* Dick (The Legend) Groch was a legend long before he scouted and signed New York Yankees shortstop and future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter. ...
By Bob Elliott In his native Michigan, he’s known as “The Legend.’’
He built the St. Clair Community College into a baseball powerhouse and a home for Ontario players.
And on diamonds across Canada, he earned the moniker for his scouting prowess. Except this spring he wasn’t around.
He picked up and left. Switched teams. He now scouts pros rather than amateurs.
Yet, for his long and meritorious service, Dick Groch, who used to cover Canada for the New York Yankees and accompanied general manager Doug Melvin to the Milwaukee Brewers, is the winner of 2003 Canadian Baseball Network’s 10th annual scout-of-the-year honour.
Besides scouting and signing Canadians, Groch spent six years coaching Team Canada under Bill MacKenzie until 1986.
The Mount Pleasant, Mich. resident helped the likes of Steve Wilson, Mike Gardner and Kevin Reimer, who all went on to play in the majors, as well as Rob Thompson, now director of the Yankees minor-league system and former Brantford Red Sox star Brian McRobie.
Groch signed a number of Canadians over the years: Lefty John Picco of La Salle, Ont., Oshawa right-hander Chris Kemlo, righty Reggie Laplante of Beauport, Que., and outfielder Jason Wuerch of Leamington, Ont.
His best sign, however, was a shortstop from his home state. Yankees scouting director Bill Livesey, now with the Jays, went around the table asking questions and this exchange took place:
Livesey: “Where’s this kid going? University of Michigan?”
Groch: “No, he’s not going to Michigan.”
Livesey: “Well, where is he going to go?”
Groch: “This kid’s going to Cooperstown.”
The kid was Derek Jeter, who signed an $850,000 US bonus to turn pro.
He was also known as a hoops stud ... with the Olivet Jets where in 1961 he was named for to the Michigan NAIA all-state basketball team in 1961 for a third straight year. Witnesses say his best move was a two hand dunk known as “air-Groch.”
Former winners are Bill Scherrer of Buffalo, (Marlins); Bill McKenzie of Ottawa (Rockies); Tim Harkness of Oshawa (Padres); Cambridge’s Ed Heather (Jays); Wayne Norton of Port Moody, BC (Orioles), Walt Jefferies of Paris, Ont. (Blue Jays); Claude Pelletier (Mets) of Ste-Lezare, Que., the late Jim Kane (Braves) of Brampton and Ken Lenihan of Beford, N.S. (Major League Baseball Bureau).