Star of the week

#6 Blair Mcbratney

Blair McBratney, better known on the ball field as "Blazer", "Blaze", "Teddy" or "Teddy Blair" (don't ask) came to the field through family history. He started playing ball at age 9 in the Don Mills area where he grew up, at Don Victoria Softball. His Aunt Betty who had been a softball star in the Ladies League, playing for People's Jewellers at Monarch Park Stadium and Sunnyside, taught Blazer how to throw a ball. His father, Bill McBratney was a prolific baseball player, playing as an outfielder for People's Credit Jewellers out of the Beaches Major Fastball. He won the Canadian National Championships in 1949 and was even scouted once by the Brooklyn Dodgers as a pitcher in 1946. As you can see, Blazer just carried on the tradition, as does his oldest son now.

Blair began as an outfielder. By the time he reached Bantam there was a need for a pitcher. So as Blair says, he began fooling around with pitching. He moved from house league to play Rep for Don Victoria in the North York Fastball League and continued to Midget playing for Scott's Colonel, winning the Midget North York Fastball League. This began a long career of collecting trophies, which can still be found stored in several boxes in his basement.
When Blair started as a pitcher he could really only throw a curve and knuckle ball. Luckily for his career, a pitcher from the beaches, Jack Rainbow, taught Blair how to throw a rise ball. That would become one of his best known pitches.

1978 was a memorable year playing Junior for Ponderosa Steakhouse out of the Centennial Park Men's Fastball League. The team made it to the finals in the Meaford Tournament, playing the Port Elgin Men's team for the championship. Although they lost, it was a Junior team all young men, playing a much more experienced Men's team. This also began many years of memories playing alongside other pitching greats such as: Mike St. Pierre, Glen Moreland, Fred Butt, Harold Passmore, Dave Strauss, Ross Seaward and Mike Mohun.

In 1979 Blazer began playing usually for two teams at a time, which carries on to this day. He played out of the Beaches Major Fastball League for Richmond Hill Dynes Juniors as well as for Travel Lodge/Kent Reality for Dave Pyper in the Don Mills Major Fastball League. This outlaw league offered many fine senior players and pitchers that where Blazer gained many more skills to develop as a pitcher. In 1980 Blair quit Junior to play in Dieppe Park for Dave Pyper again with Oxford Reality. Do you start to see some of his loyalty? Blair will joke that this is where he began is drinking career. These years with Oxford brought many opportunities, most important was the development of some of his longest friendships such as Fred Butt and Pat Acton. While at Dieppe there were many wins, MVP, league championship, winning several major tournaments such as Port Elgin, Meaford and Boulouva. In 1985/86 Oxford Reality played out of the Beaches, winning the provincial OASA (Ontario Amateur Softball Association), Blair took MVP of the provincials and in 1987 the won the league Championship. During this time Blair also played in the Beaches Inter Church League for Beach IGA. Can't get enough of that ball, or is it the beer after?

In 1988 Blazer moved to Richmond Hill Men's Fastball League for Save-On Truck Rentals, pitching alongside another great, Mark Bendehan and at the same time played the Keelsedale Fastball League with JR Electric with Mike St. Pierre. As if this wasn't enough he played with York Sundance, winning a Senior B OASA, pitching with Rich Miaskowki. He stayed on with York Sundance until 1991 when they became York Gators and in 1993 York Gators became Toronto Gators. These were years full of laughter and travel that even took him to play in a tournament in the Nederland's in 1989 and 1991. Wouldn't you know it, Blair even used the 1991 Nederland's tournament as his honeymoon. Can you imagine, a whole baseball team and his new wife, Heidi? In 1991 the team won the ISC qualifier in one cold rainy weekend in Armporier, giving the team access to the ISC Championships in Sioux City, Iowa. That same year the team came in second to Owen Sound in the OASA provincials in Waterloo and also qualified for the Canadians, although they were not able to attend due to lack of players.

