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Tim Raines: The Rock of Vancouver

I’m sure I’ve abused this forum to tell my Tim Raines story before but what the hell, it’s my forum and I’m telling it again.  When I was 12 years old my mother was made redundant from her job and used her severance to buy a beat up old camper van and drive her two belligerent boys across Canada.  Even then, as a snot nosed 12 year old, I didn’t think it was a wise decision.  Nevertheless, we troopered on, and despite nearly sending our poor Ma into a madhouse we were often treated to life affirming moments.  Like when we got to see the Montreal Expos play in the concrete jungle that is the ‘Big O’.

I don’t remember who they were playing, or any other detail for that matter.  I only remember one moment.  My mother and brother had ducked out for snacks and I was left alone (I probably had the whole section to myself) to watch my hero lead off an inning.  Batting right-handed, Raines hit something so hard it made ‘that sound’.  A sound I’ve only heard once since, a Jose Bautista single through the left side at Safeco.  Single or not, it sounded like a gunshot.  The Rock’s gunshot was no single and the only question was whether it would be fair or foul.  Imagine a 12 year old kid frantically waving his skinny arms, willing it fair with all his might.

It hit the foul pole about half way up.

My family returned.  ‘What’d we miss’?  ‘Umm, only the greatest home run I’ve ever seen.’

The reason for the trip down memory lane?  Tim Raines was back in Vancouver Wednesday.  This time he wasn’t made available to us media folk so I only saw him from a distance.  Still, last year, when I got to shoot the breeze with him about his hall of fame candidacy, it was easily the greatest interview I’ve ever had.  It’s just odd seeing him in a Blue Jays pullover.

Thinking about that Raines interview got me to thinking.  And I’ll preface it by saying I wrote the above Friday morning, prior to the start of the Northwest League season, so am not wearing C’s red coloured glasses based on his hot start.  But, for me, throwing a Tim Raines comparison on the Canadians Venezualen shortstop Franklin Barreto is not a stretch.

A lot of people may scoff at this and while I agree that it’s probably a stretch to compare an A ball player with a Hall of Famer (I know he isn’t, but he should be) who stole 808 bases at an 85% clip, there are many similarities.

Both are short, with Raines listed at 5’8″ and Barreto at 5’9″.  Both are (or were) athletically very gifted.  Everyone I have spoken to about Barreto, from the GCL hitting coach, to the players with him at extended the reports are all the same.  The kid can do it all.  Whether he sticks at short, moves to third, or transitions to the outfield Franklin has the body to make it work.

The bat will make any defensive position secondary anyway.  He’s a gap to gap hitter with strong wrists and a short, compact stroke.  He’ll make consistent, hard contact and shows enough power to eventually hit 10 to 20 home runs.  With his plus speed and ability to get on base, he, like Raines, projects to be a top of the order sparkplug.

I know I started this piece before he made his Northwest League debut, and I would never use a weekend’s worth of work to compare an 18 year old to a legend.  But since the C’s have played, I may as well mention the start he’s gotten off to.

After getting on base all five times (four singles and a walk) in the first game, he struggled a bit in game two, striking out twice.  He showed some nice poise in the 8th inning though, doubling in Roemon Fields for an important insurance run.  Yesterday it was business as usual with another couple of knocks and a stolen base (see, the Rock is rubbing off already).

Again, I don’t want to get ahead of myself considering the sample size but it’s nice to see that the youngest player in the league hasn’t been overawed by the situation.

With Dawel Lugo currently occupying short in Lansing there is a chance we get to see Franklin for the entirety of the 2014 Northwest League season.  Enjoy it Vancouver.  I’m not sure when we’ll get to see another position prospect of his caliber again.

And if Tim Raines returns, enjoy that as well.  Not every day a future hall of famer is at the Nat.

The Rock did it all (photo courtesy of Charlie Caskey)

The Rock did it all (photo courtesy of Charlie Caskey)

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