John Olerud had a great swing that allowed him to spray line drives to all parts of the outfield during a terrific major-league career that spanned 17 seasons.
The unassuming first baseman has entered into a more challenging phase of his life since he retired from the game in December of 2005 - helping to care for his eight-year-old daughter, Jordan, who was born with a rare chromosome abnormality known as tri-some 2p, 5p-.
Doctors have told Olerud that his daughter is the only person in the world known to have the condition. It has left Jordan struggling with multiple birth defects that affect almost all of her bodily functions and she requires round-the-clock care from John and his wife, Kelly.
"She's not walking, but she's really close to walking," Olerud said yesterday. "She's non-verbal and eats through a tube. She's got a fair amount of physical difficulties."
Olerud was in this city northwest of Toronto to participate in a charity golf tournament organized by the Toronto Blue Jays as part of their back-to-back World Series reunion. The Blue Jays won the World Series in 1992 and 1993, the first non U.S.-based team to win the championship.
The reunion is the first time so many of the players have assembled in Toronto at the same time since those championships.
"I think this is not only important to the Blue Jays but also to the city to remind everybody that we do have a glorious past," said Paul Beeston, the Blue Jays' interim president. "I think it is a good reminder that this hasn't always been a team that finished second or third to the Yankees.
"In fact, back then they finished second and third to us."
Before tonight's game at Rogers Centre against the Baltimore Orioles, the players will be honoured on the field in a special ceremony.
"It will be very emotional but it's also going to be very pleasing and joyful," said current Toronto manager Cito Gaston, who also managed the team during both championship seasons.
It was a who's-who gathering for Toronto baseball historians at the golf course as the players enjoyed a breakfast and then headed out onto the links.
It cost a cool $5,000 for the privilege of playing with one of the former or current members of the American League team, with most of the money coming from corporate donors.
A total of 78 foursomes were at RattleSnake Point Golf Club, a gathering that included Jack Morris, Joe Carter, Devon White, Dave Stewart, Pat Hentgen, Duane Ward, Tom Henke, Dave Stieb, Tony Fernandez, Kelly Gruber, Juan Guzman and Todd Stottlemyre.
It is hoped that by the time the reunion has concluded, close to $250,000 will have been raised for the Jays Care Foundation, according to Danielle Silverstein, the foundation's executive director.
Carter, the former Toronto outfielder, helped to organize the event and that's understandable. When you're the guy who hit the most famous home run in Blue Jays history, a three-run walkoff shot in the bottom of the ninth that clinched the 1993 World Series over the Philadelphia Phillies, that's a feat worth remembering.
Olerud, who now lives in Seattle, was a key component of those championship teams. He looked fit and trim and ready to pick up a bat.
"Looks can be deceiving," he said.
A father of three, Olerud said life is challenging trying to meet the needs of all his children, but especially Jordan, where small gains mean so much.
"When she was able to sit up on her own for the first time and then being able to stand up on her own and keep her balance, those were big things," Olerud said.
"I think Jordan's here for a reason and so it's so we can start the Jordan Foundation and be able to help out other people," he said. "I think that's why she's a part of our life."
NOTES The New York Yankees swept the Toronto Blue Jays two games to none in their mini-series in Toronto this week, the third consecutive series loss at home for the struggling American League team, their longest of the season. … Toronto rookie Ricky Romero will be looking for his 11th win of the season tonight against the Orioles. The team record for most wins by a rookie pitcher is 14 by Mark Eichhorn in 1986. … Marco Scutaro's home run for Toronto in Wednesday's game was his ninth of the year, tying his career high.
NEXT Friday night at Rogers Centre against the Baltimore Orioles, 7:07 p.m. Eastern.
PROBABLE PITCHERS Jays LHP Ricky Romero (10-4, 3.53) v. Orioles RHP Jason Berken (1-9, 6.93)