* Gareth Morgan of the Ontario Blue Jays, signed a $2 million US signing bonus the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday and then signed autographs and posed for pictures at Safeco Field Tuesday night in Seattle. His bonus was roughly what the 21st over-all pick, would have received. The assigned slot money for the 74th spot was $760,300. .... (PHOTO: Ben VanHouten/Seattle Mariners)
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16 Canucks drafted …. Inexact science … What’s in a Name II …. Podcast: Chris Robinson … Pop honoured … Reds stay in house …. Dawgs go back-to-back …. Astros tab Foster …. Morgan in for big pay day? …. Blaze represented by Robinson, Horne … Onyshko will weigh options … M’s make Morgan a second-rounder …. Astros take Dykxhoorn in 6th …. Romano goes to Jays ….
By Bob Elliott
His summers have been a blur: travelling to the Dominican with the Canadian Junior National Team and south of the border with the Ontario Blue Jays.
His spring and falls have been a whirlwind too: trekking around the world wearing a Canada uniform, sporting Jays blue on their trips across college campus and to Jupiter and he even donned a Langley Blaze uniform this spring for a trip to Arizona.
And his pace hasn’t slowed one bit in the past week. Consider the past week days for grade 12 student Gareth Morgan, as he ...
_ Was drafted by the Seattle Mariners Thursday night the 74th selection in North America in the annual June draft of high schoolers and collegians.
_ Flew to Seattle on Sunday.
_ Agreed to a $2 million US signing bonus on Tuesday, the third highest a Canadian has ever received.
_ Took batting practice with the Mariners at Safeco Field.
_ Flies home to Toronto Wednesday to begin paperwork on his work visa and then it’s off to Arizona and the Mariners spring training complex.
“I was pretty nervous going into it,” Morgan told Bob Dutton of The Tacoma News Tribune after his first BP session as a pro, “my swing felt a little different. I’m excited to be on Safeco Field again. It’s a great time to be here.
“It’s been crazy. Starting with the draft, I didn’t know what was going to happen. I’m glad Seattle picked me, and toured the city, It’s a great place to be. I went on a couple of duck tours.”
Now a duck tour is one of those cute boats that are able to tour the city both via water and drive the streets, like the kind you see in Boston.
Morgan worked out for the Mariners brass on Tuesday ... two days before the draft and there he was again in the Safeco cage.
“This was my second time hitting here,” Morgan told Dutton. “I’m happy to be back. It’s a great field to play on.”
How quickly did this all unfold?
“The draft was Thursday. Right away, I wanted to sign. I flew in Sunday. And now I’m here,” said Morgan, who said that there wasn’t a lot of back and forth contract talks. “It was pretty much right away.
“The last couple of days, it’s been crazy. I haven’t really taken it in yet, but it’s starting to sink in. I can’t wait to start playing.”
Morgan left the yard during BP as he and the Mariners hope he will do some day down the road.
“It was great,” said Morgan of his time in the cage. “The first couple rounds were ridiculous. But at the end there, I got a couple.”
* * *
The 2010 Mizuno camp took place in September at the Rogers Centre.
The best teenagers from across Canada were there, including a young pup named Gareth Morgan, who had recently been named to the Canadian Junior National Team.
Greg Hamilton was leaning against the dugout when a sandlot coached came up and asked: “Why on earth are you taking a grade niner to Florida next month with the Junior National Team?”
Showing remarkable poise under the situation, Hamilton calmly answered: “He’s a special talent and if we all do our jobs right he might be one of the best players in the world.”
What ever happened to that young pup?
The 6-foot-3, 180-pound man child who was brought to the Rogers Centre by his mom?
Well, he’s now the big dog.
* * *
The Mariners drafted Morgan, now a strapping 6-foot-4 and 220-pound Morgan with the 74th selection over-all in North America.
And the Mariners signed the North York outfielder giving him a $2 million US contract, the third largest ever for a Canadian. Only Jameson Taillon of The Woodlands, Tex., who pitched for Canada in the World Baseball Classic last year ($6.5 Million from the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2010) and Adam Loewen of Surrey, B.C. ($3.2 million from the Baltimore Orioles in 2002) have received more.
Morgan won five OBA titles with coach Steve Davis and the North York Blues.
“Throw him a breaking ball, he can’t hit it,” a detractor would say.
He played for Ryan McBride’s Toronto Mets, the Jr. National Team travelling the world: Australia, Cuba, Taiwan, the Dominican, attending showcase events at Wrigley Field and Petco Park.
He joined Danny Bleiwas’ Ontario Blue Jays making spring and fall tours of schools gaining exposure south of the border, impressing at the Perfect Game championships in Jupiter, Fla.
“He’s Mr. BP, he can put on a display during batting practice like no one else eligible to be drafted this year,” one scout said in Florida this March at Al Lang Field, “but I’d still like to see him do it in a game.”
From Florida, Morgan headed to Arizona with the Langley Blaze and game after game, Morgan performed in a game.
The Mariners were convinced.
A statistical report showed Morgan hit .270 with power the past year facing first and second-year pros at spring training complexes in Florida and Arizona, plus the Dominican.
At the Tournament-12 last fall he put his head down on a routine single to right and Evan Comeau scampered into second. Morgan earned a lecture from the Jays alumni working the tournament.
* * *
The trio which landed Morgan in the Great Northwest is very familiar with Canadian talent. Wayne Norton of Port Moody, B.C., the Mariners Canadian scout, played a role in drafting Phillippe Aumont of Gatineau, Que., in the first round in 2007, lefty James Paxton in the fourth round in 2010, Tyler O’Neill of Maple Ridge, B.C. last June and Michael Saunders of Victoria in the 11th round in 2004.
Could the M’s feature an all-Norton outfield of Saunders, O’Neill and Morgan.
Mariners’ scouting director Tom McNamara was a scout with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2008. His scouting director six years ago was Jack Zduriencik.
Zduriencik flew to the Dominican last month to see Morgan up close himself.
There was talk of Morgan going in the first round and as usual people scoffed. Morgan was selected with the final pick of day one at the end of the second round. The Mariners were picking sixth and 74th on Day One.
Assigned slot value for that pick was $760,300. Jim Callis of MLB.com, reported they signed seven players at below-slot aggregate to off-set Morgan’s above-slot bonus.
Morgan might not have gone first round but he was certainly paid like one.
* * *
After the Blue Jays played the Junior National Team at Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg, Jays starter Brandon Morrow was asked if he noticed the No. 3 hitter, who was supposed to do well in the draft?
“You mean the guy that spun my cap around ... yeah I noticed him,” said Morrow. “I’d say he has a future.”
Morgan will report to the Mariners’ club in the Arizona Rookie League when he is cleared to play.
And what did Hamilton have to say now that another Canuck prospect is on the road to play ball.
“It’s Gareth day,” Hamilton said. “Let him do the talking.”
From the North York Blues, to the Ontario Mets, to the Ontario Blue Jays and the Canadian National Junior Team to in uniform with a contract in his locker and on the same field as Derek Jeter and the Yankees.