Honourable senators, I rise today to pay tribute to an Acadian ambassador, a true hero and a great source of pride for the community who, unfortunately, passed away on March 8. As soon as the name Rhéal Cormier is mentioned, a proud smile lights up Acadians’ faces. It is simply incredible that a little guy from Cap-Pelé, who began his career as a baseball pitcher by throwing stones at the mailbox, went on to play in the major leagues for 16 seasons, especially considering that less than 1% of players drafted by a major league baseball team make a career there. However, a young Acadian from a village with a population of just over 2,400 managed to do just that.
Rhéal Cormier began his career with the Moncton Mets at the age of 18, where he was noticed by Bill Lee, a former Expos player, who took him under his wing. He then represented Canada at the 1988 Olympics and was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals that same year. Three years later, on August 15, 1991, he played his first game as a starting pitcher. It is like something right out of a movie, for an Acadian to make his start in the major leagues on National Acadian Day — and he won the game besides. I can assure you that the Tintamarre was particularly loud in 1991. He went on to play in Montreal, Boston and Philadelphia before finishing his major league career in Cincinnati in 2007.
During his time with the Expos, he was the first francophone to pitch in an opening match for the team. After his major league adventure, Rhéal returned to the Moncton Mets in hopes of making a comeback and competing in the Olympics a second time in 2008. At the age of 41, after pitching in the major leagues, he signed on with his local team to give back to the community and the team that gave him his first shot. Few former professional players have gone back to their roots like Rhéal did and shared their love of baseball with young and old alike. That is one of the great things about Rhéal. He has always been a down-to-earth guy despite his stardom. He left Acadia as the little guy from Cap-Pelé who pitched rocks at the mailbox. He pursued his dream, and when he came back from his adventure, he was the same little guy from Cap-Pelé.
Honourable senators, please join me in celebrating the exceptional and inspiring life of Rhéal Cormier and extending our sincere condolences to his family and friends during this sad time. Thank you.