Following the 2022 Toronto Maple Leafs baseball season.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Toronto Maple Leafs' 2023 Schedule Released


This summer, fans at Christie Pits will notice new space-age metal seating.

The winds of change continue to whip through the Toronto Maple Leafs baseball club.

Last season was the first without longtime owner Jack Dominico at the helm.  A group of four individuals was tasked with shepherding the organization into the post-Jack era.  For the second year in a row, the Leafs made it to the IBL Championship Series, but the Dominico Cup eluded their grasp.

More changes are coming this summer.  With the offseason departures of Damon Topolie, Roger Lajoie and Ryan Eakin, the front office has been almost completely vacated.  New faces will fill those roles.

There are expected to be new faces in Leaf uniforms once the 2023 season begins.  This is always the case, as is the organization's tendency to play its cards close to the chest when it comes to roster announcements.

Fans will also see something new at Christie Pits this summer.  Some structural changes were spotted by a longtime fan who swung by the Pits in December, and who remarked: 

"New.  Bleachers.  Yup.  New metal bleachers, by the way, which means during the summer Sunday afternoons, we get to fry our asses, like the bacon that accompanies my eggs for dinner during Wednesday night games."

Permission to start dreaming!

Fans can plan their visits to the Pits on Sundays starting on May 14th.  The Leafs will play 21 regular season home games, including six Wednesday Nighters.

Here's the full schedule.

Sun May 14 - London Majors vs Toronto Maple Leafs - 2:00 PM Dominico Field at Christie Pits

Thu May 18 - Toronto Maple Leafs @ Barrie Baycats - 7:35 PM

Sat May 20 - Toronto Maple Leafs @ London Majors - 1:05 PM

Sun May 21 - Guelph Royals vs Toronto Maple Leafs - 2:00 PM Dominico Field at Christie Pits

Thu May 25 - Toronto Maple Leafs @ Kitchener Panthers - 7:30 PM

Sat May 27 - Toronto Maple Leafs @ Brantford Red Sox - 8:00 PM

Sun May 28 - Welland Jackfish vs Toronto Maple Leafs - 2:00 PM Dominico Field at Christie Pits

Wed May 31 - Kitchener Panthers vs Toronto Maple Leafs - 7:30 PM Dominico Field at Christie Pits

Fri Jun 2 - Toronto Maple Leafs @ Hamilton Cardinals - 7:35 PM

Sun Jun 4 - Hamilton Cardinals vs Toronto Maple Leafs - 2:00 PM Dominico Field at Christie Pits

Fri Jun 9 - Toronto Maple Leafs @ Hamilton Cardinals - 7:35 PM

Sat Jun 10 - Toronto Maple Leafs @ Welland Jackfish - 6:05 PM

Sun Jun 11 - Guelph Royals vs Toronto Maple Leafs - 2:00 PM Dominico Field at Christie Pits

Wed Jun 14 - Barrie Baycats vs Toronto Maple Leafs - 7:30 PM Dominico Field at Christie Pits

Fri Jun 16 - Toronto Maple Leafs @ London Majors 7:35 PM

Sun Jun 18 - Brantford Red Sox vs Toronto Maple Leafs - 2:00 PM Dominico Field at Christie Pits

Thu Jun 22 - Toronto Maple Leafs @ Barrie Baycats - 7:35 PM

Sat Jun 24 - Toronto Maple Leafs @ Brantford Red Sox - 8:00 PM

Sun Jun 25 - Welland Jackfish vs Toronto Maple Leafs - 2:00 PM Dominico Field at Christie Pits

Wed Jun 28 - Barrie Baycats vs Toronto Maple Leafs - 7:30 PM Dominico Field at Christie Pits

Sat Jul 1 - Toronto Maple Leafs @ Guelph Royals - 1:00 PM

Sun Jul 2 - London Majors vs Toronto Maple Leafs - 2:00 PM Dominico Field at Christie Pits

Wed Jul 5 - Kitchener Panthers vs Toronto Maple Leafs - 7:30 PM Dominico Field at Christie Pits

Thu Jul 6 - Toronto Maple Leafs @ Kitchener Panthers - 7:30 PM

Sat Jul 8 - Toronto Maple Leafs @ Welland Jackfish - 6:05 PM

Sun Jul 9 - Hamilton Cardinals vs Toronto Maple Leafs - 2:00 PM Dominico Field at Christie Pits

Wed Jul 12 - Barrie Baycats vs Toronto Maple Leafs - 7:30 PM Dominico Field at Christie Pits

Sat Jul 15 - Toronto Maple Leafs @ Brantford Red Sox - 8:00 PM

Sun Jul 16 - Welland Jackfish vs Toronto Maple Leafs - 2:00 PM Dominico Field at Christie Pits

