ST. LOUIS — Not long after Jason Bay hit his 20th homer of the season to help the Boston Red Sox beat the Oakland Athletics 5-2 last Tuesday, a text message came in.
“Congratulations on your first home run as an American,” it chided, in the wake of Bay’s naturalization July 2.
The sender was Justin Morneau, who has traded text barbs with his fellow Canadian slugger all year.
They became close during the World Baseball Classic this past spring and have engaged in a friendly rivalry ever since as each enjoys a monster season at the plate.
“He’ll have a good game and I’ll text him,” Morneau, the Minnesota Twins first baseman from New Westminster, B.C., said with a grin Monday.
“We just kind of joke around with each other about the Tip O’Neill Award for the top Canadian player.
“He’ll drive in three runs and I’ll tell him, ‘All right, you’re the leading candidate. Go get that Tip O’Neill.”’
Responded Bay: “Every time he has a good game, I’ll tell him: ‘It’s all yours.’ And he’ll be like, ‘You’re gaining on me. Haha.”’
Morneau and Bay, from Trail, B.C., are certainly leading candidates for the prize handed out by the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame annually.
Each is a two-time winner and each is enjoying a third career all-star selection this week in St. Louis.
Bay will start in left field and bat fifth for the American League in Tuesday’s game while Morneau is available to manager Joe Maddon off the bench.
Their rivalry starts with the Tip O’Neill but doesn’t end there. Bay leads the AL with 72 RBIs, two up on Morneau, who leads his buddy in homers 21-20.
It was that ability to put up big numbers that brought them together in the first place.
They became friendly at the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006 but their bond really took at this year’s event, when both were called upon to carry more of the load.
They did much of the heavy lifting for Canada, and were front and centre with manager Ernie Whitt after the stunning 6-2 loss Italy that eliminated the national team.