By Bob Elliott
It was possible to mistake the Team Canada Junior National Team for a hoops team when they walked onto the field this spring if you were watching from the other dugout.
There was 6-foot-8 Matt Ianni, followed 6-foot-6 Jackson Wark, 6-foot-5 Austin Shields, plus Michael Brettell, Cooper Lamb, Tristan Pompey, Darren Shred, Kristan Storrie, Nicholas Virdo, Niall Windeler, Mike Soroka and Demi Orimoloye all stood 6-foot-4.
“If I’m in the other dugout no way I want to fight with that team,” said former Blue Jays scouting director Tim Wilken.
And then there was Miles Gordon.
“When you see them in a pack he looks like a little guy walking in the land of giants, then you stand beside him, look him in the eye and he’s all 6-foot-1,” said another scout who wanted to chose Gordon in the high school and college draft but saw him go elsewhere.
Gordon was the top Canuck selected on Day II of the draft, chosen by the Cincinnati Reds and scouts Bill Byckowksi and Dan Bleiwas. A member of the Great Lake Canadians outfielder Gordon went in the fourth round, selected 115th over-all in North America.
And it was a surprise for Gordon to go the Reds. The Boston Red Sox and the Arizona Diamondbacks had shown the most interest.
He said that the Milwaukee Brewers phoned and asked if he’d agree to a $350,000 US signing bonus.
“I told them I wanted the slot money ($465,000),” said Gordon.
End of conversation.
Gordon had the live MLB.com hooked up to his TV and was watching the draft unfold pick by pick. Mom Tammy, sister Alex 19, and grandparents Margaret and Harold Grieve, who was born in Kingston and was part owner of the Bad Boy store.
“We’re looking at the TV and all of a sudden my name pops up,” said Gordon. “I hadn’t heard from the Reds since we were in Orlando in April and I talked to their scouts (Byckowski and Bleiwas).”
Gordon said Bleiwas phoned after the Reds made the choice and told him “Bill and the Reds had me high in the draft.”
So rather than go to the Brewers at 121st, he declined and wound up going six picks earlier ($493,400 bonus slot). The Brewers took Orimoloye of Orleans, Ont. and the Ottawa-Nepean Canadians with their fourth pick.
Gordon was one of seven Canucks taken on Day II of the three-day replenishment process. Together with the three on Day 1 led by Mississauga’s Josh Naylor, who went 12th in North America makes for a total of 10, compared to three a year ago. The 10 Canadians equals the 2007 total in the first 10 rounds ... the most since Canadians were included in the draft.
Gordon was asked if he sometimes felt dwarfed by his teammates?
“You’ve got Demi and Josh Naylor (listed at 6 foot, 205 lbs) and some of those other giants, but I’m set to do different things, I’m more lean, line drive hitter and a base stealer.”
Naylor had five homers on the recent Junior National Team trip to the Dominican and went 12th over-all to the Miami Marlins. Gordon had 17 hits in 12 games facing pro pitching and has most often been compared to Washington Nationals Denard Span.
“Outside of today, getting the ‘welcome aboard’ call from Greg Hamilton that I was with Team Canada last October was biggest moment,” said Gordon. He had impressed at Tournament 12 in September.
“If it wasn’t for Greg selecting me to the team I don’t the call would have come today,” said Gordon, who said his Great Lake Canadians coach Adam Stern helped him develop.
“Adam took my under his wing, he taught me to play to my strengths and not to try to do more than I’m capable of doing,” Gordon said.
So what does Gordon know about Cincinnati, Ohio, home of the Reds?
“Not too much, I know Joey Votto is there now and how he’s a big figure in Canadian baseball,” Gordon said of the Reds first baseman, Canada’s highest-paid athlete.