Tyson Gillies an inspiration

July 13. 2009  

By Bob Elliott

Nick Weglarz is likely the closest to making the majors.

Rene Tosoni was born in Toronto, lived in Aurora until he was six years old and was most valuable player yesterday.

Brett Lawrie is the highest Canadian position player ever drafted.

Yet Tyson Gillies has overcome the most of the record four Canadians at the 11th annual Futures Game at soggy Busch Stadium yesterday before 36,311 fans.

While Weglarz was cut from his minor bantam team in Niagara Falls, Tosoni didn’t sign out of high school and Lawrie was forced to switch positions, Gillies is hearing impaired.

Sitting in the third-base dugout yesterday morning, he wore his World Team uniform and cap, his glove, cleats plus a hearing aid in each ear.

“I have 35% hearing in one ear, 50-55% in my other, my right ear is the good one,” said Gillies.

Young Canadian players want to grow up to be like Weglarz, Tosoni and Lawrie.

Everyone admires Gillies.

“Sometimes, we’ll get a new guy and he’ll ask: ‘What’s that in your ear?’ I’ll tell him and he’ll say: ‘Cool.’ Anything new and exciting people like,” Gillies said. “I had an e-mail from a woman who had lost her hearing. She wrote how it had taken her so long to accept it and she was in her 40s. It’s not the easiest thing to accept and move on with your life.”

Gillies has accepted and moved on and up. He says he will speak to the National Association of the Deaf in Seattle.

He is hitting .326 with six homers, 26 RBIs and 23 stolen bases at class-A High Desert in the Seattle Mariners system.

“As a tall, slender outfielder, I’m not really certain who I’d compare him to, maybe the best comparison is Willie McGee,” said Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik. “He doesn’t have McGee’s speed, but he has above average speed.

“He plays the way Pete Rose does. We saw him in spring training. He runs to back up first ... runs to back up a ball to another outfielder ... runs to back up throws to second. He’s the Energizer battery bunny.”

Because the Mariners had players away at the World Baseball Classic, Gillies played in 18 games, making five starts for the Mariners. He’s hitting .303 with three doubles, a triple, 21 RBIs and 21 stolen bases.

“I have a great respect for how he competes and the young man he has become,” Zduriencik said.

Scout Wayne Norton of Port Moody, B.C., gave Gillies a $60,000 US signing bonus and also signed third baseman Alex Liddi of San Remo, Italy, for $50,000.

Gillies was in right field last night, Weglarz in left and Lawrie was the DH.

“We were hoping for an all-Canadian outfield. Our pitching coach, Bobby Cuellar, is with the Twins,” said Tosoni, the Twins prospect, who added jokingly: “I was going to speak with him about it.”

Tosoni’s parents, Cindy and Maurizio, went to Roos restaurant in Cotquiliam, B.C. to watch on TV, but his brother Dana came to St. Louis. Tosoni was signed by the late Jim Ridley after being drafted in the 36th round in 2005.

“Jim is the guy who convinced me to sign,” Tosoni said. “He asked: ‘Why quibble over a few thousand dollars? Get into the system, get going, then, the sky is the limit.’

“When I broke my foot a year ago May, I phoned Jim to tell him and he told me he was ill.”

Tosoni is hitting .278 with 10 HRs and 51 RBIs in 82 games at double-A New Britain.

Like Gillies, Lawrie at class-A Wisconsin is an alumnus of the Langley Blaze. He’s hitting .268 with nine homers and 44 RBIs in 72 games, one of seven Canadians on the Wisconsin roster.

Weglarz’s parents, Cheryl and Stan, came to St. Louis from Stevensville, Ont. Weglarz, who played for Team Ontario and was signed by Cleveland Indians scout Les Pajari, is hitting .247 with 13 homers and 59 RBIs in 83 games. For a power hitter he’s shown discipline walking 53 times and striking out 58 times in 321 plate appearances.

Tosoni doubled in the winning run as the World edged Team USA 7-5.

Gillies dropped a bunt single, stole second and third and scored, while Lawrie doubled off the fence in left and scored. Weglarz was hitless.