A professional athlete is traded and an often indifferent public shrugs in the belief that this is the price one pays for being a high-profile, not to mention well compensated, sports figure.
The athlete himself, however, often faces difficult decisions that affect both family and lifestyle after being dealt to another city. And in the case of Mark Buehrle, to another country.
Buehrle was one of the pieces traded to the Toronto Blue Jays this month in a 12-player swap with the Miami Marlins that sent shock waves throughout Major League Baseball because of its scope.
It was also a shock to Buehrle, who is married with two young children and is an avowed animal lover with four dogs. The pitching-starved Blue Jays will welcome Buehrle, but Ontario will not be as accommodating for Slater, Buehrle’s two-year-old “rescue” pit bull whose kind has been forbidden in Ontario for the last seven years.
“I think it is going to be an obstacle,” Buehrle told reporters on Thursday during a telephone conference call when the subject of Slater came up. “We’re looking at everything, every option we have right now. We’re working with certain people trying to figure out what all our options are so we can kind of plan something and go forward with it.”
Pit bulls are also outlawed in Miami-Dade, where three months ago almost 64 per cent of respondents voted in favour of keeping the 23-year-old ban in place. Buehrle skirted the issue by living in neighbouring Broward County, about an hour’s drive from Miami. That’s not an option now that he is a Blue Jay, unless he wants his family to live in Buffalo, N.Y.
“Obviously I don’t agree with the ban, the same thing in Miami,” Buehrle said. “I think it’s a discriminatory law. Just because the way a dog looks, I don’t feel like that dog should be banned from some place just because of the way it looks.
“I kind of joke around with my wife saying that they probably shouldn’t let me into the country before they don’t let my dogs. They’re so loving and so awesome.”
The Ontario Dog Owner’s Liability Act came into effect in August of 2005.
“There have been horrific attacks involving pit bulls, not only in Ontario, but across the country – around the world,” Elaine Flis, senior adviser, communications, for the Ontario Attorney-General’s office, wrote in an e-mail. “Men, women, children alike have been seriously injured or maimed. Sadly, young children have even been killed in vicious attacks by pit bulls.
“We introduced this legislation because we heard very clearly from Ontarians that they wanted to be protected from the menace of pit bulls.”
The penalties are a $10,000 fine ($60,000 for corporations) and six months imprisonment.
The Buehrles believe that breed-specific bans are both useless and cruel, that it is reckless dog owners, not the dogs, who are at fault when it comes to attacks. Buehrle said he and his wife, Jaime, have been in contact with like-minded people in Ontario who are hoping to get the pit bull ban overturned.
“We’re trying to work and do what we can do to try and get things resolved,” Buehrle said. “But as of right now I don’t know exactly what we’re doing.”
Buehrle, a 33-year-old durable left-handed pitcher who went 13-13 for the Marlins last season with a 3.74 earned run average, will join the Blue Jays along with blue-chip hurler Josh Johnson.
Unlike Buehrle, Johnson can become a free agent at the end of the 2013 season, but he said it is not something he is considering right now.
“It’s more about winning,” Johnson said Thursday. “That’s all I’ve been about since I’ve started playing baseball. It makes everything better. It makes food taste better, it makes your wife happier, it makes your family happier.
“Everything’s better when you’re winning.”