Blue Jays’ third baseman talks about his third annual BaseBOWL charity bowling tournament in Toronto

TORONTO — For one night only, Josh Donaldson was OK with ground balls.

The Blue Jays third baseman hosted his third annual BaseBOWL charity bowling tournament on Monday in Toronto to benefit the Jays Care Foundation and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto.

"Helping out Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto and Jays Care again, we’re very thankful for the fan support that we get," Donaldson said. "And it’s just one way that we try to give back to the community."

The money raised in support of Jays Care on Monday is part of over $6.2 million that will be invested in 2017 to directly impact the lives of 65,000 young Canadians in all 10 provinces and the Yukon Territory.

"Player involvement helps us raise awareness for the work that we’re doing," said Robert Witchel, executive director of Jays Care, "and, of course, the funds raised here help us reach more kids not just in Toronto but all across Canada."

The man himself @BringerOfRain20 making the rounds at BaseBowl! pic.twitter.com/0hOm6hIz0g

— Jays Care Foundation (@JaysCare) August 7, 2017

Along with the night of bowling, fans in attendance had the opportunity to bid on auction items, including autographed jerseys, bats, and even a set of Russell Martin’s catching gear.

Since being founded in 1992, Jays Care has worked to create lasting social change for children and youth through the game of baseball. Beyond the Rookie League, their signature baseball for development program, Jays Care leads a growing number of baseball programs that positively impact a wide variety of demographics and communities.

"Jays Care is working with the most marginalized kids across the country," Witchel said earlier this summer at the 22nd annual Jays Care Golf Classic. "Whether it’s kids in the Challenger Baseball program or kids in Toronto Community Housing, what we’re trying to do is level the playing field for all kids. Giving every kid the opportunity to reach their full potential and have a successful life."

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto helps local youth with programs that are preventative and operate from a strengths-based perspective. Through long-term programs, children and youth are mentored to give back to their communities, stay in school, and to have respect for their family and peers.

Donaldson had plenty of company at the event on Monday, too. Nearly all of his Blue Jays teammates were in attendance, with a number of coaches and team staff on hand, as well.

"They’ve showed up and they’ve been very supportive of the event," Donaldson said. "It’s kind of one of those things where I feel our team does a great job with, when there’s a chance to give back to the community, they do that."

Keegan Matheson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Toronto. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Statcast analyzes Nelson Cruz’s first homer that travels 450 feet, the hardest one hit by a Mariner in 2017 at 115.1 mph

OAKLAND — The A’s have seen enough of Mariners slugger Nelson Cruz.

Cruz, also known as "Boomstick," bashed two homers at the Coliseum in Wednesday afternoon’s 6-3 win over the A’s, crushing a fastball to left-center for a two-run homer in the third and blasting a slider to center for a solo homer in the fifth to give him 26 on the year. It was Cruz’s second two-homer game within a week after hitting two in Game 1 of Sunday’s doubleheader win vs. Kansas City.

"I don’t know if Nelson Cruz can hit two harder balls than he hit today," manager Scott Servais said. "I think the first one might’ve been the hardest home run he’s hit."

Mariners manager Scott Servais discusses his team starting to gel after completing a winning road trip with a 6-3 win over the A’s

According to Statcast™, Cruz’s first homer of the day went 450 feet with an exit velocity of 115.1 mph. It was both his and the Mariners’ second-hardest-hit homer since Statcast™ was introduced in 2015. Only his 115.9-mph blast on April 29, 2015, was hit harder. Cruz now has Seattle’s four hardest-hit home runs since Statcast™ began tracking, as well as nine of the 10 hardest.

"That’s probably the loudest ball I’ve heard hit on a field," third baseman Kyle Seager said, who watched the homer from the on-deck circle. "From where I was, it was a pop. … It was incredible just how fast it got out, just how hard he hit it. It was pretty special."

In the fifth, Cruz hit A’s starter Jharel Cotton’s slider 436 feet to center field at 112.4 mph to give him his second multi-homer game of 2017 and the 23rd of his career.

Nelson Cruz rips a solo home run off the batter’s eye in center for his second of the game, increasing the Mariners’ lead to 6-2

"The first home run I was trying to go away, it just leaked over to the middle and he put a good swing on it," Cotton said. "He didn’t miss the ones I didn’t execute. The other one, cutter down trying to get a ground ball. He just hit it hard.

"He’s having a great year, a great season, a great series against us. Right now, he’s a hard out."

Cruz has destroyed the A’s throughout his career, with 29 homers and 98 RBIs in 147 games against them. But he’s really owned Oakland since joining Seattle, batting .369 (65-for-176) with 17 homers and 45 RBIs against the A’s in three seasons, though Seager remembers what it was like facing Cruz before he joined the Mariners.

