Saw two noteworthing sporting moments on Tuesday night while endeavouring to continue to avoid the early propaganda from both sides in the NHL labour discussions.
First, on a gorgeous night with the roof open at the Rogers Centre, one was momentarily caught by surprise when a tidy but ear-catching standing ovation broke out.
The subject? None other than Colby Rasmus, the young centre fielder driven out of St. Louis last season, the Blue Jay outfielder who wasn't exactly the most popular athlete in this town either in the latter part of last season and the early part of this year for his erratic batting efforts.
Rasmus worked through those problems to become one of the more effective Jays hitters this season, with his 20 home runs a surprise power stat in the Toronto lineup.
But what seemed to draw Rasmus the rousing cheers on Tuesday was the fact he went to the plate as a pinch-hitter in the ninth despite being unable to be part of the starting lineup because of his tender groin. Fans like that, athletes who play hurt. Rasmus swatted a single to left and then was promptly replaced by 45-year-old pinch runner Omar Viquel.
Rasmus - who turned 26 on Saturday - certainly isn't the most popular Jay. But on a team with a few flashy players, his improvement and efforts have clearly been noticed.
Another young athlete based out of Toronto, tennis player Milos Raonic, did some bouncing back of his own Tuesday night, upsetting Richard Gasquet of France in the first round of the Cincinnati Masters in straight sets.
Raonic, 21, drew some criticism for his quarter-final appearance at the Rogers Cup last week in a loss to John Isner of the United States. Gasquet, meanwhile, made it to the final before losing to Novak Djokovic.
Gasquet jumped to No. 13 in the world with that effort, while Raonic moved into the top 20 for the first time at No. 19. In Cincinnati, Gasquet had double set point in the first set but couldn't close, ultimately dropping a tiebreak.
In the second set, he was broken by Raonic in the sixth game, and the Canadian held off a late charge by Gasquet to win the match on move on to a second round match with Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus. It was one of those matches that was really decided by four or five big points, a measure of the small margin of error on the tour. For Raonic, a likely third round collision with Tomas Berdych awaits if Raonic can knock off Baghdatis.
If there's any similarity between Rasmus and Raonic, and there aren't many, it would be the way in which fans and critics seem so quickly to want to write them off rather than view them as young, developing athletes still learning the ways to success in their sport.
Rasmus, at least, is getting kudos for turning his game around. Raonic, meanwhile, seems to be struggling to meet the expectations of a Canadian tennis public that seems oddly untethered from the realities of the sport. He's the first Canadian male to ever crack the top 20, and a player with two major weapons in his spectacular serve and crushing forehand, yet that's still leaving some unsatisfied.
A win over Gasquet coming off the Isner loss was a huge step forward in a season filled with some tough losses. Neither he nor Rasmus is close to fully defining themselves in their chosen sport. A simple declarative sentence on either at this point in their respective careers just isn't available. People might want to enjoy the process a little more.