R.I.P. Epy Guerrero
* Legendary scout Epy Guerrero, shown above with former Jays Hall of Fame GM Pat Gillick, was a building block during the Blue Jays early years. He signed 52 players who made the majors. .... 2013 Top Canadians eligible for draft 2013 Canadians in the Minors 2013 Canadians in College Letters of Intent 2012-13 Canadians at Canadian schools
By Bob Elliott
News travels quickly in the baseball world.
On Thursday morn the news wasn’t good: former Blue Jays scout Epifanio Obdulio (Epy) Guerrero died of kidney failure at age 71 in the Dominican Republic.
Carlos Delgado received word at his home in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico.
“Such sad news,” said Delgado. “I remember him coming with scout Jorge Rivera to watch me as a teenager.”
Delgado was scooped the final year before players from Puerto Rico were made eligible for the draft.
“Epy was a nice guy, we liked him a lot,” said Delgado. “My father and I signed the contract with Pat Gillick and Epy.
"When I made the Jays I’d see Epy around Dunedin in the spring and in Toronto when he came to town when the club had its organizational meetings.”
Delgado was one of 52 players Guerrero signed with the Blue Jays, the Houston Astros, the New York Yankees and the Milwaukee Brewers who make the majors.
What is an excellent career for a scout who spends his lifetime projecting youngsters? Ten players making the majors ... Guerrero had five times that total, although unlike scouts in North America he scouted where teams could sign players on a first-come, first serve basis. You liked him, you signed him. Like it used to be in the United States until 1965 or as it was in Canada before 1991.
* * *
Alfredo Griffin was in Kansas City coaching with the Los Angeles Angels when he heard. Griffin was signed by the Cleveland Indians and Guerrero suggested Gillick deal reliever Victor Cruz for the infielder.
“He was a big influence in my career,” Griffin said. “He taught me the right way to do things, we were close.
“Epy knew the respect we all had for him, he treated the guys he signed like his sons.”
* * *
Tony Fernandez had just finished a nine-day trip to Frisco and Round Rock checking in on Texas Rangers minor leaguers when he heard.
Fernandez has told the story of his first year of pro ball at class-A Kinston in 1980, going for a walk and missing the bus.
When Fernandez arrived late for the game to see Fred Manrique at short, Guerrero explained he hit Fernandez.
You hit him?
“With my tongue,” Guerrero said of the tongue-lashing he gave the teenager.
* * *
Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Emilio Bonifacio, Esmil Rogers and others were in the Blue Jays clubhouse when they found out. All wrote "R.I.P. Epy" on their caps.
All stood in silence, heads bowed as a moment's silence was observed before the Jays played the Baltimore Orioles Thursday night at the Rogers Centre.
* * *
Delgado and Fernandez were the crown jewels. He was involved and consulted on acquiring the likes of Alfredo Griffin, who was in Kansas City coaching with the Los Angeles Angels when he heard.
The Jays didn’t become better than their expansion cousin Seattle Mariners due to the June draft. They made leaps and bounds for 11 straight winnings seasons and back-to-back World Series, due their success in Latin America.
Guerrero was at the wheel speeding down the two-lane roads to a dusty diamonds.
Word reached former Jays general manager Gillick in Seattle. The two old pals had chatted on Monday.
Gillick began scouting with the Houston Astros in 1966 and the next year made his first trip to the Dominican. Astros’ Tony Pacheco told Gillick to contact their scout Guerrero, the start of a life long friendship.
The first player they saw was outfielder Cesar Cedeno. Gillick went inside casa Cedeno to nictitate, telling Guerrero to stay outside. Guerrero entered to tell Gillick to hurry: the St. Louis Cardinals were on the way.
Gillick bumped his offer from $1,500 to $2,500 and they shook hands. Cedeno went on to play 2,006 games in his 17-year career.
Guerrero introduced Gillick to his future wife Doris, then a Pan Am flight attendant.
The funeral Friday afternoon attracted a crowd: Epy’s father, who is over 100, players Epy signed still in the Dominican, his five brothers and five sons: Mike Guerrero, manager at triple-A Nashville in the Brewers system, Sandy Guerrero, Brewers hitting co-ordinator, Frederick Guerrero, a Minnesota Twins scout, Lawrence Guerrero, who runs his father’s academy and Patrick Guerrero, named after Gillick, a Los Angeles Dodgers scout.
“In those formative years Paul Beeston, Bobby Mattick, Al LaMacchia, Epy and Bob Engle were responsible for our growth,” said Gillick. “When we were compeitive scouts Wayne Morgan, Moose Johnson, Tim Wilken, Don Welke, Chris Bourjos, Ellis Dungun, Bus Campbell and Ted Lekas played a large role.”
Guerrero signed stars like Delgado and Fernandez, contributors like Kelvim Escobar, Luis Leal and Manny Lee plus part timers.
The Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation honored Guerrero with a Legends in Scouting Award at its sixth annual event in 2009 at Beverly Hills, Calif.
“We went into a house in the late 1960s and the mother couldn’t read or write,” Gillick recalled. “She raised her thumbs and told Epy her finger prints were better than a signature. The guy made the big leagues.”
Gillick credited Guerrero for getting him to take a look at a teenager with the rookie-class Gulf Coast Yankees one day in Bradenton. He grew up to be Fred McGriff.
The most important deal in franchise history is moving Fernandez and McGriff for Hall of Famer Robbie Alomar and Joe Carter.
“We don’t make the Alomar deal if we don’t have the Fernandez or McGriff, Epy played a role in getting both,” said Gillick.
That trade changed the face of the franchise, as Guerrero had helped change it earlier.
Guerrero signs who made the majors
(List supplied by Rod Nelson)
Francisco de la Rosa
Jesus de la Rosa