By Bob Elliott
Canadian Baseball Network
Pre-draft organizational meetings can become very heated.
Scouts are always taught to believe in their guy, to fight for their guy.
And after haranguing on the proper order to place say, oh over 1,000 names on the board, things can get a bit testy.
We’ve only been in the draft war room for one round -- the first in 1994 at the SkyDome. The first round was public information (this was after the fun, dark days of secrecy and before the era where the each round is either telecast on TV or broadcast or the web).
(The Montreal Expos selected INF Hiram Bocachica from Bayamon, Puerto Rico in the 21st round. Seven picks later the Blue Jays chose INF Kevin Witt, a high schooler from Jacksonville. We wrote how the Jays first choice was Bocachica, not Witt. An angry Pat Gillick phoned the next day demanding to know who in his organization had spilled the beans about Bocachica. I said “Well it was pretty easy to figure it out when his name came over the speaker and three of the 12 guys in the room said “Oh crap.”)
We have made a few trips in crowded cars with scouts (Irvine, Calif, to San Diego State on back to back days, from University of Minnesota to St. Cloud, Minn. and to Cherry Creek High in Denver). We’ve heard one cross checker argue fiercely with another.
Toronto scout Mike Pesce, who covered the Northeast, was in the Blue Jays room in 2011 fighting for a young outfielder with the University of Connecticut Huskies. He pushed and pushed for his guy. He presented him to the group as a five-tool player leading into the draft.
As the argument reached another level someone in the room shot back "ah, he’s like a lot of over-hyped players from the Northeast. Wait until he gets up against the real talent from California, Texas and Florida ... he’ll melt like a snow flake. I’ll bet you a steak diner he never makes double-A.”
Well, the Jays did not wind up with the UCONN player, the scout was replaced and that five-tool guy?
He wound up OK thanks.
Drafted 11th overall, he hit 34 homers knocked 85 RBIs with an .889 OPS this season.
In this year's World Series -- presented by YouTube TV -- he hit three doubles, five homers, seven RBIs and a 1.471 OPS.
His name is George Springer, World Series MVP.
And Pesce, the man who wanted him to be a Jay, worked for the New York Mets until being let go in August, Pesca was working part-time for the Jays in Florida, sold his house at a loss and moved to New York to cover the northeast for Jays in 2010.
He was fulfilling his dream of being a full time scout. Pesce worked his area dilligently and found time to run the old-timey open tryout camps in New York City each summer which attracted nearly 100 kids each time. The Jays let him go after four seasons.
That June, the Jays selected RHP Tyler Beede, a high schooler from Groton, Mass. with the 21st pick. He didn’t sign ... the first time in franchise history that the Blue Jays did not sign their top pick. He went to Vanderbilt and three years later was selected by the San Francisco Giants.
Now some people pointed out how the Jays could not have chosen Springer 21st if the Astros or another team had not taken him. True, but we asked two scouts from that staff where Springer was on the board. One said 25-to-30th, the other said that the Jays did not have Springer rated in the first round.
The next June, as compensation for not signing Beede, the Jays landed RHP Marcus Stroman from Duke with the 22nd pick.