounted for the mysterious fifth ball. Anyways …
During the four-game set, Thomas went 4-for-15 at the plate as the designated hitter. "It’s always good to have a Hall of Famer around, even if he’s at three-quarters or half speed," said Knights manager Nick Leyva. "It’s good for the young to see Frank in here at 1:30 every day working on stuff and getting ready and doing what he needs to do to be successful. Hopefully some of it will rub off on them."
Wait a minute, Nick Leyva? Yep, that’s the same Nick Leyva who was seen jumping up and down like a little boy and hugging Joe Carter as the latter rounded third base after launching a World Series-winning homer for the Toronto Blue Jays back in 1993. See … it always comes back to the Blue Jays.