Sat Jul 22 - Toronto Maple Leafs @ Guelph Royals - 7:30 PM

Sun Jul 23 - Brantford Red Sox vs Toronto Maple Leafs - 2:00 PM Dominico Field at Christie Pits

Wed Jul 26 - Kitchener Panthers vs Toronto Maple Leafs - 7:30 PM Dominico Field at Christie Pits

Sat Jul 29 - Toronto Maple Leafs @ Welland Jackfish - 6:05 PM

Sun Jul 30 - Hamilton Cardinals vs Toronto Maple Leafs - 2:00 PM Dominico Field at Christie Pits

Fri Aug 4 - Toronto Maple Leafs @ London Majors - 7:35 PM

Sun Aug 6 - London Majors vs Toronto Maple Leafs - 2:00 PM Dominico Field at Christie Pits

Thu Aug 10 - Toronto Maple Leafs @ Kitchener Panthers - 7:30 PM

Fri Aug 11 - Toronto Maple Leafs @ Hamilton Cardinals - 7:35 PM

Sun Aug 13 - Brantford Red Sox vs Toronto Maple Leafs - 2:00 PM Dominico Field at Christie Pits

Thu Aug 17 - Toronto Maple Leafs @ Barrie Baycats - 7:35 PM

Sat Aug 19 - Toronto Maple Leafs @ Guelph Royals - 7:30 PM

Sun Aug 20 - Guelph Royals vs Toronto Maple Leafs - 2:00 PM Dominico Field at Christie Pits

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Bush Gala Brings the Glitz


Bush Gala attendees were treated to mountains of food and fully stocked bar options.  No one left Bar Biltmore hungry or thirsty.

There's a new must-do highlight on Toronto's social calendar.

The Bush Gala, a celebration of Toronto Maple Leafs baseball, debuted Saturday night inside Bar Biltmore on Bloor Street.  

Located a tape-measure home run from Christie Pits, the swanky bar was the scene for an evening of camaraderie between Leafs players, fans, family and friends.  Food, drink and of course banter were available in large doses.  Editors across the city will be kicking themselves for missing this one.

The event was the brainchild of The Bushmen, the club's legendary fan group.  They organized the booking, invites, catering, decor, promos, and awards.

Yes, there were awards.

A few hours into the event, after everyone had enjoyed some drinks, let their hair down and greeted arriving Leafs players like the celebrities they are, it was time to acknowledge some of the most memorable moments of the 2022 season.

(Photo: @thebushmen1 on Instagram)

The award for best pitching performance went to Angel Castro for his dominant performance in Game 4 of the IBL Championship Series.  Seven innings pitched, 8 Ks and only 1 earned run surrendered.  Accepting the Bush statuette on Castro's behalf was Yusei Taraoka.

The award for best hitting performance went to Johnathan Solazzo, who set Christie Pits on fire when he hit two home runs in one inning, including a grand slam.  Accepting the award on Solazzo's behalf was Dan Marra.

For best defensive performance, the Bush statuette went to Connor Lewis for a spectacular Willie Mays catch against Hamilton.  Lewis also won the unofficial but very obvious award for best dressed person on the night.  His low-key/high-vis finery put the posers at the Met Gala to shame.

Soon everyone will be wanting a Bush statuette, something for next year's Leafs to strive for.  

In keeping with long-established IBL tradition, very few if any Leaf players would confirm their return to the field next year when asked last night.  This is generally accepted code for "I will definitely be back unless an arm falls off."

For decades, Leafs owner Jack Dominico organized a dinner that took place on the eve of the team's home opener.  With the first year of the post-Jack era in the books, and the traditional dinner no longer happening, a new tradition could be taking its place.  

May the Bush Gala be the first of many to come.

Bushman Garret Hill announces the first recipients of the Bush awards to a packed house.  Winners received a leafy statuette and eternal fame in the universe of Maple Leafs baseball.

Friday, September 23, 2022

Mapes' Magic Runs Out, Season Ends

2022 IBL Championship Series - Game 6
September 22 - London Majors at Toronto Maple Leafs
Majors win 8-7 and win the series 4-2

The London Majors pour onto the field to celebrate their second consecutive IBL championship after defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs.

We should have known what to expect by the weather. Cold, grey, grim.  Devilish wind in our ears whispering, "Summer is over, no more joy for you."

Last night at Christie Pits, the Toronto Maple Leafs' season ended.  

Over eight innings, they had mastered the London Majors and it looked like a series-deciding Game 7 was in the offing.

In the 9th inning, the magic ran out.

London staged a come-from-behind rally to put five runs on the board and take the IBL Championship Series with an improbable 8-7 victory.

