By Bob Elliott
Canadian Baseball Network
Grace Stevenson comes from solid Ontario stock.
Grace is named after her great grandmother who lived to be 100 years in Richmond Hill.
And Grace Stevenson knows her baseball.
On Halloween, the 11-year-old took out her 15-year-old brown gelding Roscoe with a homemade Houston Astros blanket on his back at the KJM Stables costume contest prior trick or treating. Grace wore an orange Astros jersey, a Houston cap and a fake Duck Dynasty beard as she toured around Tulsa, Okla., looking an awful lot like former Cy Young award winner Dallas Keuchel.
Needless to say Grace was declared a winner in more than one category.
After all, her father Jim Stevenson (Leaside, Ont.), whose father William, 84, and mother Ann, 81, still live in Leaside near Howie Birnie’s shrine known as Talbot Park, scouts for the Astros. And Grace’s grandpa Bill Stevenson played for the University of Toronto Blues and was with the 1955–1957 Calgary Stampeders.
Grace’s father brought Keuchel into the Astros system after all. The Astros area scout selected Keuchel in the seventh round of the 2009 draft from the University of Arkansas Razorbacks and gave him $150,000 US to turn pro. Grace has met Keuchel is on a first-name basis with the man who has gone 55-34 won-loss record with a 3.15 ERA, walking 194 and striking out 631 in 745 2/3 innings over the last four years.
After trick or treating, Grace was home by the second inning to see her Astros lose Game 6 of the World Series 3-1 to the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium.
But the next night Grace, her father and her mom Taylor watched Houston empty the bullpen as Lance McCullers, Brad Peacock, Francisco Liriano, Chris Devenski and Charlie Morton combined on a six-hitter to win Game 7, 5-1.
And next April, Jim Stevenson, who grew up shagging fly balls at the corner of Bayview and Eglington, will be presented with a 2017 World Series ring.
He is the first Canadian to be given a World Series ring since ... oh way back to last April when the Chicago Cubs handed out rings to legend Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.), special assistant to president/GM, Ryan Dempster (Victoria, BC), LHP Rob Zastryzny (Edmonton, Alta.), national cross checker, Ron Tostenson (Kelowna, BC) and assistant GM Shiraz Rehman (Montreal, Que.).
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As we all remember, the primary quarterbacks for the Stamps (4-12 in each of 1955-56; 6-10 in 1957 when they made the playoffs) were Don Klosterman in 1955-56 until a skiing accident in Banff in late winter 1957 almost put him in a wheelchair for life. Ex-Argo Nobby Wirkowski was calling signals in 1957.
Klosterman recovered to walk again and became a successful executive with NFL’s Baltimore Colts and Los Angeles Rams.
Stevenson was 7-for-18 in the passing department throwing for 186 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions in 1955. And in 1956 he was 2-for-7 for 13 yards with three interceptions.
The Stevenson connection to the great state of Texas began before Jim hooked up with the Astros. Sister Jennifer Stevenson went to University of Texas El Paso. At UTEP Jennifer ran track a few years.
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Now as a scout Stevenson stood at some dusty diamonds this season: like Howard College in Big Spring, Tex., and Altus, Oak., home of Western Oklahoma Junior College, where Andrelton Simmons played college ball.
And when his Astros reached the World Series, he stood for Games 3 and 4 at Minute Maid Park.
“The Astros treated us so well, they took everyone from the front office, our seats were down the first base line but everyone stood,” Stevenson said. “What an atmosphere.”
After splitting the first two games at Dodger Stadium, the Astros won 5-3 and lost Game 4, 6-2.
The Stevensons headed home to Tulsa to watch their Astros win a wild Game 5 13-12. He said “I’ve never seen a game go back and forth like that. Our guys took it to another level.”
Stevenson said he was glad to be home and be able to watch ... seated.
“I don’t have to be at the park, I’d rather sit and listen to insight from John Smoltz.”
Fans describe following “their team” in post-season play as “life and death.” Stevenson described watching his team as “long exhausting TV,” being glued to it. Reading the paper, following along online and reading Twitter.
Ben Reiter of Sports Illustrated wrote a cover story which predicted the Astros as 2017 World Series winners -- three years ago.
“We were in the draft room when the writer was working on the story,” Stevenson said. “I thought we had a great plan, but there were some rough years. That’s how Keuchel got an opportunity in the first place -- because we were so bad. It was nice to have a dog in the fight.
“It was like it was meant to be, the Dodgers could have shut us down, they left the windows open,” Stevenson said.
Stevenson, a former Jim Ridley award winner, as the Canadian Baseball Network scout of the year, still keeps up with the Jays saying that he is “still a big Toronto fan.”
And when Dodgers’ Corey Seager pulled a Morton pitch into short right field and Jose Altuve fired to Yuli Gurriel for the final out. Taylor, Grace and Stevenson all hugged, as if they were residing in Harris County, Tex.
He drafted 3B Abraham Toro-Hernandez (Greenfield Park, Que.) from Seminole State College in the fifth round of the 2016 draft giving him a $250,000 bonus. Splitting the season between the class-A Quad Cities River Bandits and class-A Tri City Valley Cats, he hit 11 doubles, two triples, 15 homers and 33 RBIs. The switch-hitter batted .246 with an .859 OPS in 69 games.
And this June in the 12th round Stevenson chose RF Jonathan Lacroix (Montreal Que.) from Seminole State College and gave him a $125,000 to sign. Lacroix suffered a broken foot after batting .447 with 23 doubles, a triple, 17 homers and 67 RBIs. Lacroix had a 1.333 OPS in 52 games.
And Monday was a good day for a couple of previous Stevenson drafts, who were both added to their respective 40-man rosters. The Astros added RHP Dean Deetz, whom Stevenson selected in the 11th round in 2014, from Northeastern Oklahoma. Deetz went 7-6 with a 4.25 ERA in 25 games. He walked 40 and struck out 50 at triple-A Fresno and double-A Corpus Christi.
And OF Ramon Laureano, selected in the 23rd round out of Northeastern Oklahoma in 2014 and dealt to Oakland (for Brandon Bailey) at the end of the season was added by the A’s 40-man. Laureano batted .227 with 21 doubles, six triples, 11 homers and 55 RBIs in 123 games at Corpus.
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Right now Grace is happy to have her father at home.
Fall ball is over.
Spring workouts do not start for two months.
Now pops will be able to help mucking the stalls after her equestrian events, show jumping and stable riding.
But come April there is a golden rule when in the stall:
No wearing of World Series jewelry.