"I don’t think it’s just the A’s," Seager said. "I remember playing against him and he used to do it to us, too. He’s a lot of fun to watch, and you certainly want him on your team."

Cruz now has five straight seasons with at least 25 homers, and he has hit 113 homers in his three seasons with the Mariners. He also leads the American League with 88 RBIs.

"I feel 100 percent healthy, thank God," Cruz said. "Hopefully I stay like that."

Alex Simon is a reporter for MLB.com based in the Bay Area. Follow him on Twitter at @alexsimon99. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Texas-East (Lufkin) secured its first berth in the Little League World Series. (@LittleLeague)

With the Little League World Series set to begin Aug. 17, regional tournaments around the country are beginning to wrap up, with the first two teams punching their tickets to Williamsport, Pa. on Wednesday.

Here’s a recap of Wednesday’s action, which featured plenty of dramatic finishes.

Southwest Region (Waco, Texas): Texas-East 2, Texas-West 1

Clayton Wigley hit a solo home run to center field in the top of the sixth inning to break a 1-1 tie and send Texas-East (Lufkin) to the Little League World Series for the first time. The other Texas-East run came on a homer by starting pitcher Hunter Ditsworth in the first. Ditsworth was masterful for five innings, giving up a run on four hits, walking one and striking out eight. Chip Buchanan came in to get the final three outs after Ditsworth reached his pitch limit.

Laying out with a #LLWS berth on the line! #SCTop10 pic.twitter.com/yJcqMdphtE

— Little League (@LittleLeague) August 10, 2017

Southeast Region (Robins, Ga.): North Carolina 8, Georgia 6

Thomas Barrett doubled home two runs in the fourth inning to break a 5-5 tie and help lift North Carolina-North State into the Little League World Series. Bryce Jackson hit a two-run homer and drove in three for North Carolina. Trey King was 3-for-3 with two solo homers for Georgia-Peachtree City.

— Little League (@LittleLeague) August 9, 2017

New England Region (Bristol, Conn.): Connecticut 9, New Hampshire 4

Connecticut-Fairfield scored five in the fourth and four in the sixth to beat New Hampshire-Goffstown and advance to the New England Regional Championship Game (Saturday, 1 p.m. ET). Connecticut’s Anthony Pollack doubled and drove in three runs, while Michael Iannazzo doubled and drove in two and Andrew Cutler tripled in a pair.

Mid-Atlantic Region (Bristol, Conn.): New Jersey 10, Pennsylvania 6

A four-run fifth inning propelled New Jersey-Holbrook to the Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship Game (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET). A Chris Cartnick grand slam in that frame put New Jersey in front for good. It was Cartnick’s second homer of the game; he went 3-for-3 with six RBIs.

Great Lakes Region (Westlake, Ind.): Illinois 5, Ohio 4

Illinois-Hinsdale rallied for four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to stun Ohio-West Side for a 5-4 victory to advance to the Great Lakes Regional Championship Game (Saturday, 5 p.m. ET), the winner of which advances to the Little League World Series.

Trailing, 4-1, entering the bottom of the sixth, Illinois got an RBI single by Reece Kolke, followed by a Max Williams’ RBI groundout and a Jakoby Lange sacrifice fly to tie the game. Pinch-runner Emerson Eck then scored from third on an Ethan Mueller wild pitch to win it for Illinois.

Midwest Region (Westfield, Ind.): North/South Dakota 6, Missouri 5

North/South Dakota-Sioux Falls advanced to the Midwest Regional Championship Game (Saturday, 11 a.m. ET) with a five-run rally in the bottom of the sixth inning for a walk-off victory over Missouri-Webb City. Down 5-1, Sioux Falls drew five walks, with a Cohen Henry RBI double and a Marcus Phillips RBI single mixed in to tie the game. Logan Boom then hit a ground ball to short, which Kyler Perry couldn’t come up with, enabling the winning run to score.

Northwest Region (San Bernardino, Calif.): Montana 16, Idaho 1 (4 innings)

Montana scored 10 runs in the second inning and another six in the fourth to advance to the Northwest Regional semifinal round (Thursday, 12 p.m. ET). Connor Dick went 2-for-2 with three RBIs, and Kaden Sheridan went 3-for-4 with a double and two RBIs. Starting pitcher Adam Jones gave up one run and struck out eight over four innings.

West Region (San Bernardino, Calif.): Utah 13, Northern California 11

Northern California jumped out to a 6-0 lead, but Utah stormed back and held off a late rally to advance to the West Regional semifinal round (Friday, 6 p.m. ET). Kyler Terry doubled and homered, while Jaxon Barben doubled and drove in two for Utah. Matt McArthur drove in three, and also came on in relief to get the final three outs of the game after Northern California scored three in the bottom of the sixth.

Manny Randhawa is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @MannyOnMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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