On Wednesday night at Rogers Centre, Toronto Blue Jays legend Joe Carter hosted the VIP night for his fifth annual charity golf tournament, the Joe Carter Classic, which is a hugely successful event with proceeds going to the Children’s Aid Society.
The Summit Suite was packed with a roomful of celebrities, media members and participants from the golf tournament to watch Drew Hutchison and the Blue Jays face off against the New York Yankees. Many former players including Kelly Gruber, Jesse Barfield, Devon White and Dave Stewart were in attendance as were current and former players from the NFL, NHL and NBA along with celebrities from the entertainment industry.
I didn’t have a chance to speak with everybody but I did have a chance to chat with two of my personal favourites, Barfield and Stewart.
Barfield was drafted by the Blue Jays in the ninth round of the 1977 draft and played eight and a half seasons for Toronto. He led the league with 40 home runs during the 1986 season and is known for having one of the best outfield arms of all time.
I never had a chance to watch Barfield in action but I feel like he’s a player who would be even more appreciated by today’s standards. His career WAR with the Blue Jays of 29.4 trails only Tony Fernandez and Carlos Delgado, who both had far more plate appearances than Jesse. His seasons in 1985 and 1986 were specifically great as he put up a 6.9 WAR (4th in AL) and 7.6 WAR (2nd in AL) those respective years. Basically, Jose Bautista in his prime type stuff.I asked Barfield if he noticed any major differences between the game now and when he played. He said “not really, it’s still baseball” but added with a laugh that players now just “make a lot more money.” He seemed to think the Blue Jays have a good team and shouldn’t rush to make a trade. Mr. Barfield and his million dollar smile were even kind enough to take one of my first ever selfies.
Next I tracked down Stewart, who was hanging out with Dave Henderson for most of the night. Stewart, who had a reputation for menacingly starting batters down from the mound, is one of the nicest people you will ever meet. He played in five World Series and has three rings to show for it, including the 1989 World Series MVP, but doesn’t bring ‘em out when he’s at the game. I asked if it’s because he has too many but he just laughed and said no.
When I asked Stewart if he thought the Blue Jays should make a run at trading for a top pitcher, I was very interested in his response as he’s a player has been part of so many championship-caliber teams. He said a lot of people have been telling him the Blue Jays need to trade for a pitcher but he didn’t necessarily agree. He said he likes Marcus Stroman a lot and questions what it would take to resign a big-name pitcher even if the Jays were able to trade for one.
I found the perspective enlightening. Stewart signed with the Blue Jays towards the end of his career after they beat his Oakland Athletics during the 1992 ALCS. I figured as much as anyone he would be a supporter of adding as many quality players as possible for the short term but he thinks the Jays have a pretty good shot with the team they have now. As I mentioned earlier, Barfield said basically the same thing and both seemed to be a bit lukewarm to the idea of trading for a David Price, Cole Hamels or Jeff Samardzija.
It was an incredible experience getting to talk a bit of baseball with both of these Blue Jays’ legends. I didn’t get to track down Devon White for an interview but I couldn’t help but notice how energetic he was. He’s also still very light on his feet – most people walk, Devon glides.
Carter was also doing interviews non-stop so I didn’t get a chance to chat with him either. However he’s an absolute class act so I just wanted to take the time here to thank him, and everyone else involved in the event, for inviting us.