New York Yankees fan who got Aaron Judge homerun ball in Toronto got to meet him

Sports rule.

No matter what side of the fanbase you sit on between the AL East foes in the Yankees and Blue Jays, you can’t help but feel good for nine-year-old Derek Rodriguez.
You see, Torontonians Derek and his father, Cesar, are both massive Yankees fans who had tickets to all three games of the series between the two teams. Derek, a massive Aaron Judge fan, was donning a shirt the players’ number 99 on the back.

Enjoy the kindness.
Aaron Judge and this very generous Blue Jays fan made this kid’s night!
— MLB (@MLB) May 4, 2022

When Judge juiced a sixth-inning no-doubter to left field, it bounced into the second deck right where Blue Jays fan Mike Lanzillotta was sitting.
“When it came to me, and I picked it up, and I was just like, ‘Wow, like, I got to give it to this kid,’” Lanzillotta told The Athletic. “It’s his player, his T-shirt.”
Cameras picked it up right away caught a heart-melting hug between the two and
And ahead of the rubber match between the two teams Wednesday, both Rodriguez and Lanzillotta got welcomed into the Yanks’ dugout to meet Judge.

Last night, 9-year-old Derek Rodriguez was given @TheJudge44’s home run ball by Mike Lanzillotta
Today, they both got to meet Aaron before the game.
We are crying too.
— MLB (@MLB) May 4, 2022

You can’t pick up what was said in any of the clips posted, but you can just see the joy beaming from the young Rodriguez’s face.
Lanzillotta, meanwhile, didn’t walk out of it all empty-handed as George Springer went out of his way to give him two signed jerseys.
How can you not love baseball?
Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at

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Author: Zach Laing / Blue Jays Nation

3 Toronto Raptors who have earned spots on 2022-23 squad

3 Toronto Raptors who have earned spots on 2022-23 squad

No matter what happens in the remainder of the regular season, the Toronto Raptors have already exceeded some of the wildest expectations that a largely pessimistic media gave them before the 2021-22 season. Last year’s stint in Tampa appears to be more of an exception than a norm. Despite leaning on young players at the […]
3 Toronto Raptors who have earned spots on 2022-23 squad – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Mike Luciano / Raptors HQ

Embellishment calls phase neither Michael Bunting nor the Maple Leafs

DETROIT — It seemed like it was just a matter of time until the NHL stepped in to rain on the Michael Bunting parade.
The Toronto Maple Leafs forward is second in the league in penalties drawn (32) through games completed on Feb. 25, 2022. This past week, the NHL issued Bunting a $2,000 fine for his second instance of embellishment this season.
But that’s not going to stop the 26-year-old ‘rookie’ from sticking to his style of play that has won over his teammates and fans of the club.
“I can’t change my game because I am having success,” Bunting said before the Maple Leafs visit the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday. “I don’t want to embellish, I don’t want to be a diver, you don’t want to do any of that, I just got to stick with it and stick to my regular game.”
According to the NHL, Bunting was issued his first warning for embellishment in a game against the Nashville Predators on Nov. 16. The second incident, which incurred the $2,000 fine, was assessed after Bunting was deemed to have fallen down easily when he was crossed up with Pittsburgh Penguins defenceman Marcus Pettersson.

This is the supposed incident Bunting is being fined for, for those who don’t want to click through:
— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) February 24, 2022

“You just move on,” Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said about the incident. “Because he’s involved in everything, eyes are on him a lot.”
Bunting has become the everyday left-winger on a line with star forwards Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. It didn’t start that way for the Scarborough, Ontario native, who signed a two-year, $1.9 million contract …

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Author: David Alter / The Leafs Nation

Oilers have needs that the Maple Leafs’ roster can address

The Oilers are a quickly sinking ship and no matter how amazing Connor McDavid is, he seems incapable of saving the team from themselves. While it seems that Dave Tippett will end up being the fall guy for their struggles, it’s quite clearly Ken Holland that has held the team back, with a goaltending duo that is astonishingly a step back from the Chiarelli years, and blueline that has been “upgraded” to include Cody Ceci, Tyson Barrie, and Duncan Keith. Somehow a seven year contract for Zach Hyman is one of the moves that Holland can hang his hat on, and other than that his best personnel have been inherited from the Chiarelli years. That’s not a good look.
The Oilers find themselves looking for upgrades in a few areas. You’ll know them as the areas that the Oilers have been looking to fill since the McDavid era began. They need to upgrade in goal, they need to upgrade on the blueline, and they want a physical bottom six player who can potentially chip in some offense. That’s where the Leafs come in.
Looking at the areas the Oilers need to address, they sound an awful …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

The Blue Jays showed how good they are with that series win over the Rays

The Blue Jays continue winning, no matter who their opponent is.

This incredible stretch started with a three-game sweep over the Oakland A’s and continued into New York with a massive four-game sweep over the New York Yankees. Toronto then went into Baltimore and won three of four against the Orioles, scoring about a million runs in the process.
After that was a series against the American League-leading Tampa Bay Rays, an opponent that makes even the most optimistic Blue Jays fan a little nervous.
I remember coming out of the Yankees series and looking at the schedule ahead and thinking okay, if the Blue Jays take care of business and kick the shit out of Baltimore and Minnesota, they can afford to go, like 1-6 in their remaining games against Tampa. There are still four games left to play against the Rays at The Trop, which is a whole different animal, but Toronto taking two of three in that series is a huge win, one that really proved that they’re legit.
The best start of Alek Manoah’s career
Things kicked off on Monday night with rookie Alek Manoah taking the mound against a combination of Collin …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

What does the lineup look like when George Springer and Teoscar Hernández get back?