Blair left the Toronto Gators in 1993 to play for the Nappanee Express being a challenging year. He unfortunately injured his pitching arm during the league playoffs. In 1994 he followed what was always true to him, having fun and enjoying the game, he joined the Scarborough Royals. In 1996 this team won the NAFA (North American Fastpitch Association Double A) in Hutchinson, Kancas. In 1998 Blair joined Mike O'Hearn and the Scarborough Blues. In 2001 Blazer was picked up by the Toronto Jaguars, winning the NAFA World Series Double A again in Hutchinson, Kancas. In 2003 Blair joined an Oshawa team with Jim Trimm playing with Mickey Finns which became the Oshawa Ravens, where he still plays today. The Ravens have won the Masters OASA, the North Bay Senior a couple of times and the OCDFL championships.

As you can see the love for ball and friendships has continued on. When Blair wasn't pitching you would find him out in right field, or at the plate hitting a bomb. His love for the game and the people has kept him usually on two teams at a time. Currently Blair divides his time between playing once a week for Oshawa Ravens, coaching Rep Baseball for the Scarborough Stingers and playing on the Durham Bulls Legends Fastball Team. This long history of ball has earned Blair the opportunity to be honored at the CNE Tournament later this year on Sept 2, 2015, where his father volunteered for over 50 years in the organization and running of the tournament. Each year they honor someone who played at the CNE which now includes two generations, as Kyle, Blair's oldest also played at the CNE.

As Blazer reflects over the years he considers that his greatest accomplishment as a pitcher was to play with a lot of great guys that he feels made him a better pitcher and a better person. When asked about the best team he felt that all the teams he played for were the best because he loves the game and feels fortunate to have played with a lot of great people. Blair has always played for the love of the game and a love of the players. Blair says "It's great to win, but winning is not the be all, end all. It is about a bunch of guys coming together to play a game they all love and have a lot of laughs. Some of his favorite teammates have been Fred Butt, Pat Acton, Doug Willoughby, Jim Trimm and Dave Pyper because of the fun and friendship. "When you stop having fun, it is time to get out."

The top three pitchers Blair threw against were Brad Underwood, Fred Butt and Glen Moreland. The toughest out was always Chris Gamou. I think any tournament is great, but I really love the memories that come from the North Bay World Seniors.

Blair's hobbies surround the game and his family. He plays hockey, keeps the tradition of baseball going in the family, having helped coach his eldest son's team for years and now continues to coach Rep Baseball. His eldest son plays Junior Triple A for the Scarborough Stingers while the youngest son is in the Lacrosse Community. Blair says "Fastball has given me so much enjoyment, friends, good times, it is a community that is there for each other. Everyone comes together when someone needs a "pick me up" whether that be on the ball field or otherwise. My biggest fastball supporter and best friend is the love of my life, Heidi."

You ask about favorite memories. Well Blair's life is surrounded by baseball. His honeymoon was a baseball tournament. He was fired from a job, after buying his first house, for attending a World Championship. He left home as soon as his first born came home from the hospital to head off to a World Championship. The most outstanding memory that still gets shared is winning the Meaford Tournament in 1996 and after a few too many beers, finding the only room to stay in with Heidi 9 months pregnant with our golden retriever, Brady. The only room was the drunk tank in the dumpiest motel next to a Chinese Food Restaurant. We stayed with Richy Miaskowski Jr, his girlfriend and their golden retriever. So the four of us, two dogs, in the drunk tank. The owner felt bad for Heidi and I, they came knocking at the door with a fan and two Pepsi's. Try keeping two dogs quiet! The room was so bad that the girls made us get blankets from the car. This is the stuff memories are made of.

"The friendships and memories you make along the way are what stay with you forever. The fastball community are a great caring bunch of people. I have been fortunate enough in my career to play with a lot of great ball players that made me what I am today. I am a better person for all of this. When you stop having fun, it is time to call it a season. Because I am still having fun, I am still playing."

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