Elliott: Blue Jays bolster Canadian scout staff, hire Jay Lapp

After being let go by the Milwaukee Brewers after 15 years in September, amateur scout Jay Lapp (London, Ont.) landed on his feet with a job scouting Canada for the Toronto Blue Jays.

After being let go by the Milwaukee Brewers after 15 years in September, amateur scout Jay Lapp (London, Ont.) landed on his feet with a job scouting Canada for the Toronto Blue Jays.

By Bob Elliott
Canadian Baseball Network

In May of 2010 Jamie Lehman (Brampton, Ont.) was a rookie scout leading into his first draft. He had been hired by Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos (Montreal, Que.) to cover Canada.

Three times on day two of the draft Lehman was asked did he want the outfielder or the hard-throwing lefty. 

Three times he answered the outfielder. 

His name? Dalton Pompey (Mississauga, Ont.). He came onto the national scene late from the Oakville Royals and made the Canadian Junior National Team.

So, Pompey it was in the 16th round as the Blue Jays pick in 2010. 

Soon after the draft Lehman ran into Milwaukee Brewers’ veteran scout Jay Lapp (London, Ont.) who said “so ... you got my guy?”

“You got my guy,” in the scouting world is code for “I liked him too and wanted to draft him too.” In other words, it's a compliment.

“Jay Lapp was the first scout to talk to me about Dalton Pompey after the draft,” Lehman said this week. “That made me feel like I knew what I was doing. After all, he had just got John Axford to the big leagues. Him saying something like that about the choice gave some validity to my thinking.” 

Pompey was sent to the rookie-class Gulf Coast League in 2010, was a September call up in 2014 and the next year was batting seventh in manager John Gibbon’s opening day lineup.

In September, the Brewers, under a new regime which no longer has general manager Doug Melvin (Chatham, Ont.) or assistant GM Gord Ash (Toronto, Ont.) making decisions, said farewell to Lapp after 15 years of scouting. Now 20 years ago Lapp would have been the Reggie Jackson on the free agent market.

Times are different. 

Scouting staffs are smaller. 

However, when the Blue Jays re-assigned Lehman to scout California there was an opening. And Jays scouting director Steve Sanders has hired Lapp to do part of Lehman’s duties.

So now, because of the nature of the setup and the T12 responsibilities, scouting Canada will be:

_ Adam Arnold (St. Thomas, Ont.), hired last January, scout across Canada.

_ Jasmin Roy (Montreal, Que.), hired the same time as Arnold, will also do the same.

_ Veteran Don Cowan (Delta, BC) will keep an eye on the west coast. 

_ Lapp will continue to do across the country for the past 15 years.

_ And Kory Lafreniere (Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.) promoted from the scouting office will supervise. He worked for four months with the class-A Bluefield Blue Jays as a special assistant to the GM in 2012, handled video for the Vancouver Canadians in 2013 and was hired at 1 Blue Jays Way in February of 2014. The former Sault Black Sox does not have a title yet, but he too will scout.   

Tim Rooney will be the cross checker as he has been the last few years, working under scouting director Steve Sanders, who heads into his second draft. Sanders said he met with Lapp at the fifth annual Tournament 12 days after the Brewers let him go.

“I had never met Jay before Tournament 12 (in September) but I had heard of him,” said Sanders. “He has a strong track record and we like the way he carries himself. We thought this was a good fit.”

The Jays have the most scouts covering in Canada heading into 2018 since 2002. Back then Bill Byckowksi (Georgetown, Ont.) was the director of Canadian scouting as well as Northeast regional supervisor. Jim Ridley (Burlington, Ont.) was the Eastern Canada supervisor and Don Cowan (Delta, BC) was the western Canada supervisor.

Former Montreal Expos manager Jim Fanning (London, Ont.) was the ambassador, while other scouts were Doug Boisvert (Edmonton, Alta.), Ed Heather (Cambridge, Ont.), Darrell Kemp (Niagara Falls, Ont.), Mike Lumley (London, Ont.), Duncan MacDonald (Gloucester, Ont.) and Greg (Chopper) Miner (Pickering, Ont.)   