For most of the game, fans bundled in jackets and hats looked on as starter Angel Castro held the majors in check, giving up three runs in eight innings while striking out 13.

The Leafs seized an immediate lead in the bottom of the 1st, thanks to a two-run home run by right fielder Marcus Knecht.

The Majors responded with a pair of runs in the 2nd.

The sea-saw battle continued in the 3rd, when catcher Justin Marra blasted a two-run homer -- his fourth of the series -- to make it 4-2 Leafs.

Throughout the series, the Leafs had been getting the better of London's ace starters, first Owen Boon in Game 4 and Jose Arias in Game 6.  Arias lasted six innings but was knocked around for seven runs, five earned.

The Leafs added three more in the bottom of the 5th.  Runs were driven in off the bats of first baseman Jordan Castaldo, Knecht, and third baseman Johnathan Solazzo.  It was a 7-2 ballgame through five.

A solo home run made it 7-3 for Toronto through eight innings.  All around the Pits, a cacophony of cheers, claps, heckles, megaphone sound effects and other noises filled the place.  Expectation cut through the cold air.

In the top of the 9th, Castro returned to the mound looking for a complete game win that would send the series back to London.  He didn't record an out.  Instead, London rallied with two singles, a walk, and a two-run homer.  That made it 7-5.  Closer Franklin Hernandez was called in from the pen to finish the game once and for all.  He couldn't do it.  A walk, a single, three wild pitches and a sac fly drove three runs across the plate and London took a stunning 8-7 lead.

Stunning, stunner, stunned.  The season was suddenly down to three outs.  

The Christie Pits rally skunk made an appearance, but in vain.  

A walk, a double-play and a strikeout, and the Mapes' magical ride came to a sudden, jarring halt.  London took the 8-7 FINAL and won the IBL championship four games to two.

The Majors poured onto the field to celebrate as we all looked on.  Congratulations to them for winning a second consecutive title in style.

And with that, the long and terrible winter has begun.

London 8 10 2
Toronto 7 5 0

W - Lewington (1-0, 6.75)
L - Hernandez (0-1, 4.09)
S - Fernandez (2)

Maple Leafs baseball will return for its 54th season at Christie Pits on Sunday, May 7, 2023.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Leafs Drop Another in London

2022 IBL Championship Series - Game 5
September 20 - Toronto Maple Leafs at London Majors
Majors win 8-3, lead the series 3-2

The Toronto Maple Leafs find themselves behind the eight-ball after losing Game 5 of the IBL Championship Series last night in London.  (file photo)

It's the long way around or nothing.

That is the fork in the road that the Toronto Maple Leafs face after dropping Game 5 of the IBL Championship Series.  In order to claim the Dominico Cup their next two games are must-win.

After being shut out for five innings at Labatt Park last night, the Leafs edged ahead with a slender 2-1 lead over the London Majors in the 6th.  It all went awry in the bottom of the same inning, when two of the team's tightest relievers unraveled.  London put seven runs on the board and cruised away with an 8-3 win.

Manager Garrett Takamatsu went with a proven combination of arms on the mound.  Sam Greene for the first three innings, followed by Dylan Jacober, with Franklin Hernandez there to seal the deal at the end.  This trio delivered a victory for the Leafs in Game 2 of the series.

It started well.  Greene pitched three scoreless.  His wicked curveballs had the Majors' broadcast team oohing and aahing with awe.  There was trouble afoot in the 3rd inning when Greene walked the bases loaded with two outs.  Majors catcher Robert Mullen then hit a long flyball to left that momentarily stopped everyone's hearts.  Left fielder Gregory Carrington made the catch of the night, right against the wall to end the inning and give Toronto hearts a kick of adrenaline.

Greene's opposite on the mound, Fernando Fernandez, also cruised through the early going.  Once again, a pitchers' duel was under way.

Jacober took over on the mound in the 4th and continued the scoreless streak.  He got into trouble with walks and wild pitches in the 5th, which brought a run in for London to make it 1-0.

The Leafs immediately responded in the top of the 6th.  Fernandez, who kept them off the board through five, issued a leadoff walk to third baseman Johnathan Solazzo.  Daniel Gore relieved Fernandez and as is often the case, the bats came alive.  Centerfielder Connor Lewis smacked an RBI double to score Solazzo.  DH Damon Topolie reached on a fielder's choice that eliminated Lewis, but he advanced and scored on consecutive singles by Carrington and shortstop Jose Vinicio.  The Leafs took a 2-1 lead and it suddenly looked as if they might be the first club in two years to win a championship series game on the road.

Narrator: They did not.

