The biggest fan of Seattle Mariner Michael Saunders lives in his Gander it's his grandfather
© — Associated Press file photo
In this Aug, 19, 2012 file photo, the Seattle Mariners' Michael Saunders watches the path of his two-run home run against the Minnesota Twins during an American League game in Seattle. Saunders is a native of Victoria, B.C,, but his father, Dr. David Saunders, grew up in Gander and his grandfather, Cal Saunders, still lives there.
Cal Saunders spent a lifetime in the woods, as a guide and outfitter for Americans and mainlanders, and locals too, who would travel to Cal's lodge on the Gander River for some prime hunting and fishing.
He was at it over half a decade, in fact, only packing it in just a few years ago.
"I had to take care of my wife," he says. "And I figured I'd come home and relax a little bit."
Saunders was born on the shores of Gander Bay, in Clarke's Head, 84 years ago. There wasn't a lot of playing sports in that part of the world back then.
Sport, rather, was catching fish and shooting rabbits.
So we know where Cal's oldest grandson, Michael Saunders, gets his love of the outdoors.
Michael works in Seattle, but lives in Denver. The reason he's settled in Colorado, the grandfather says, is because he wants to live in a place that has more than one season.
"We're trying to talk him into coming in this winter to do some ski-dooing," Cal says.
That could be doable. Spring and summer, however, is pretty much out the window since Michael is busy playing outfield for the Seattle Mariners, part of the new wave of Canadian baseball stars in the major leagues.
Suffice to say, Cal Saunders might be the only Mariners fan in all of Gander.
Michael's father, Derek Saunders, was born and raised in Gander and was a pretty fair ball player himself, the elder Saunders reports. Derek eventually entered Memorial University's medical faculty and upon graduation, headed west to Victoria, B.C. where he settled and married Jane Dykstra, who worked as a respiratory therapist.
"He played hockey, and was really leaning towards that sport," Cal said of his grandson who grew up in Victoria. "Of course, out in Victoria, they start playing baseball in February.
"Anyway, he came home one day and said he was quitting hockey to stick with baseball. He was about 14. The hockey games were getting a bit rougher and he figured if he stayed, he'd get killed.
"His father tried to talk him out of it, but Michael said his mind was made up."
Last year, Saunders hit 19 home runs and knocked in 57 for the Mariners, though he's been slumping this season with a .202 batting average and four homers.
Almost as bad as the 2011 season, but he had an excuse that year. That's when his Mom died following a battle with breast cancer.
"That had a big affect on Michael," said his grandfather.
Cal Saunders catches almost every Mariners game on television. When we chatted, in fact, he was watching the Mariners-Los Angeles Angels game from the night before.
However, Cal has never seen Michael play live.
"I'm getting too old and decrepit now to travel," he jokes.
Growing up, Michael was close to his grandfather, despite the huge geographic separation. Cal would sometimes head to Victoria, and every summer, Dr. Saunders would bring the family home to Gander.
"They'd be here a couple, three weeks," Cal says. "I'd bring them up to the cabin on the river and Michael would fish up there all the time."
The grandfather says his baseball star grandson would like to get back on the river again sometime soon to flick a line.
But for now, he's making catches in ball parks across America and Toronto.
And back in Gander, Cal Saunders beams with pride.
Must have been nice for the boys down at St. Pat's to see Edgar Hartery drop by the ball park for a visit this week.
Telegram photographer Joe Gibbons had a nice shot of Edgar in the paper Wednesday.
Edgar's getting along in years (I have no idea how old he is, and not about to guess for fear of Edgar's wrath lest I overestimate), and he rarely gets down to the ball park.
But remembering Edgar in his heyday (wonder who hung all of his jackets on the outfield fence?) reminds me of a time when there were characters involved with local sports.
Like Edgar, and Duey Fitzgerald and Snowy Carroll. Last time I saw Edgar was at Snowy's birthday party at Ben's, and that was a hoot.
I vaguely recall Bucky King doing pushups down at the old Stadium.
The characters aren't around anymore, and the athletes, it seems, take themselves a bit too serious.
I might even suggest they are, for the most part, vanilla.
You couldn't say that about Mike Hagerty.
That's why it's refreshing to listen to T. Ryan Jr., a chip off the ol' block, chat it up today.
I wish there more of all those guys around today (well, except for Hags, maybe).
Robin Short is The Telegram's Sports Editor. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org