Thursday, February 08, 2007

"When the chickens came in we had to switch barns"

As those of you who watched the World Baseball Classic last spring know, Orioles ace Eric Bedard is a native of Canada. His local paper, the Ottawa Citizen, wrote a really neat article about him recently. Seems like a really down to earth guy, like any other farm boy tossing some baseballs around in a barn. Only difference is -- he's a big leaguer.

Here's the excerpt I liked, but go ahead and read the whole article by clicking the link above if you've got a few minutes:

The families live just down the road from each other, and with Bedard in need of a place to throw each of the past three winters, the relatives have kindly shuffled him from one chicken coop to the other chicken and now into the barn, originally built to raise geese.

And these chicken coops are nothing to cluck at. Each houses 40,000 chickens in a year, just 8,262 short of capacity at Baltimore's Camden Yards.

As for the geese emporium, the Laplantes built the barn in 2003 for about $180,000, and by the time Bedard is taking to the mounds in Yankee Stadium, the Rogers Centre and other American League ballparks, it will house a new tenant, one trying to grow herbs and spices.

All winter, though, twice a week since early December, the Orioles' top winner drags his 24-year-old brother, Mark, to the barn where every night is like Opening Day in the northeast in early April -- temperature-wise, that is.

Inside the barn, it's always 5C, and it nevers wavers despite weather conditions outside.

Mark was a tough-as-nails running back/safety with the Orleans Bengals in his teens. Now he passes for a pretty fair left-handed catcher by evening, and just like his father, Normand, is an elevator mechanic by day. It remains open to debate which vocation is safer, but Mark earns more in his real job.

Catching a 90 to 92 m.p.h. fastball is never easy -- even if his brother does have great control. And an above average major league curveball can sometimes get away from a pitcher, and it's the catcher who always chases the ball.

The good news is Bedard's workout goes fast. A quick warmup, a little long toss and it's right to work for a brief 60-pitch session, then it's out the door.

Bedard just goes from pickup to the door, plunks his portable mound on the heated (for the geese) floor and goes to work.

"When the chickens came in we had to switch barns," says Bedard. "But it worked out OK.

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