By Bob Elliott
Canadian Baseball Network
Most of the scouts we know have been equipped with a special set of eyes.
These men who are paid to give their opinion and never, ever utter the words “I don’t know” are very quick with judgement and possess even quicker wits.
Like when Canadian scouts discovered that veteran New York Mets scout Claude Pelletier (Ste-Lezare, Que.) had been tabbed to represent his club at Monday’s draft at MLB Network headquarters in Secaucus, N.J. Since the draft became a TV show each team sends two representatives -- usually an ex-player and a scout -- to sit a table in Studio 42.
It is a tremendous honour. Commissioner Rob Manfred reads the names of the players selected in the first round, while someone seated at the table makes the competitive balance Round A, the second round and competitive balance bound B picks -- 75 picks in all -- on Day 1 of the three-day draft.
While all the decisions are made in the war room back in the respective teams' head offices, the area scouts have the honour of mixing and mingling with Hall of Famers like George Brett and former big-league veterans like Randy Jones, a Cy Young award winner with the San Diego Padres.
Pelletier, the man who signed future Cy Young Award winner Eric Gagne when he worked with the Los Angeles Dodgers will sit alongside Todd Zeile, who played 16 years in the majors, including three with the Mets.
While Pelletier is one of the most respected scouts in Canada, his long-time pals from across the country were in full form teasing at the PBR Showcase at Dan Lang Field in Scarborough last month.
“You better get that pick right, Claude, your name is on it,” said one scout.
“Don’t you think you are flying into New York, staying in Manhattan in a five-star penthouse and busing to New Jersey to pick someone from Saint-Louis-du-Ha or Pointe aux Trembles,” said another mentioning two Quebec towns.
“Don’t you dare foul up the pronunciation, that will jinx the poor kid,” said a third.
Pelletier is not the only Canadian headed for the bright lights of the city and the MLB Network set.
_ The Detroit Tigers are sending area scout Murray Cook (Sackville, NB), who scouted OF Jacob Robson (Windsor, Ont.) and SS Daniel Pinero (Mississauga, Ont.) a year ago this week. Cook, a member of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, will be paired with former Tigers manager Jim Leyland.
_ The Milwaukee Brewers are sending assistant GM Gord Ash (Toronto, Ont.) who moved to Toronto last year after living in Wisconsin. Ash will be seated with former OF Corey Hart, who played 11 seasons, nine with Milwaukee.
For Ash, the former Toronto Blue Jays GM, this is his fifth trip to the draft table.
_ And last and not least, the New York Yankees are sending Canadian scout Denis Boucher (Lachine, Que.), the former Toronto Blue Jay, Cleveland Indians and Montreal Expos lefty. Boucher will try to get a word in edge wise as he is seated alongside Nick Swisher, who played 12 years, four with the Yankees.
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In 2013, San Diego Padres scout Murray Zuk (Souris, Man.) was at Studio 42, along with Cook. To the best of our knowledge, this was the first time a Canadian area scout has had the honour of calling a draft pick.
Zuk decided to go with the name he received on the phone and with the competitive balance pick selected OF Jordan Paroubeck, an outfielder from Serra High in San Mateo, Calif. Now with the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, Paroubeck has split time between class-A Great Lakes and rookie-class Ogden batting .220 with six homers and 18 RBIs. He’s 5-for-6 in stolen bases with a .669 OPS in 47 games.
Last year the Colorado Rockies asked LHP Jeff Francis (North Delta, BC) to represent them.
Four Canucks in Pelletier, Cook, Ash and Boucher, is a first.
“I told Denis,” said Yankees scouting director Damon Oppenheimer, earlier this week in a joking manner, “it is going to be easier to find a Canadian representative on the draft floor than it is to find a Canadian team in the Stanley Cup final.”
A renaissance man, Oppenheimer knows his pucks and is a hockey fan. After all, his son AJ played hockey until he was 19 at Shadyside Academy in Pittsburgh.
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Legendary scout Gary Hughes, who helped create the Montreal Expos powerhouse in the 1990s as scouting director, went to New York in 2012, his first year working for general manager Ben Cherington of the Boston Red Sox.
