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B.C. slugger could make baseball history

Tyler O’Neill going for fifth straight opening day home run
Tyler O’Neill tips his hat to the cheering St. Louis Cardinals crowd after hitting a home run. (Contributed)

Maple Ridge slugger Tyler O’Neill will be looking to take his place in Major League Baseball’s storied history on opening day.

O’Neill will have a chance to be the first player to homer on five straight opening days, as he takes the field tonight (March 28) in Seattle. His new team, the Boston Red Sox, will take on the Mariners in the first regular season game of the campaign.

Already the Garibaldi Secondary graduate has taken his place alongside a few hardball immortals who have hit four straight opening-day dingers. These include the great Yogi Berra (1955-1958) – the man credited with numerous Yogi-isms including “It ain’t over till it’s over” – another Hall of Famer in Montreal Expos great Gary Carter (1977-1980), and a third former catcher in Todd Hundley (1994-1997).

READ ALSO: Maple Ridge’s O’Neill ties record for opening day home runs

Sarah Langs of Major League Baseball noted O’Neill could be the first to five in a row.

O’Neill was traded to the Red Sox from the St. Louis Cardinals during the off-season. Last year he struggled through various injuries, which have held him back throughout his career. The 28-year-old has 1,464 at-bats in the Majors since 2018, and hit 78 home runs, while batting .248.

Tonight he is expected to start the game against a tough pitcher in Seattle’s veteran Luis Castillo, who strikes out a lot of batters, but also gave up plenty of home runs last season at 28 – only 12 pitchers in the Majors allowed more.

Reason for optimism: O’Neill has victimized Castillo before. In 35 plate appearances against Castillo, the Maple Ridge masher has hit taters twice. And he’s showing off a power stroke, having just launched one in spring training on Monday.

The Red Sox traded for their Canadian batsman hoping he could reproduce an outstanding 2021 season, when his powerful swing produced 34 homers and 80 RBI for St. Louis. He also won his second Gold Glove Award for great defence in the outfield that season.

READ ALSO: Mariners trade top prospect O’Neill

After the trade, baseball pundits predicted he could have a huge year hitting in the American League this season, and he is expected to be a regular in the middle of the Bosox batting order.

There would be a bit of irony in O’Neill making opening day history against the Mariners – the team drafted and developed the young Canadian, then traded him for pitching help.

He quickly became known for being one of the most jacked players in baseball, inspired by his father Terry O’Neill – a former bodybuilding, Mr. Universe competitor, and a super senior who can still be found pumping iron at Club 16 in Maple Ridge.

The Maple Ridge boy, who was drafted from the Langley Blaze Premier team, has signed a one-year deal for $5.85 million with Boston.

The Red Sox take on the Mariners tonight at 7:10 p.m.

Neil Corbett

About the Author: Neil Corbett

I have been a journalist for more than 30 years, the past decade with the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News.
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