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The time is now for Stewart

Posted: 08 May 2009
Source: NewsDurhamRegion.com

Feb 18, 2009 - 01:39 PM By Brian McNair {img:4|right}OSHAWA -- Andy Stewart knows a thing or two about timing. After all, it takes incredible timing to hit a three-inch hardball coming in at 90 miles per hour with a bat that's about two-and-a-half inches wide. But, while Stewart became quite proficient at doing that, it was more the timing in which he rose to the occasion that played a role in his ultimate induction into the Oshawa Sports Hall of Fame, an honour that will be officially bestowed upon him in May. Right from the get-go, Stewart showed impeccable timing. In fact, he may never have had a sniff at a professional baseball career if he hadn't stood out at a tryout camp in Detroit way back in 1989. Facing the top pitcher at the camp, whom, as a catcher he was fortunate enough to have warmed up in the bullpen, Stewart smacked the ball around the park, including a couple of moon shots. He fared equally well against another top arm, and left Detroit with a minor league contract from the Kansas City Royals. "I wouldn't be able to do that same performance now or even five, six, ten years into my pro career. But it happened, so they had me come back the same day and do it again," recalls Stewart, one of the few Canadians at the camp. "I think being signed out of a tryout camp, that's just crazy. That never happens, or very rarely." Now 39, living in Florida and running a cleaning business with his wife Maria, Stewart ended up playing only a handful of games in the Major Leagues, although he did hit a double in his first at-bat with the Royals in 1997. He also had a lengthy minor pro career and a brief stint as manager, leading the Williamsport Crosscutters to the New York Penn League Championship in just his second year at the helm. But it's his play on the international scene for which he will be remembered most in these parts, as Stewart twice thrived while wearing Canada's colours. Twice, at the 1999 Pan American Championships in Winnipeg and the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Stewart led Canada in batting average, including an impressive .452 with four home runs and 15 RBIs in a bronze medal effort in Winnipeg. "Absolutely, '99 Pan-Am Games, I was in the zone," Stewart said, without hesitation, when asked about his defining moment. "It's one of those things where every athlete dreams of the timing of it... That's probably my biggest highlight, you know, beyond walking on air." Stewart came out of retirement to fulfill the Olympic dream five years later, this time batting .417. Unfortunately, after a heart-breaking loss to the Cubans in the semifinals, Canada finished just out of the medals in fourth place. The son of former Durham College athletic director, Dave Stewart, Andy has many fond memories of Oshawa, including hanging around with the athletes at the college and his dad's teammates on the famous Oshawa Tony's fastball team, inducted themselves in Oshawa in 1993. "That's where it all began," he says. "It's really neat to be inducted in Oshawa. It wouldn't be right anywhere else."

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