“My biggest thrill was being able to get my picture taken with Roland Hemond and Paul Snyder because of the quality of each man,” said Hughes. Hemond is a most respected baseball man, who is now with the Arizona Diamondbacks and a Buck O’Neill Award winner.
Sir Roland had a World Series ring from his time as the assistant scouting director of the 1957 Milwaukee Braves. He was also the scouting director for the California Angels (1961 to 1970), was GM of the Chicago White Sox (1970 to 1985) and the Baltimore Orioles (1988 to 1995). From 1996 to 2000, he was the senior executive vice president of the Arizona Diamondbacks and was with the White Sox from 2001 to 2007.
Snyder worked for the Atlanta Braves for 50 years in numerous capacities. He was scouting director when Hall of Famer Tom Glavine, Steve Avery, David Justice, Jeff Blauser and Chipper Jones joined the organization. He was part of the Braves' 14-year run of winning the division.
Hughes was sent to the draft by pro scouting director Jarrod Porter and went to the podium to say:
“With our second round pick the Boston Red Sox select ... from Seminole State College ... right-hander Teddy Stankiewicz.”
Looking back Hughes has a regret. “I should have taken our area scout Danny Watkins up to the podium with me,” he said wistfully.
But then returned to normal adding “but I was the best man in the room to pronounce ‘Stank-eh-wits’ properly because I had followed Andy Stankiewicz’s career ... and I nailed it.”
Stankiewicz is 2-3 with a 4.01 ERA in 10 starts at double-A Portland this season.
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A year ago the Diamondbacks and scout Doug Mathieson (Langley, BC) dominated, leading the way by drafting four Canadians ... and signing them. The Houston Astros and the Toronto Blue Jays were next with three apiece. The Astros signed a pair, while the Jays signed one.
However, there may be a new contender for top dog in the country. Former Blue Jays scout Marc Tramuta, now the New York Mets scouting director, sends out a mass email every January. This was the first time we’ve heard of it ... but Tramuta sends out a link to the Canadian Baseball Network’s annual Top 100 Influential Canadians in Baseball and instructs his troops:
“We need to get some Canadians to move Claude Pelletier higher on that top 100 list.”
With the gauntlet thrown down ... no doubt that the crosstown Yankees, the Brewers and the Tigers will try to keep pace.
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And then there was 2010 when poor Robbie Alomar stepped to the microphone and had to announce that the Jays had selected pitcher Asher Wojciechowski (wo-juh-HOW-ski) from The Citidel. It was the Jays fourth pick (behind Deck McGuire, Aaron Sanchez and Noah Syndergaard in the first 41 selections. Man that scouting director Andrew Tinnish (Ottawa, Ont.) could evaluate back then.
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Former No. 1 pick Lloyd Moseby and scout Mike Tidick, who covers Georgia, will represent the Blue Jays.
Other ex-Jays in the room will be former defensive whiz Orlando Hudson, who will represent the Arizona Diamondbacks along with Rick Matsko; Jose Molina and Brian Tripp will be at the Los Angeles Angels table and Ruppert Jones and former Jays minor leaguer Rob Mummau, of Palm Harbor, Fla., will represent the Seattle Mariners.
And the other tables will have
Braves -- Jeff Francoeur and scout Ralph Garr.
Orioles -- Jeffrey Hammonds and scout Tripp Norton.
Red Sox -- Keith Foulke and scout John Pyle.
Cubs-- Sean Marshall, Zach Zielinski
White Sox -- Ron Kittle, Kevin Coe
Reds -- Austin Kearns, Larry Barton Jr.
Indians -- Mike Jackson
Rockies -- Clint Barmes, Jesse Stender
Astros -- Enos Cabell, Mike Wickham
Dodgers -- Ron Cey, Lon Joyce
Marlins -- Juan Pierre, Bill Beck
Twins -- Michael Cuddyer, John Wilson
Athletics -- Dallas Braden
Phillies -- Del Unser, Gary Matthews
Pirates -- Joel Hanrahan
Padres -- Randy Jones
Giants -- Felipe Alou, John DiCarlo
Cardinals -- Rick Ankiel
Rays -- Fernando Perez, Lou Wieben
Rangers -- David Murphy
Nationals -- Bob Boone, Johnny DiPuglia