Brown, Hook, Kniginyzky inducted into Ontario Blue Jays HOF

RHP Matt Kniginyzky (Mississauga) was one of three inductees into the Ontario Blue Jays Hall of Fame. Photo: Mike 

RHP Matt Kniginyzky (Mississauga) was one of three inductees into the Ontario Blue Jays Hall of Fame. Photo: Mike 

By Bob Elliott
Canadian Baseball Network

The Ontario Blue Jays Hall of Fame class of 2016 consisted of two position players and a right-handed pitcher.

Yet, all three inductees hit home runs. 

And slugger Paul Brown (Grande Pointe), OF Mike Hook (Brampton) and RHP Matt Kniginyzky (Mississauga) winged it for the most part in front of the crowded ball room in Woodbridge of 600 people.

All did well.

Paul Brown
Played for the 1997 Ontario Blue Jays which reached the Connie Mack World Series in Farmington, N.M.

Coaches: Gary Wilson, Ernie Lewington, Steve Trout.

Schools: Paris Jr. College, Louisville University.

Team Canada: Canadian Junior National Team 1995.

Honors: Selected to Connie Mack all-star team, hitting .481, MVP at Paris and school’s most outstanding athlete.

“Usually the best goes last, but here I am,” deadpanned Brown, who batted lead off among the Hall of Fame inductees.

Brown didn’t write out his speech since he didn’t want to break his “37 year steak of not being organized ... streaks mean everything to a ball player.”

Honored along with his long-time pal Hook, Brown and Hook had been together with the Ontario Blue Jays, at Louisville, in weddings and on the softball diamond.

Brown had known his future wife Bonnie since they were 13. Bonnie would throw him soft toss. They have two children Ryan, eight and Kailey, four. 

Brown pointed out he had played for coaches Gary Wilson with the Ontario Blue Jays, Buddy Wright in Chatham, Jacke Davis at Panola and Lelo Prado at Louisvile.

“Gary came into my house, sat at the kitchen table and told my parents he would look after me,” Brown told the crowd. “I lived at his house for part of the summer. 

“Any time Gary went to the plate for the flip and he won he always chose to be visitors because he wanted to see us hit seven times a game. He loved to watch us hit.”

Brown, says Wilson gave him confidence that helps him today, and now he does the same picking visitors at a home plate meeting when he has the choice.

He thanked his parents Jacqueline and Leonard, who flew in from Arizona for the night.


Mike Hook
Played for the 1997 Ontario Blue Jays which reached the Connie Mack World Series in Farmington, N.M.

Coaches: Gary Wilson, Ernie Lewington, Steve Trout.

Schools: Winthrop University, Louisville University.

Team Canada: Canadian Junior National Team 1996.

Hook recalled his first weekend with the Ontario Blue Jays in the fall of 1996. He went hitless. Zero-for-12.

“I was mad at myself,” Hook recalled.

Wilson put his arm around Hook’s shoulder and told him: “You’re going to lead off and play centre field every day, so stop worrying about it.’

“From that time on I became a better player.

In the late 1990s players had to make choices between the Canadian Junior National Team or their club team. Unlike today you could not do both. Hook chose to stick with the Ontario Blue Jays.

He says not a year goes by when he doesn’t think of those days.

“The energy surrounding that team will never be forgotten, can never be repeated,” Hook said.

Hook has graduated to the Toronto Blue Jays and is director of luxury suites sales and service. He thanked his parents Dora and Bob.

Heather Rosser-Hook and the HOFer have a child Olivia, soon to be seven, and a boy is expected next month. 


Matt Kniginyzky
Played for the 1999-2000 Ontario Blue Jays.

Drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2000 in the 43rd round, by the Kansas City Royals, in 2005, 23rd round.

Coaches: Joe Parisani, Danny Bleiwas.

Schools: Florida Gateway College, Northeast Oklahoma A&M College, High Point University.

Honors: Mid-West League All-Star in 2006 with Burlington, Royals Minor League Pitcher of the Year, 2008 with class-A Wilmington.

Team Canada: Went 2-0 in three starts without allowing an earned run as Canada won bronze at the 2009 World Cup.

Kniginyzky thanked his parents Patricia and Roman, who coached him “all the way up,” his wife Shawnna and his former teammate Mike Phinney, Shawnna and Kniginyzky have one child with another on the way.

Reaching double-A he was a teammate of World Series champs such as Alex Gordon, Greg Holland, Luke Hochevar, Jarrod Dyson and Paulo Orlando, who will all be getting Series rings on opening day.

The two grew up together playing on the same team from T-Ball until midget when Kniginyzky joined High Park. Both attended Lorne Park High together and then their first year of college was at Lake City in Florida.  They roomed together there and lived in each other’s pocket for a year, sharing all the dirty clothes and such.
After that, Phinney went to Bacone in Oklahoma and then Oklahoma State, while Kniginyzky went on to North Eastern Oklahoma and then High Point University. Phinney worked as director of baseball at OSU after graduating while Kniginyzky was in the K.C. system.

And now they are re-united again in their chosen work: real estate agents for the Loretta Phinney Team at Royal Lepage. 

Gregg Zaun of Sportsnet was the guest speaker.

Ontario Blue Jays Awards
Alumni, pro player of the year: Josh Naylor, Mississauga, Miami Marlins.

Drafted: 12th over-all in North America, June of 2015 by the Miami Marlins.

Last year: hit .327 with four doubles, a triple and a home run with the rookie-class Gulf Coast Marlins.

Team Canada: Canadian Junior National Team 2012-15, or as M.C. Dino Roumel said “he’s been playing for Canada since he was six.”

Honors: Team Canada’s MVP at World Juniors, currently ranked No. 2 prospect in the Marlins organization by the highly-respected Baseball America.

Alumni, college player of the year: Daniel Pinero, Toronto, University of Virginia.

In 2015: Batted .308 in 67 games with eight doubles, one triple, six homers and 29 RBIs with an .828 OPS stealing nine bases in 11 chances.

Honors: Helped the Cavs will the College World Series at Omaha, hitting .391 in 23 at-bats, earning all-tourney honors, Earned Canadian Baseball Network First Team honors in 2015 and Second Team honors in 2014.

Team Canada: Canadian Junior National Team 2011-12.

Dedication and Perseverance: Tanner Zeggil, Stayner.
Hit .333 with five doubles and five stolen bases in 40 games in the spring of 2015. Hit .315 in the fall.

Organization MVPs; Kevin Dion, Newmarket, Max Hewitt, Barrie.
Dion hit .341 in 50 games with eight doubles, two triples and 31 RBIs, going 11-for-18 stealing bases. 

Hewitt batted .344 in 49 games with four doubles and 31 RBIs going 8-for-14 swiping bases.

Pitchers of the Year: R.J. Freure, Burlington, Stu Martin, Ajax.
Freure was 9-1 with four complete games in 10 starts, putting up a find-it-if-you-can-ERA of 0.77 with 74 strikeouts in 54 innings.

Martin was 10-0 in 10 starts with a 1.67 ERA and eight complete games.

Coach of the Year: Joey Ellison, Mississauga.
Whoops, M.C. Roumel slipped up -- his only one of the evening -- pulling a Steve Harvey and reading the card wrong. Ellison was first runner-up. The title belongs to ...

Colin Tyler, Toronto, 18u Red.

His team went 31-19, including becoming the first Canadian team to win the All-American Classic in Memphis and then the USSSA International Games in Florida. He was assisted by Paul (Spyder) McKeegan and Steve Wilson.