Jacober gave up three singles in a row to start the bottom of the 6th, and a nightmare began to unfold.  Hernandez was hustled in from the bullpen to try and avert disaster, but it didn't work.  In a case of The Worst Timing Ever, both Jacober and Hernandez had their roughest outings of the post season.  Hits, walks, hit batsmen, runs across the plate, on and on it went.  When the horror inning finally ended, 12 Majors had come to bat, racking up seven runs for an 8-2 lead.

The Mapes, who will not go down without a fight, scratched out a run in the top of the 7th, but that was as close as they got.  They fell 8-3 in Game 5, and now they are down in the series three games to two.  

For this memorable season to continue to ultimate success, they will have to win out the next two games.

Toronto 3 7 0
London 8 9 2

W - Gore (2-0, 1.88)
L - Jacober (3-1, 5.02)

The championship series continues with Game 6 on Thursday night at Christie Pits.  Game time is 7:30 pm.

Monday, September 19, 2022

The Two Most Majestic Home Runs Ever Hit at Christie Pits

2022 IBL Championship Series - Game 4
September 18 - London Majors at Toronto Maple Leafs
Leafs win 2-1, series tied 2-2

Justin Marra stands in against London ace Owen Boon at Christie Pits last night.  Marra hit his third home run in as many games and it was a game-winner.

It's getting less easy, this grind.

For players, coaches and fans alike, the longer this championship series goes, the more it challenges the concentration.  One's stamina, one's ability to juggle everything else in this life goes alongside the pursuit of the Dominico Cup.  Summer feels like ages ago, but the grind goes on.

Cracks have been appearing, nerves fraying.  On the field, slumps and mistakes are there for all to see.  Anything could change the course of the series now.  Everyone is sliding close to the edge, trying to keep their footing.

Consider this.  You'd think an ace performance by the London Majors' Owen Boon would have resulted in a win at Christie Pits last night.  But no.  Their ace got aced by an avenging Angel.

The Noisy Horse -- Castro of the Dominican Republic -- pitched his best game in a Toronto Maple Leafs uniform.  He gave up ten hits and three walks, but he also struck out eight and stranded 12.

Castro surrendered a run in the 1st inning, four batters into the game.  A double by Robert Mullen put a crooked number on the scoreboard for London.

The Majors did not score again.

A pitchers' duel commenced.  Two horses at the tops of their games, trading scoreless innings.  Each starter struck out eight.

The first time around, Boon breezed his way through the order.  The second time around, in the top of the 4th inning, the Leafs were ready.  Jordan Castaldo, with the patience of mountains and the eyes of an eagle, worked a 1-2 count and smashed a Boon pitch into the little league field beyond right.  The next man up, Justin Marra extended his championship series home run tear and deposited another Boon pitch in the same location.  Three Marra bombs in three games, and a 2-1 lead for the Leafs.  For the Christie faithful, Sunday night elevated into a state of rapture.

Talk about rapture.  I was lucky enough to be stood beside the right field fence when both home runs departed Dominico Field.  With mouth agape I followed their courses charting a perfect half circle on their way out, as if I was a kid seeing a home run for the first time.  Two of the most majestic home runs ever hit at Christie Pits.  Beautiful.  Magnificent.  In the coming months, in the dark and cold, those home runs will warm my black soul.

The duel continued through the 5th and into the 6th when a sudden flashpoint changed the course of the game.  With one on and one out, London batter Starling Joseph swung at strike three from Castro.  The pitch hit him but the home plate umpire immediately popped up and called him out.  Joseph protested vehemently.  London manager Roop Chanderdat sprinted onto the field and held Joseph back from the umpire.  

A conclave followed, with all four umps holding conference on the infield.  The call was upheld.  Joseph continued ranting from the bench and was tossed.  That brought Chanderdat back onto the field with a tirade of profanities audible to spectators surrounding the infield.  He too was ejected.

Action resumed, but the fight seemed to leave the Majors.  Boon was done after seven, having given up two runs on four hits.  Castro pitched into the 8th before Franklin Hernandez got the call from the pen.  As he has all this post-season, Hernandez put in a massive effort in the 8th and 9th innings.  He held the Londoners hitless, gave up a harmless walk, and sealed the 2-1 FINAL with a swinging strikeout.

A pitchers' duel might have been the last thing fans at the Pits were expecting, but the result could not have been more welcome.  Sunday night was alright. 

London 1 10 1
Toronto 2 4 0

W - Castro (3-1, 6.23)
L - Boon (2-1, 1.28)
S - Hernandez (5)

The series is tied at two games apiece.  The Mapes will make another attempt to break serve for a series lead on Tuesday night at Labatt Park.  Game Five's first pitch is at 7:35 pm.