* Murray Zuk (Souris, Man.), San Diego Padres scout is 2013 winner of the Canadian Baseball Network’s Jim Ridley memorial award our 20th annual scout of the year honour. .... MLB open workouts 2014 Canadian draft list 2013 Canadians in the Minors 2013 Canadian collegians playing summer ball 2013 Canadians in College Letters of Intent
By Bob Elliott
He has been seen them all.
In 1971 he began working for the Cincinnati Reds, filling out his first player’s card.
If memory serves Murray Zuk and it always serves him well, the player was Terry Puhl (Melville, Sask.), who went on to play 15 years in the majors.
He was scouting in the 1980s when the likes of LHP Steve Wilson (Victoria, BC), 1B Colin Dixon (West Vancouver, BC), LHP Kevin MacLeod (Sydney, N.S.) and RHP Cameron Biberdorf (Edwin, Man.) were some of the better Canadians selected.
In the 1990s Chris Reitsma (Calgary, Alta.), RHP Ryan Dempster (Gibsons, BC) and RHP Jason Dickson (Chatham, N.B.) were top Canucks.
Unable to hold a job, he left the Reds after 26 years and joined the Atlanta Braves in 1997 for four years when C Justin Morneau (New Westminster, BC), INF Scott Thorman (Cambridge, Ont.) and SS Kevin Nicholson (Surrey, BC) were the top home growns.
The Braves drafted but were unable to sign LHP Brad Drew (Waterloo, Ont.) who went to Stanford University.
After four years with the Braves, he joined the San Diego Padres was a Padre scout watching the golden era of RHP Tom Robson (Ladner, BC), INF Brett Lawrie (Langley, BC), RHP Phillippe Aumont (Gatineau, Que.), C Chris Robinson (Dorchester, Ont.), RHP Brooks McNiven (Vernon, BC), Adam Loewen (Surrey, BC), Jeff Francis (North Delta, BC) and Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) drew rave reviews and signings bonues. He nabbed LHP Mark Hardy (Campbell River, BC) in the 43rd round in 2010.
That’s the life path of the longest serving scout searching dusty diamonds across Canada for talent.
And that’s Zuk (Souris, Man.) 2013 winner of the Canadian Baseball Network’s Jim Ridley memorial award as the 20th annual scout of the year honour.
Behind the screen where days can become tiresome and repititive, tongues are always sharp.
“Hey Murray that good looking kid, the left-handed hitter, what was the count on that game-winning hit ... in 1941?” an opposing scout will ask.
Or another will tease “Murray you saw that catcher, you know all about him ... what is his dog’s name?”
Zuk is the first scout to arrive at a park when the travelling Major League Baseball scouting bureau camp comes to town, he attends the national championships, the Canada Cup and what ever and where ever the talent is.
And he’ll be around this week as the open bureau camp is in Sarnia on Monday at Blackwell Park, Welland at the Welland Sports Complex Tuesday and Etobicoke’s Connorvale Park on Wednesday. All three days begin at 10 am.
He's a regular at the Canada Cup, when the Junior Nats tour Florida, when the Langley Blaze visit Arizona, drops in on the Onatrio Blue Jays and the ABC during March break in Florida. And he's a regular at the Best of West in Kamloops as well as University of British Columbia Thunderbirds.
“He never takes a day off, a game off, an at-bat off,” said one scout, “he never takes a pitch off.”
Everything goes into his note book of the former high school principal.
And while most Canadian scouts were waiting by the phone waiting for a call from their scouting director or somone in their club’s war room, Zuk was with the high rollers.
Along former Padres right-hander Andy Ashby, Zuk was at MLB Network’s Studio 42 in Secaucus, N.J. along with Hall of Famers George Brett (Royals), Senator Jim Bunning (Phillies) and Tommy Lasorda (Dodgers) as well as former MVPs Frank Thomas (White Sox) and Ivan Rodriguez (Rangers).
The other All-Stars representing their clubs were Bob Boone (Nationals), Al Bumbry (Orioles), Will Clark (Giants), Jose Cruz (Astors), Alvin Davis (Mariners), Eric Davis (Reds), David Eckstein (Angels), Ryan Franklin (Cardinals), Ralph Garr (Braves), Luis Gonzalez (Diamondbacks), Roberto Hernandez (Rays), Charlie Hough (Dodgers), Fred McGriff (Blue Jays), Tony Oliva (Twins), Willie Randolph (Yankees), Darryl Strawberry (Mets), Jim Sundberg (Rangers), Kent Tekulve (Pirates), Jason Varitek (Red Sox) and Kerry Wood (Cubs).
Murray Cook, former Expos, Yankees and Red general manager was the other Canadian scout on hand, seated at the Tigers table.
Padres scouting director Billy Gasparino chose Zuk to represent the club at the draft.
“Once we decided on our pick, was called in (to the MLB Studio), Murray took the call from me and passed the I.D. number and the name of our pick along,” Eddie Ciafardini, assistant scouting director, “And then the commissioner announced the pick.”
And so it was commissioner Bud Selig stood at the podium and said:
“With the 13th pick, the San Diego Padres select right fielder Hunter Renfroe, Mississippi State.”
Then Ciafardini called Zuk when it was San Diego’s turn for their second-round pick. And Ashby headed to the podium:
“With their second-round pick the San Diego Padres select shortstop Dustin Peterson, Gilbert Az.”
Then, Ciafardini called Zuk and gave him the name of the Padres competitive balance pick, 69th over-all.
And up to the mike stepped Zuk in front of the Hall of Famers, the all-stars, the executives, the North American TV audience on MLB Network, he looked into the camera and said:
“The San Diego Padres select centre fielder Jordan Paroubeck, Junipero Serra High School, San Mateo, Calif.”
Paroubeck was given a $650,000 US signing bonus.
“Murray has a passion for the game and it comes across in his reports, he’s in tune with players in his communities,” said Ciafardini. “He’s a great ambassador to the game. We thought he’d be an ideal choice to represent the organization.”
Zuk reports to Pete DeYoung, the Padres West Coast supervisor.
And Zuk phoned in from New York with his reports and he background of his players (“he gets to know his kids,” said Ciafardini) for this year’s draft. Zuk wanted to draft Jacob Robson (Windsor, Ont.) in the 16th round, but later selected the Ontario Blue Jays outfielder in the 30th round. Robson went to Mississippi State.
And the Padres also selected INF Chris Thibideau (Cole Harbour, N.S.) from the Vauxhall Academy, who will attend Midland College.
Inducted into the Manitoba Hall of Fame in 1999, Zuk played on four provincial winners at Hamiota, was the first Manitoba Baseball Association president (1969-70) when four groups amalgamated.
He coached and umpired in Souris and was head coach for the 1967 Souris Cardinals Western Canada juvenile champs and in 1990 was the assistant coach for the Western Canada Bantam champs.
Zuk, like most good baseball men in the country, isn’t on the hunt for a pro prospect ... he’s helped several players obtain scholarships.
JIM RIDLEY HONOUR ROLL
(Scout of the Year honour re-named after Ridley in 2009)
YEAR WINNER HOMETOWN TEAM
2008 Greg Hamilton Ottawa, Ont., Baseball Canada
2013 Murray Zuk, Souris, Man., Padres