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Baseball fans welcome Brewers' Taylor Green back home
They came to toast Taylor Green.
They left knowing that toast is the best "meal" the major leaguer can cook.
That revelation sent a ripple of laughter through the packed Ballroom at the Best Western Westerly Hotel on Tuesday night as the Milwaukee Brewers infielder smoothly fielded a series of snap-answer questions from MC Bill Village.
The Comox Valley Baseball Association organized the evening to salute Green's ascension to the big leagues and to raise funds for a couple of game day fences for Aspen Park. Along with admission at the door, there was a silent auction to help raise money.
The full house included Comox mayor Paul Ives and Courtenay mayor-elect Larry Jangula and luminaries from the local ball scene along with Green's parents and former coaches. Stories, videos and photos were all part of the light-hearted and enlightening evening.
Enlightening? Here's some more of Village's quicky Q&A with Green:
Favourite pre-game meal: "Spaghetti and meat balls."
Favourite home-cooked meal: "Ham and scalloped potatoes."
Favourite sport other than baseball: "Hockey."
Best baseball movie of all time: "Sandlot."
Favourite movie star: "Kim Cattrell." (after some prompting).
Best looking girls – Nashville or Milwaukee: "Nashville."
Blond or brunette: "Doesn't matter."
Best beer in Milwaukee: "Miller High Life."
Favourite Canadian beer: "Lucky."
Left-handed pitcher you can't wait to face: "My dad in batting practice."
Right-handed pitcher you can't wait to face: "Jeff Suppan."
First words you ever spoke were "Blue Jays" – true or false: "Probably true."
It's April 2012, who's the starting third baseman for the Milwaukee Brewers: "Hopefully Taylor Green."
When the applause died down, Village had one more question: "What was your hat size when you played in Parksville?" "Seven-and-one-eighth," replied Green. "What was your hat size when you played with the Milwaukee Brewers?" "Seven-and-one-eighth," replied Green.
"I've known (Taylor) for a while," Village said. "One of the things I really, truly respect about this young man is, despite his successes, he has always remained humble and respectful of everything that's come his way. It's a real testament to how he's been brought up and we can acknowledge (parents) Bill and Jackie for that. It's easy to say that this young man would be a wonderful role model for a lot of young people around here."
Bill Green gave a video presentation of the on-field celebrations at Miller Park during one of the Brewers' celebrations, and Taylor explained some of the background behind the autographed jerseys (that were on display) of future Hall of Famers he is collecting. A particular favourite is Albert Pujols', as the St. Louis slugger was on first base when Green rapped his first major league hit.
And the anecdote of that MLB milestone was one of the many entertaining insights Green shared on Tuesday. "I was walking up to the plate. My parents were there, with 45,000 or 46,000 people in a packed house. We were playing the Cardinals and they called on me to pinch hit.
"My first reaction was 'Where are my batting gloves?'...just panic...I had them on my hands," he recalled with a laugh. "I was in a cold sweat walking to the batter's box. I started swinging, my hands were shaking out of control. I couldn't hold the bat. I had to take a second to regroup. I walked up to the plate and got a standing ovation. That was a pretty cool feeling. I looked around for just a split second before I stepped into the box, because you never know when you're going to get that again.
"I stepped into the box (and dug in). I still remember the first pitch...a sinker down and away (from) Jake Westbrook. I thought it was a strike but the umpire called it a ball." With two strikes on him, Westbrook delivered a low change up. "I barrelled it out to right field. Abert Pujols was standing (on first) and my eyes were just like blinking, blinking, blinking. I was supposed to do this pose thing but I didn't know what to do. It felt awkward for a little bit," Green smiled.
As is tradition, Green got to keep the ball. He was looking forward to presenting it to his parents when he stopped and looked at what his teammates had written on it. "Some of the slimiest stuff ever written," said Green. "Not the kind of stuff you can put on the mantle." It wasn't until three days later his teammates presented him with the real game ball.
Other tales included Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke making good on a pre-season promise to eat a live scorpion if the Brewers made the playoffs, having to wear the (Canuck fans) Greenman suit as part of rookie initiation, and being "punk'd" when he was called into the manager's office and told he was being suspended for 50 games for failing a drug test.
Green thanked his former coaches Carl Bitonti (Comox Valley Blizzard) and Dave Wallace (Parksville Royals) and presented them with caps, jerseys and photos. "They were both huge in terms of setting goals for me, making me work hard and putting direction into what I wanted to do."
He told the crowd that he was proof that working hard can make dreams come true. "You never know what can happen. You dream and you want it so bad. But until you walk into that stadium it doesn't seem real. It still doesn't seem real to me," he said.