No matter how you slice it the Blue Jays have been a poor offensive team to start the season. They rank among the bottom third in runs scored, average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and weighted on base average. Their 88 wRC+ as a team ranks 24th, sandwiched between the Pirates and Orioles; not exactly great company for a team that was supposed to be built around offense.

The good news is that the team is expecting to get two key offensive contributors back very soon in George Springer and Teoscar Hernández.  With those two returning from injury it raises of the question of where will they hit in the line-up and who gets replaced.
Springer is going to hit leadoff. Yes his skill set might be better suited for the number 2 or 3 spot in the order, but Springer for the majority of his career has hit leadoff. For his career 77% of his plate appearances have come from the first spot in the batting order.  This is clearly a spot he’s comfortable hitting in, and has been successful there.
After that Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. should remain hitting second and third. Bo has struggled at times offensively this season. …

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Author: Paul Berthelot / Blue Jays Nation

More Transactions: Derek Fisher DFA’d, Joe Panik returns on a minor-league deal, and Ken Giles signs in Seattle

If you like transactions, no matter the magnitude, the last 24-ish hours were very exciting.

First, the Blue Jays put an end to the Shun Yamaguchi experiment, designating him for assignment and ultimately opting to eat a little over $3,000,000 in order to open up some more roster flexibility. Yamaguchi had a clause in his deal in which he could reject an assignment to the minors, making him a bit of an anchor on the roster.
In a corresponding move, the team claimed pitcher Joel Payamps off of waivers from the Boston Red Sox. Payamps has some pretty solid numbers over his minor-league career. In 2019, he posted a 3.89 ERA with the Diamondbacks’ Triple-A team over 15 starts. In four big-league appearances, all as a reliever, Payamps has allowed three earned runs over seven innings.
Given the Blue Jays’ bevy of starters slated to pitch in Buffalo and push for gigs on the Blue Jays, I would imagine that Payamps is going to be used as a reliever. He can also still be optioned, so he could remain stretched out in Triple-A. Regardless, having that flexibility makes him a better fit on the roster than Yamaguchi.
After all of that, the team inked …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

Scotiabank will be the Leafs’ helmet sponsor for the 2021 season

It was only a matter of time, but the Leafs have announced which company will grace their logo onto the team’s helmets for the upcoming season. As it turns out, they turned to a familiar sponsor in Scotiabank.

With the official start of training camp, we proudly announce Scotiabank as the team’s helmet partner for the 2020-21 season.
Thank you @scotiabank for your continued support of the Maple Leafs and hockey in Canada.
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) January 4, 2021

My first impressions of this are positive, primarily because the way it appears on the helmet is pretty subtle. Almost as if it blends right into the decal of the design. The red on the away helmet does stick out a bit more but it’s not egregious enough to be a huge eyesore or a big distraction.
It’s obviously not ideal to have a sponsor on the helmet, but circumstances resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the Leafs and the NHL’s hand into generating extra cash elsewhere.
The Leafs aren’t the only team to have Scotiabank be their helmet sponsor, with the Calgary Flames announcing the same mere minutes before Toronto …

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Author: Michael Mazzei / The Leafs Nation

Teoscar Hernández has gone full Bo Bichette

No matter how you slice it, Teoscar Hernández has been one of the best power hitters in baseball this season.

He ranks in the top 15 of home runs, slugging percentage, isolated slugging, and his 95.5mph exit velocity places him in the top five in baseball alongside Fernando Tatís Jr. Miguel Sanó, Juan Soto, and Gregory Polanco.
And this more than just a small sample blip. Since June 5th, 2019, when Teoscar made his return from a demotion to the minors, he has hit .259/.323./.567 with 30 home runs, in 105 games. That translates to a .366 wOBA and a 130wRC+, per Fangraphs. His .308 ISO (slugging percentage minus batting average) of .308 ties him with José Ramírez and Aaron Judge for fifth in baseball. For context, the four hitters above Hernandez are Jorge Soler, Soto, Nelson Cruz, and Mike Trout. If that wasn’t enough Teoscar’s average exit velocity of 92.9mph places him eighth among qualified hitters.
So yeah Teoscar has some serious power. What’s kept him from tapping into that power and becoming a more consistent power hitter, has been the swing and miss in his game. He strikes out way too much. …

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Author: Paul Berthelot / Blue Jays Nation

Third base won’t be Vlad Jr’s main position anymore

It was really just a matter of time.

According to Ben Nicholson-Smith, Charlie Montoyo said on Friday that the Blue Jays will shift Vladimir Guererro Jr’s focus to first base and designated hitter. He’ll still be an option at third base, but it’ll no longer be his primary position. Travis Shaw will now be the team’s primary third baseman.

Major development for Blue Jays: Vlad Guerrero Jr. will now focus on first base this spring per Charlie Montoyo
“He’s going to focus on 1B and DH.” Third will be an option, but not his main position anymore.
— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) July 10, 2020

It always seemed inevitable that Vlad would eventually get pulled away from third but it’s a little bit interesting that it’s happening so quickly. Vlad has only played 824 1/3 innings at third at the Major League level, and while his work in the field certainly wasn’t inspiring, you’d have thought they might have given him another year to try and hack it.
I guess it just became clear that Vlad wouldn’t be a third baseman at the Major League level and …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation