Sandlots: Votto, Mrs. Ridley, Kim tourney, Breitner, Hibbert, Harrison

*Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) would have been a New York Yankee, had scout Dick Groch had his way./Photo Baseball Canada.  

2011 Canadians in the Minors


By Bob Elliott


Dick (The Legend) Groch gets credit for signing a shortstop from Central high in Kalamazoo, Mich.

The high schooler grew up to be Derek Jeter, won the American League rookie of the year, is approaching 3,000 hits and Cooperstown.

Groch almost drafted another award winner.

New York Yankees scouts Richard Clemens and Groch spent the morning of June 4, 2002, draft day, in an Etobicoke house, Joey Votto’s house.

Adam Loewen (Surrey, BC) went fourth over-all in North America to the Baltimore Orioles and Jeff Francis (North Delta, BC) went ninth to the Colorado Rockies.

Cincinnati Reds scout John Castleberry phoned Votto in drama class at Richview Collegiate to select him 44th over-all. The Yanks were without their first two picks (24th and 65th) since they’d signed free-agents Jason Giambi and Steve Karsay not picking until 71st.

“I get plenty of credit for signing Derek Jeter, but none for being right on Joey Votto,” said Groch, now with the Milwaukee Brewers. “That was my biggest disappointment in all my years of scouting. Only the Reds and us were on him.

“Joey had what Jeter had as a high schooler. Joey got through tough times. You’d watch him out there smiling. He played like he was at a family picnic.”

When the Reds called Votto’s name, Groch made the long drive home to Michigan.

“Our paths cross at least once per summer either in Milwaukee or Cincinnati,” said the defending National League MVP award winner from Philadelphia where his Reds were playing. “We usually reminisce about the draft and all of the craziness surrounding those couple of days.”

Groch credits Yankee scout Fernando Arango for phoning Groch from a Florida showcase -- where the Reds saw Votto. Arango said “you have to see this guy, he has juice in his bat.”

With Votto gone, the Yanks chose Brandon Weeden, who was gone from the Yanks after two years and out of the game in 2006.

All in the family: Bridgette Ridley, or Mrs. Ridley as she’s known to her fifth grade class at Indian Hills elementary school in Cincinnati, knows baseball. When Jaret Tabler showed in her grade 5 class Mrs. Ridley asked if he was any relation to Pat Tabler, who played for the Blue Jays.

“That’s my dad,” Jaret said.

Jaret’s twin brother Jake attends the same school, but is in a different class.

“Mrs. Ridley put things together, I love talking baseball with her at our parent conferences,” SportsNet broadcaster Pat Tabler said. “Her father-in-law was involved in baseball here, right?”

The late Jim Ridley of Burlington coached Team Canada more summers than not, coached at Medicine Hat and scouted for the Blue Jays from day one until 2002. He then scouted for the Minnesota Twins.

Ridley had twin sons, Jeremy, married to Bridgette, and Shayne. Both played at Ball State and signed, Jeremy with the Jays (2000) and Shayne with the Baltimore Orioles (2000-01).

Former Redskin: Aaron Hill is the longest serving member of the Jays with Vernon Wells gone. Hill has been with the Jays since 2005. Cory Patterson was in Toronto long before Hill. Patterson played for the Midland Redskins in a sandlot tournament at Connorvale Park in Etobicoke in 1997. Barry Larkin, Jim Leyritz, Jayhawk Owens, Ken Griffey and others were on Joe Hayden’s Redskins on the way to the majors.

Dominican wrap: North York’s Gareth Morgan hit a two-run double in the top of the ninth to help the Team Canada Junior Team score a 5-2 win over the MLB Supreme Tournament team Wednesday night in Santo Domingo.

Canada was trailing 2-1 with two out and two men on, when Morgan delivered.

Whitby lefty Ryan Kellogg picked up the win, working 4 2/3 innings, striking out seven. Kellogg allowed three hits and one walk. Starter Skylar Janisse of Maidstone, Ont., pitched 4 1/3 innings, giving up two runs on six hits and a walk.

Toronto catcher Justin Marra hit a two-out, bases-loaded double in the eighth to score three and Toronto’s Bryan Saucedo hit a two-run homer as Canada defeated the Tampa Bay Rays rookie-class Dominican Summer League prospects 10-8.

