* Former Blue Jays' California scouting supervisor Tom Hinkle, middle, arrived at a Detroit Tigers game in Oakland three years to catch up with his old pal from the Detroit Tigers minor-league system in the 1960s manager Jim Leyland, right and Dusty Ryan who Hinkle signed to a Tigers contract in 2003 ....
By Bob Elliott
A reason the Blue Jays reeled off 11-consecutive winning seasons was building from the amateur draft.
If there was a player from California, former Toronto scout Tom Hinkle saw him.
Speedster or slugger.
High schooler or collegian.
From doing background on whether Shawn Green would sign or attend Stanford University, or giving a thumbs up to Michael Young or putting his two cents in on 54th rounder Chris Woodward, Hinkle was there.
The Jays’ California scouting supervisor battled other major league clubs for players for decades.
He was at tournament in Las Vegas 15 years ago, became ill on the Friday, jumped in the car and drove home to Atascadero, Calif. and Easter Sunday doctors performed surgery as his battle against cancer began.
Hinkle, 71, lost his battle to cancer Saturday morning.
“I first met Tom in 1975, he was a pitching coach for a semi-pro team, I was working for the New York Yankees, we signed Randy Niemann off his summer team,” said retired Blue Jays scout Wayne Morgan from California. “Tom never once complained about his illness.
“Tom Hinkle was one of the best scouts I ever worked with.”
Area scout John Cole was given credit for drafting Green.
Billy Moore was the hard-working area scout on Young and Woodward, but Hinkle had input.
From 1981 Hinkle scouted for the Chicago Cubs, San Diego Padres, Montreal Expos, the Jays, the Detroit Tigers and the Milwaukee Brewers.
“His best sign ever was probably Randy Johnson when the Expos signed him out of USC, either Johnson or Ozzie Smith,” said Morgan.
When Smith graduated Hinkle was coaching Cal Poly State University and recruited the shortstop, who went on to a Hall of Fame career.
“Ozzie went to Locke High School in L.A., same as Eddie Murray,” Morgan said. “All the scouts went to see Murray. Tom wound up recruiting Smith. He liked tall guys, little guys -- there was almost a foot between Smith and Johnson ... and everyone in between”
Hinkle also signed No. 1 pick Eddie Zosky, Huck Flener, Aaron Small and Steve Wapnick with the Jays.
Besides Johnson he signed Mark Gardner with the Expos, plus Dusty Ryan and Virgil Vasquez with the Tigers.
“I don’t think there ever was a more loyal Blue Jays employee than Tom,” said former scouting director Bob Engle, now of the Los Angeles Dodgers. “Tom was Blue Jays 24 hours a day. All year long.”
Hinkle worked 14 years with the Blue Jays and was named Scout of the Year in 1998.
He played in the 1954 Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., was an All-American at Cal Poly Pomona before he signed with the Detroit Tigers in 1963 and was given an $8,000 US signing bonous.
“Enough to buy two Colonel Sanders franchises, that’s what my uncle wanted me to do ,” Hinkle used to joke. “I said, ‘No way. Who would want to eat chicken?’ My uncle bought three franchises and sold them 10 years later and he never worked again. If I had bought them, I wouldn’t be scouting.”
And the Jays might not have been as good.
A catcher, Hinkle spent three years in the minors. He was with the class-A Lakeland Tigers and double-A Knoxville Smokies in 1963, the class-A Duluth-Superior Dukes in 1964 and the class-A Rocky Mount Leafs in 1964.
Then he began coached at Cal Poly State University in San Luis Obispo.
While some scouts are born to drive back roads looking for dusty diamonds, waiting through rain delays and then rushing on to the next town, checking into a Marriott in hotels 100-to-150 nights a year, Hinkle knew that scouting would not be his lifetime path. Thanks to his Sicilian grandparents he grew up around wine, as they made their own.
In 1996, he and wife Carol, established Rio Seco Vineyard and Winery, in Paso Robles Calif., a 64-acre site with 1,000 olive trees.
He used to joke getting his fellow scouts to switch from beer to wine was tougher than getting a 10th round high school draft to pass on his scholarship and sign. He’d host a scouts-only barbecue and sell his Clubhouse (usually a Merlot) and MVP (a Bordeaux-style cuvée) to his baseball pals. The first year about six showed. Four years later he had 22.
Eric Bauer, who pitched for Hinkle at Cal Poly in the early 1970s, became his assistant wine maker.
Instead of looking at right-handers, left-handers, outfielders and infielders, Hinkle ride his ATV out to the vines to check on Cabernet, Zinfandel, Rhône, Roussanne, Viognier, French Syrah and Australian Shiraz.
Sympathies are extended to his wife Carol and daughters, Cait, Emily and Catherine, son, Thomas, sons-in-law Jacob and Travis, sister RoseAnne, grandchildren Quinn, Zac, Tylor, and Hunter, and many nieces and nephews.
Visitation will be at Chapel of the Roses in Atascadero, Calif. Friday from 11-1 p.m.
A Celebration of his Life will be held Saturday from 1-4 p.m. at Rio Seco Winery in Paso Robles, Calif.
In lieu of flowers, please send any donations to Wilshire Hospice (formerly Hospice Partners of the Central Coast), c/o 277 South Street #R, San Luis Obispo, Calif. 93401 USA
(--- With files from Debbie Gallas.)
FROM FATHER TO SON
Giusseppe (Joe) Agostino immigrated from Calabria, Italy to Canada and when he arrived he did not have a baseball-shaped heart. Yet, he developed one and passed it on to his son, Montreal’s Alex Agostino.
Agostino is Mr. Baseball in Quebec wearing plenty of hats over the years: scouting for the Montreal Expos, the Florida Marlins and now the Philadelphia Phillies; he used to run Baseball Quebec and called Blue Jays games on radio for the French-language network and still coaches.
A week after his 50th wedding anniversary, Giusseppe passed away Saturday at 7 pm, after a fought battle with lung cancer.
“He gave me passion for the game, a man from Calabria,” said Alex Agostino. "He was a great man."
There was one another thing Alex did: passed on a passion for the game to his son Matteo.
Giusseppe will lay in rest Wednesday at Loretto Funeral Home in St. Leonard, Que.. Mass will be Thursday at 11 am at Notre Dame de la Defense in Montreal’s little Italy and burial at Notre Dame des Neiges cemetery.
Deepest sympathies are extended.