Former Blue Jay catcher Ken Huckaby turns 43 today.
Ken was a 22 round pick by the Dodgers in the 1991 draft. He was in the Dodgers system for 7 seasons, making it to Triple-A . then bounced from the Mariners, Yankees, Diamondback and then finally landed with the Jays.
Out 2002 season started with Tom Wilson sharing the catcher's job with Darren Fletcher, but Fletcher was having a bad year and retired in the middle of it. Huckaby played in 88 games, the most he had in any of his 6 seasons. It turned out to be more than half his career total 161 games.
Ken hit .245/.270/.308 with 3 home runs and 22 RBI.
The next season Huckaby only got into 5 games, one of them was opening day against the Yankees, likely the only game that most of us remember, because he injured Derek Jeter.
With Jeter on first, Jason Giambi hit a ground ball to our pitcher, Roy Halladay. Doc threw over to Carlos Delgado, to get the out, but with us using a shift on for Giambi, no one was covering third and Jeter decided to try to get there. Huckaby went to cover third and he, Jeter and the throw from Delgado got there about the same time. Ken, trying to catch the ball and block Jeter, at the same time, and he fell on Derek.
Jeter rolled around on the ground, in obvious pain and ended up with a separated shoulder. Yankees fans, the understanding people they are, called Huckaby a dirty player and Ken felt bad about the whole thing. The rest comes from a story by Scott Miller on SportsLine.
Huckaby, asked to explain himself over and over for the next couple of days, finally accepted the invitation of a Toronto radio broadcaster to broker a meeting with Jeter. So, before the final game of that series in Toronto, Huckaby took a deep breath and made the awkward walk from the home clubhouse down to Skydome's visitors clubhouse.
Huckaby shook Jeter's hand, and then he said his piece. "I said, 'I hope you're all right. I didn't know where the base was when I was looking for the throw,'" Huckaby says. "I told him, 'It wasn't on purpose. I didn't know where I was on the field. It was just unfortunate we were at the same place at the same time.'"
Huckaby says the words were heartfelt. The guy genuinely felt bad, and the fact that the play sidelined Jeter for so long made it worse.
"He stonefaced me," Huckaby says. "He just stared at me. He didn't say one word."
What do you say to that? Huckaby finished, and then there wasn't much to do except turn around and leave. Before the frostbite got him. Upset? You bet.
"I was upset at how unreceptive he was," Huckaby says.
That Jeter is a swell guy isn't he. He ended up missing 36 games.
After the 2003 season, Huckaby was signed as a free agent by the Rangers, then, mid-season, lost to the Orioles off waivers, released by the Orioles and signed, again by the Rangers.
Before the 2005 season the Jays signed him once again and he got into 35 games for us, hitting .207/.250/.253.
After that he went to the Red Sox (playing 5 games for them), then the Dodgers and Royals.
Happy Birthday Ken. I hope it is a good one.