By Bob Elliott
Claude Pelletier has been asked many questions while evaluating players over the years.
And in 1995, Los Angeles Dodgers scouting director Terry Reynolds asked Pelletier, “Why should we sign this free agent when he has already played in United States and none of our guys like him?”
Pelletier, of Ste-Lezare, Que., answered that the Dodgers should sign the player in question, Eric Gagne, because he liked him and asked for a second opinion.
Dodgers cross-checker Eddie Bane flew to Calgary to see Gagne pitch for Team Canada, which was on the way to the Olympic qualifier in Edmonton. Bane gave a thumbs up and the player was given a $75,000 US signing bonus.
And that’s how Gagne wound up with the Dodgers.
Gagne, a right-hander from Mascouche, Que., has made eight starts with L.A. this season, posting a 1-3 record and a 3.77 ERA.
For recognizing a talent, who wasn’t even drafted after attending Seminole Junior College, Pelletier is the winner of The Toronto Sun’s sixth annual award for amateur scouts.
Brampton’s Jim Kane, who drafted the first Canadian high-schooler to be selected in the first round, Scott Thorman, also was in the running for the honour. But as the old saying goes, “Drafting is easy, signing is tougher.”
With double-A San Antonio in 1999, Gagne had a 12-4 record with a 2.63 ERA in 26 starts to win honours as Texas League pitcher of the year. He led the league with 185 strikeouts, was second in ERA and third in wins. He held opposing batters to a .201 average.
“I always liked Eric and saw him pitch often,” Pelletier said.
Pelletier now works for the Mets after 13 years with the Dodgers. He may be paid by the Mets, but once every five days his heart is with the Dodgers.
Former scout of the year winners are Walt Jefferies of Paris, Ont. (Blue Jays); Bill Scherrer of Buffalo, (Marlins); Bill McKenzie of Ottawa (Rockies); Tim Harkness of Hampton, Ont. (Padres); and Cambridge’s Ed Heather (Jays).