Oakville second baseman Kyle Hann hit a solo homer in a 2-2 tie with the Seattle Mariners prospects; Windsor’s Andrew Marra (four whiffs in five innings) and London’s Dayton Dawe (three scoreless) impressed in a 2-0 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays and Georgetown lefty Adam Anderson allowed one earned run in four innings in a 7-2 loss to the Texas Rangers.

Big man on campus: Simcoe’s Sean Jamieson of the Canisius Golden Griffins, earned co-player of the year honours at the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference banquet Wednesday in Trenton, N.J.

Jamieson ranked sixth in the MAAC in average (.358), second in slugging (.658), first in runs scored (59), second in home runs (13) and steals (22), fourth in hits (67) and third in RBIs (49).

Kitchener first baseman Brian Burton and Jamieson were named to the all-conference team.

Rough debut: Newmarket lefty Jake Eliopoulous made his spring debut last weekend for Jet Box, walking 10 in two innings in an 8-0 loss to the undefeated Windsor Stars in Michigan in the first game of a Can-Am doubleheader. His fastball was clocked at 85-86 mph. Eliopoulos was a second-round choice (68th overall in North America) by the Blue Jays in 2009 and chosen in the 14th round by the Los Angeles Dodgers last June.

Quelle finish: There may have been better finishes to a tournament, but few could compare to the fifth annual Michael Kim Memorial conclusion at Rivergrove in Mississauga. The North York Blues led 4-1 with two outs and two on when Garick Godard tagged a ball deep down the line. Game-tying homer or foul ball? The ball hit half-way up the fence in fair territory ... narrowly missing a homer. Right fielder Sean Nicol relayed to second baseman Jason Rhynold, who threw to third baseman Ellis Gerussi-Turner, who applied the tag to Goddard for the third out, giving North York a 4-3 win.

Tyler Dobie had a pair of hits for North York.

North York beat the Mississauga Majors 14-3, the Brampton Royals 4-3 and lost 12-5 to Markham in pool play. North York then edged the Mississauga North Tigers 3-2 and Mississauga Southwest Twins 16-3.

Woodslee beat Whitby 7-6, Royal York 16-0 and lost to Mississauga North 4-1 in pool play. Woodslee beat Markham 7-5 in the quarter finals and Newmarket 10-0.

The other playoff scores saw Mississauga Southwest beat the Georgetwon Eagles 3-2 and Newmarket knocked off Etobicoke 17-4.

In the skills competition Woodslee won the team relay race, while Tony Hrynkiw won the home run hitting derby with four.

Mississauga North major domo Dwain Ervin showed he was the most powerful groundskeeper in Mississauga by getting four diamonds open and approval from the city to play the games, when every other park in the city was closed.

World Series bound: Unionville outfielder Tyler Hibbert of the Jefferson Vikings and St. Thomas catcher Mack Harrison of the Chipola Indians, are off to the 54th NJCAA Division I Alpine Bank World Series in Grand Junction, Col.

Hibbert takes a .441 average, 16th best in the nation into the tournament, with 34 steals, and 55 runs scored.

Harrison, playing for Jose Bautista’s old team, hit .379 with nine doubles, three homers and 25 RBIs.

All-star honours: Mississauga’s Kyle Breitner earned conference honours pitching for the Western Texas Westerners. Breitner was 6-1 with a 2.97 ERA in 12 starts. He walked 42 and struck out 39 in 63 2/3 innings.

Cruising in the capital: The Ontario Blue Jays took four of five games from the Ottawa-Nepean Canadians in winning 9-0, 8-2, 12-0 and 9-0 in Ontario Premier League action.

C.J. Machete threw a complete game, four-hitter with six strike-outs in the opener. Then Julian Silvestri pitched Ottawa to a 5-4 win.

Lefty Daniel Veres won game three, striking out six and had offensive help from Joey Hawkins, who reached base on all five of his plate appearances.

Dane Gordon then pitched a shutout, his no-hit bid ruined in the sixth, and Eric Wood homered in game four.

Wood took the mound in the finale working four scoreless, as Jevon Jacobs had three hits and two RBIs.