June 5, 1998
By Bob Elliott
Walt Jefferies, of Paris, Ont., always has had two loves: Standardbred horse racing and baseball.
The Blue Jays scout combined both when he staged a free-agent tryout camp in the middle of Hanover Raceway.
With ingenuity like that Jefferies, who scouted Cambridge’s Rob Ducey, now with the Phils, and 20-plus years of devoted service, Jefferies is our sixth annual scout of the year.
Almost 70, Jefferies scouts games seven days a week between Windsor and London in the western Ontario hotbed.
Orioles scout Wayne Norton, of Port Moody, B.C., who drafted eight players, was a strong contender but was the 1998 winner and ruled ineligible by the committee.
A first baseman, Jefferies headed south in 1948 after being signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers.
He was released, but the next spring, the same year the late Bobby Prentice turned pro, he signed with St. Louis.
After four years, when, as Jefferies said, “pitchers began throwing curves,” Jefferies came home with a love of the game.
Prentice, then the Jays’ Canadian scouting director, hired Jefferies.
Timing players is a mainstay of each tryout camp whether it’s home to first or 60 yards.
Prentice, however, timed players running from home to second. At one camp Jefferies and Prentice spotted a “prospect” who showed in running shoes and shorts with little baseball background.
Prentice said to him: “Okay, we’re going to time everyone running home to second. You’re first.”
Jefferies stood at the base of the mound ready to mark the times down with Prentice alongside, holding the stopwatch.
Prentice yelled: “Ready, set, go,” and the teenager in shorts charged from home, and almost tripped over the pitcher rubber on the way to second base, nearly knocking over Prentice and Jefferies.
Past winners of the scout of the year award are Bill Scherrer of Buffalo (Marlins); Bill McKenzie of Ottawa (Rockies); Tim Harkness of Hampton, Ont. (Padres) and Cambridge’s Ed Heather (Jays).