|World Series champ featured at banquet|
|Local Content - Local Sports|
|Written by Greg Price|
|Wednesday, 06 February 2013 18:46|
Still just under a month away, the Vauxhall Academy of Baseball fundraising and awards banquet is already generating plenty of buzz.
“We’re probably over half way sold out already so I think we’re doing pretty well for ticket sales,” said Les McTavish in an interview with the Times last Wednesday, head coach of the Vauxhall Academy of Baseball Jets, of the banquet which goes March 2 at the Vauxhall Community Hall.
Part of the buzz comes from the banquet’s featured guest speaker Duane Ward, which will get many a Blue Jays fan excited.
“It is as recognizable of a name as we’ve ever had at the banquet. He’s won a couple of World Series, he’s been a Major League all-star, he’s a first-round draft pick. He’s obviously had a lot of success in his career,” said McTavish. “We’re excited especially with the Blue Jays buzz that is going on with the moves they did in the offseason. There is as much buzz about the Blue Jays as there ever has been. I’m excited about the banquet.”
In Ward’s senior year of high school he was drafted in the first round of the 1982 amateur draft by the Atlanta Braves and was one of the hardest throwers in the United States. He made his Major League debut on April 12, 1986, but after limited success with the Braves he was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays on July 6 for pitcher Doyle Alexander.
Ward became one of the Jays' most dependable middle relievers in 1988, and remained in the role through the 1992 season, when the Blue Jays won their first World Series championship. “Wardo” as he was often referred to, featured a live, mid-90s fastball and a nasty hard slider.
After years of being in Tom Henke's shadow, Ward took over the closer's role in 1993. The Blue Jays again won the World Series, and Ward posted a league-best 45 saves, tying him with Jeff Montgomery of the Kansas City Royals.
Ward set the Toronto Blue Jays' single-season record for saves with 45 in 1993.
The rest of Ward's career was beset by injuries and he would never save another Major League game after 1993.
After missing the entire 1994 season due to biceps tendinitis, he retired from the Toronto Blue Jays after pitching four games during the 1995 season. He finished with a 3.28 ERA and 121 saves.
In the 1992 and 1993 World Series Duane pitched in eight games, had eight innings pitched, had a 3-0 record, with 13 strikeouts and one walk. Duane retired after a 10-year MLB career which included a 3.28 career ERA, 121 saves, two World Series Championships, and one American League All-Star selection.
Auction items of note for the fundraising portion include a Tim Lincecum signed and framed picture, a signed Joe Montana football jersey, a Cal Ripken Jr. signed jersey, an Andre Dawson bat, and a Jonathan Toews hockey jersey.
For the first time ever with the VAB, there will also be a Trip of a Lifetime online auction.
“It is a trip for two, possibly four where they have the option. It’s a trip to Phoenix for the World Baseball Classic and everything else is going to be done first class where you’ll have limo rides and fourth-row tickets right behind the Canadian team dugout,” said McTavish, adding there are plenty of other perks to go around for the Thursday-to-Monday excursion from March 7-11.
“We have NHL hockey tickets for the Coyotes and Blues. You’ll have an option every day of what you’d like to do, you can golf, or go to a ball game. At night you can go to a ball game or go to the Suns/Rockets basketball game. Every day there are options of what you want to do sports related.”
The online bidding ends tomorrow with the details being found on the academy’s website at www.vauxhallbaseball.com. The current high bid as of Monday afternoon was $3,500.
“If the people don’t want to do the option from two to four people, there will also be a trip for two auctioned off live at our banquet.”
The banquet has grown in stature over the years where it has transcended local interest and well into southern Alberta and beyond.
“We continue to want to open our arms up and make sure, Taber, Enchant and Hays and all the other communities around feel welcome and involved,” said McTavish. “Obviously, Lethbridge and Calgary are good draws for us. It’s a fundraising banquet, but at the same time it is a celebration of our players and they need to be recognized for the awards they win. Like always, the Reno Lizzi scholarship is the pinnacle and the driving force behind that is Barbara Yuki Kitagawa.”
Tickets for the Vauxhall Academy of Baseball fundraising and awards banquet are $60 a ticket or $450 for a table of eight.