* Wayne Norton (Port Moody, BC), below right, is the winner of the 21st annual Canadian Baseball Network scout of the year honour. Morgan scouted and signed (from left) Tyler O’Neill (Maple Ridge, BC), third round 2013, Gareth Morgan (North York, Ont.), second round 2014, and Lachlan Fontaine (North Vancouver, BC) 12th rounder, 2013. The picture was taken in the spring of 2013 by a teammate before any of the three signed with the Mariners. .... 2014 Canadians drafted … Canadians in the Minors … Canadians in College 2015 Canadian draft list Letters of Intent
By Bob Elliott It would be a short list of people who have seen the Canadian Junior National Team play more than Wayne Norton. You’d have coach Greg Hamilton.
You might have Walt Burrows, head of the Canadian wing of the Major League Scouting Bureau, but he also has duties which take him to other pro leagues to do reports, scout’s school and conflicting coverage.
And you might have Murray Zuk (Souris, Man.) the veteran San Diego Padres scout.
That would be about it.
Norton, who scouts for the Seattle Mariners, is almost every game.
And he never takes a work out off, whether it is an brisk October morn in a back cage as ESPN Wide World of Sports in Lake Buena Vista or Bureau camp or a Bureau camp in Welland or Trudeau Park in Montreal on a hot August afternoon when the leaves are struggling to breath.
It’s not because he’s centrally located -- living in Port Moody, B.C. and covering Europe for the Mariners on his own, now that Bob Engle, his former assistant, has left to work for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The most important thing, besides from having a presence at the ball park, is getting results.
Norton gets those.
Norton drafted Gareth Morgan (North York, Ont.) as the top high schooler in June (74th over-all in North America) and then general manager Jack Zduriencik and scout Tom McNamara gave the Ontario Blue Jays outfielder a $2 million US signing bonus, which roughly equalled slot money for the 20th over-all pick.
So, the past two season Norton has drafted Tyler O'Neill of Maple Ridge, B.C., the top high school hitter in the third round last year, North Vancouver’s Lachlan Fontaine in the 12th and Morgan. When someone is on a run like that he’s an easy choice as the 2014 winner of Jim Ridley award the annual scout of the year presented by the Canadian Baseball Network.
This is the 21st annual award, re-named in honour of Ridley, the former Detroit Tigers, Toronto Blue Jays and Minnesota Twins scout in 2009.
Besides Ridley, Norton is only scout to win the award more than once. He won in 1998 working the Baltimore Orioles. The O’s were non factors north of the border but Pat Gillick and Norton drafted six players that June: 3B Tim Nelson (Calgary, Alta.) Allan Hancock Junior College, seventh round, RHP Dustin Emberly (Weyburn, Sask.) 10th; RP Denis Gratton (Kitchener, Ont.) of the Ontario Blue Jays, 18th; RHP Jason Mandryk (Langton, Ont.) of the London juveniles, 26th, RHP Marc-Andre Houle (Terrebonne, Que.), of Des Moines Community College, 39th and OF Brock Ralph (Raymond, Alta.) 43rd.
There were other years Norton could have won, but competition was so fierce and the judging panel for a time had a rule: win once, you couldn’t win again.
Adjustments were made, for as Ridley always said “baseball is a game of adjustments.”
Norton has had better years than 1998:
_ With the Orioles he selected outfielder Ntema Ndungidi (Montreal, Que.) from the ABC 36th over-all and gave him a $500,000 US signing bonus. Ndungidi played seven seasons getting as high as double-A.
_ He grabbed outfielder Michael Saunders (Victoria, BC) in the 11th round and signed free-agent outfielder Gregory Halman from Haarlem in The Netherlands in 2004.
_ He signed free agent Alex Liddi from Sanremo, Italy in 2005.
_ As he and Engle chose RP Phillippe Aumont (Gatineau, Que.) 11th over-all in 2007. Aumont, who received a $1.9 million bonus, was dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies, along with Tyson Gillies (Vancouver, BC) a Norton pick the year before in the 25th round and J.C. Ramirez in 2009 for Cliff Lee.
_ And in 2009 Saunders, Halman and Liddi all occupied spots on Baseball America’s top 10 Mariners’ prospect list.
“I was an area scout for 10 years, I know how difficult the job is,” said McNamara, M’s scouting director, “the one thing about Wayne is all those kids on the Canadian Junior team respect Wayne, whether I go in to see them in Orlando, Arizona or where ever.”
YEAR WINNER HOMETOWN TEAM