The year before, 2001, Byckowksi had 11 scouts led by Ridley, Cowan and Fanning as well as Grant MacDonald (Dartmouth NS), Boisvert, Heather, Kemp, Lumley, Miner and Duncan MacDonald (Gloucester, Ont.).  

Plus the Jays had a whopping 27 associate scouts across the country: 

Denny Berni (Etobicoke, Ont.), Greg Brons (Saskatoon, Sask.), Norm Caig (Kelowna, BC), Remo Cardinale (Mississauga, Ont.), Yen Chong (Toronto, Ont.), Brent Crowther (North Vancouver, BC), George Gerlach (St. Albert, Alta.), Mike Lebel (Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.), Gerry LeBlanc (Dieppe, NB), Rod Mackenzie (Listowel, Ont.), Murray Marshall (Stoney Creek, Ont.), Kevin Mathieson (Turo, NS), Sean McCann (Toronto, Ont.), Albert Nicholls (Hamilton, Ont.), Nick Noonan (Waterloo, Ont.), Joe Pulia (Cornwall, Ont.), Jeff Sharpe (Ajax, Ont.), Bill Slack (Montreal, Que.), Steve Terry (Peterborough, Ont.), Andrew Tinnish (Nepean, Ont.), Peter Topolie (North Bay, Ont.) and Mike Zinyk (Windsor, Ont.).

Those were the days when the joke amongst Blue Jays was “If a pitcher burps in Canada, we know about it.”

Happ was on the job Sunday but the paperwork on his hiring with Rogers Communications was not finalized until Thursday.

“Regardless of where Jay is based he brings a wealth of knowledge and a strong reputation in the country,” Sanders said. “They have different backgrounds, different experiences, Adam Arnold has a coaching background, Jay Lapp and Jasmin Roy are veteran scouts. Kory has been out the last year both in the U.S. and Canada after working in our office. The information will flow through Kory.” 

The Blue Jays signed two Canucks the last two drafts signing OF Tanner Kirwer (Sherwood Park, Alta.) in the 20th round after he starred at Niagara University Purple Eagles and speedy high schooler Cooper Davis (Mississauga, Ont.). Kirwer signed, while Davis headed off to play for the Vanderbilt Commodores.

In 2016, the Blue Jays selected OF Clayton Keyes (Calgary, Alta.) of the Okotoks Dawgs in the 17th round, and RHP Brayden Bouchey (White Rock, BC), a 33rd round choice from the University of Louisiana at Monroe WarHawks. Keyes had told teams he would not sign and was returning to school, while Bouchey signed.
Next June is a big year as both Tristan Pompey (Mississauga, Ont.) of the University of Kentucky Wildcats and C Noah Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.) are projected first rounders. 

“We want to maintain a strong scouting staff and a strong presence in Canada,” Sanders said.

The Jays were thinking ahead last January by hiring Arnold and Roy to set the stage for Lehman’s move to California.   

“I respect the heck out of Jay,” Lehman said. We’re getting a veteran scout and he likes to develop scouts. In Adam we have someone young and passionate. Kory is one of the hardest working people I’ve met. This set up makes a whole lot of sense.”

Lehman suggested hiring Lapp to Sanders three weeks ago.

“With Jay’s skill set, it makes it a no brainer,Steve Sanders and Tony LaCava thought it was a no brainer,” Lehman said. “He was an easy sell because I was selling real things. You can’t fake opinions of people and Jay is highly regarded.”

Lapp’s last pick with the Brewers, OF Demi Orimoloye (Orleans, Ont.), the former Ottawa-Nepean Canadian chosen in the fourth round, hit .214 at class-A Wisconsin with 23 doubles, four triples, 11 homers and 45 RBIs. He had a .632 OPS in 125 games.