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Former All-Star visits Kincardine

Former All-Star visits Kincardine
Former Toronto Blue Jay Kelly Gruber brought a bit of celebrity to Kincardine last Wednesday when he popped into town with friend and Steelback Brewery president Ian MacDonald.

The former All-Star and 1992 World Series Champion third baseman was treated like royalty at the Bruce Bar and Grill, with dozens jumping on the opportunity to meet the retired Major League Baseball star.

He was more than happy to have photos taken, sign autographs, body parts and chat on the phone with random fans as he enjoyed a night out.

"I've never been up (to Kincardine), but I'm trying to get back up to Canada more," said Gruber, who calls Austin, Texas home.

Sitting down with local radio and print media, he was open to answering questions from Baseball to his personal life.

He acknowledged there were some hard feelings after the Jays traded him, because of a nagging injury he suffered during a notorious triple play in game three of the 1992 World Series, that was erroneously called off and contested via video replay.

He said issues have since faded and 16 years later he doesn't care to follow MLB anymore. He's more focused on his four children, aged early to late teens, and was bench coach for his eldest son, 18-year-old Kody, during his championship season in the Premier Baseball League this year.

He feels the number one thing parents and young athletes should remember is to keep the game fun, the second is to keep it simple.

"The toughest feat in all of sport is to bat .300," Gruber laughed, adding that most people would be fired from their jobs getting only three of 10 chances to complete a task. "It's a fine line."

Winning the World Series with the Blue Jays was "life complete" for Gruber, who was drafted 1st overall by the Cleveland Indians in 1980.

Gruber said he was always nervous stepping up to bat and said for those who are not, "you're not normal." Baseball is all about playing out scenarios and making good judgements on the field, he said.

The best friend he made out of his experience with the Jays was side-arm pitcher Mark Eichorn, with whom he keeps in regular contact.

Playing with stars-of-the-day like Roberto Alomar, Joe Carter, John Olerud and Pat Borders made for many fond memories.

Gruber also touched on the rush he felt while facing legendary pitchers like Nolan Ryan, Roger Clemens and Randy Johnston, who stands 6-foot 10-inches and could throw a 100 mph fastball on an amazingly difficult angle.

"If they were on their game, they'd send you home."

He praised general manager Pat Gillick as a "genius" for lining the early Jays with stars like Fred McGriff, who helped transform Toronto into a world-class team in the early 90s.

Blue Jays' coach Cito Gaston, who returned as coach this year, was one of the keys to their World Series success, he said. His "laid back" approach to coaching gave players the freedom to do their thing, but know their efforts were being watched.

"He commanded instant respect," said Gruber. "If you gave 100 per cent and weren't screwing around, he never bothered you."

Gruber was the first Blue Jay in history to hit for the cycle (single, double, triple and homerun in one game). His favourite parks to play in were Yankee Stadium in New York, Detroit and Comiskey Park in Chicago. Each had different turf and was a challenge to play the ball.

Steelback's Ian MacDonald befriended the Baseball star a few years back at the Fergie Jenkins Golf Tournament.

They met up in Toronto last week and decided to make the trek through the snow to enjoy a beer in the Kincardine area.

"He's just a buddy and I thought I'd bring him up here for a couple days away," said MacDonald, who enjoys Gruber's down-to-earth attitude.

Accompanied by his Steelback representatives, MacDonald said he's been meeting with numerous franchises in an effort to repair a once tarnished reputation with an improved product, new packaging and marketing centred on the product, not an individual.

"We have a lot of legacy issues to overcome, so we're doing it bottle by bottle, case by case," he said.

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: December 30, 2008

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