By Bob Elliott
Canadian Baseball Network
Right-hander Ian Harvey experienced a lot and saw even more in 1994-1995 when he was with Oklahoma State Cowboys.
Harvey saw most of the Hollidays and even one Halladay.
Before pitching four seasons in the minors in the Boston Red Sox, San Diego Padres and Philadelphia Phillies organizations, Harvey (Oakville, Ont.) received a scholarship to attend classes at Stillwater, Oak.
Tom Holliday, the Oklahoma State recruiter/assistant coach, offered the Appleby College student a scholarship. Harvey asked how the recruiter found out about him.
Holliday found Harvey’s phone number on a “scouting list” and had heard things about the right-hander. Initially it was a 25% offer. Harvey asked where Holliday had seen him pitch in 1994? In Ontario (with the Oakville A’s, the Ontario Youth team and the Hamilton Blue Jays, run by Gene Bartolozzi) in the summer or in Tucson, Az.
Holliday didn’t know that Harvey had pitched for the Sabino High Sabercats in Tucson, as part of an exchange program, The recruiter said he’d call back. Ten minutes later Holliday was on the phone and Ian Harvey had all of tuition paid for as well as a chunk of his room and board to attend Oklahoma State.
Cowboy country was the land of the Hollidays when Harvey arrived in the fall of 1994 and when the season began the next spring.
_ Tom Holliday was in his 18th as the assistant coach in charge of recruiting.
_ Holliday’s son, catcher Josh Holliday a high school senior at Stillwater High. Josh would work out and take batting practice before the Cowboys took the field.
_ And as the spring progressed a second Holliday son, a younger brother -- two years younger, named Matt showed on the scene.
There were a lot of scouts watching because the Oklahoma State Cowboys had a lot of talent ... like RHP Jason Bell (second round, 1995, Minnesota Twins), Tal Light (eighth, 1995, Colorado Rockies), LHP Dave Maurer (11th, 1997, Boston Red Sox), RHP Greg Dean 11th, 1995, Orioles), INF Tripp MacKay (15th, 1996, Montreal Expos), OF Chris Richard (19th, 1995, St. Louis Cardinals, INF Rusty MacNamera (21st, 1997, Philadelphia Phillies and OF Pete Prodonov (22nd, 1995, Red Sox), RHP Chris Nelson (41st, 1995, A’s), LHP Tony Fleetwood (51st, 1995, Indians) and free agent sign Rob Gaiko (Phillies).
Yet they did not gather for the start of the Cowboys workouts. They were always there early.
“A bunch of scouts would congregate behind the cage and in the stands to watch batting practice to see Josh and Matt before our guys started BP,” remembered Harvey the other day at Oakville’s Lone Star Saloon. “Josh was probably on their radar as a pick but Matt wasn’t draft eligible for two more years.
“I threw bullpens to Josh, I remember looking at the crowd and saying one day ‘Man is Josh ever getting a lot of interest from scouts.’ One of our trainers said pretty casually ‘Oh, they’re here to see Matt’”
Harvey remembers Matt Holliday’s time in batting practice as “an eye opener for me.”
“His BP was impressive and plausible given what he has gone on to achieve,” Harvey said.
* * *
Matt Holliday is still putting on a show, now in his 14th year. He hit his 12th home run of the season a solo shot to centre for the New York Yankees off Blue Jays reliever Jason Grilli. It was one of four homers surrendered in the four-run eighth. Brett Gardner, Starling Castro and Didi Gregorius also hommered off Grilli.
Heading into the weekend series against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium, Holliday is hitting .302 with 307 homers and 1,191 RBIs in 14 yras. He has a career .897 OPS.
Before the game at the Rogers Centre, Holliday was asked if he remembered as a grade 10 student the scouts coming to see him hit.
“I always knew that there were scouts around watching the Cowboys, but they didn’t stand out,” Holliday said seated at his locker inside the visiting clubhouse Saturday morn. “My dad tried to teach me to ignore them.”
* * *
As a freshmen, Harvey got to make trips from campus to pick up recruits on their official visits, with a coach.
One day they drove out to pick up two pitchers who flew in from Denver.
The left-hander had so-so velocity. Harvey can’t remember his name.
He remembers the right-hander.
“We’re sitting in the van and like the first guy I ask ‘So what’s your velocity,’ and the right-hander says ‘94 MPH.’ I told him I didn’t think he was coming here and he admitted that he was probably going to get drafted.”
Blue Jays scouting director Bob Engle, scouts Bus Campbell and Chris Bourjos selected the right-hander who drove into Stillwater that day with Harvey.
His name is Roy Halladay. He was selected 17th over all in 1995. Halladay won 203 games -- 148 in 12 years with the Blue Jays -- and will be inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame later this month in St. Marys.
* * *
Freshman Harvey was 1-0 with a 2.89 ERA for the Cowboys as he walked four and struck out six in 9 1/3 innings. After appearing in five games and making one start,
Harvey remembers the other Canadian on that 1994-95 OSU team, Jamie Cook (Innerkip, Ont.). who hit .233 with three doubles, two homers and 11 RBIs in 33 games, making 10 starts. He finished with a .788 OPS.
Cook used to get annoyed with Harvey.
“We were the only two Canadians on the roster and I kept saying he was from Innisfil, instead of Innerkip,” Harvey recalled as the memory unfolds,
Harvey transferred to the west coast becoming a member of the Pepperdine Waves, who play at Eddy D. Field Stadium in Malibu, Calif., which is annually described as the most scenic park in North America.
* * *
As a grade 10 student Holliday, the Yankee slugger, didn’t really recall Ian Harvey rookie pitcher who was at Oklahoma State for one year.
“The guy I do remember was Jeff Guiel,” said Holliday. “He played with my brother for two years ... now talk about a good hitter.”
Guiel (Langley, BC.) spent two highly productive seasons (1996-97) in an OSU uniform and holds the distinction of being one of only three Cowboys – along with Pete Incaviglia and Robin Ventura – to earn First-Team All-America honors in multiple years. An offensive juggernaut from the left side of the plate and sports a career .406 batting average, which ranks second all time at OSU, he was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 2015.
Guiel holds the Big 12 record for doubles in a season with 32 in 1997. The year before he starred for OSU’s College World Series team and earned Big Eight Conference co-player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year honors and was named a First-Team All-American by Collegiate Baseball and the ABCA.
Capping that off he had a senior campaign that saw him garner First-Team All-America honors once again from Collegiate Baseball and the ABCA and second-team plaudits from the NCBWA to go along with All-Big 12 honors. That season saw him hit .418 with 23 homers, 79 RBIs, 16 stolen bases and an .845 slugging percentage.
* * *
With Pepperdine in 1996, Harvey redshirted his first year to try and get velocity back after hurting his arm his freshman year at Oklahoma State. Like a lot of injured players he looks back now and admits he was “in denial.”
The second year a new coach came in to take over Pepperdine and he could not crack the roster.
* * *
Matt Holliday was a question mark going into the 1998 draft. Besides the obvious question -- would the high schooler sign if drafted -- there was a more important question on the scout’s minds: did he want to play football or baseball?
The outfielder remembers the offers he had attending Stillwater High: Florida State, Miami and Notre Dame.
“I had quite a few opportunities,” Holliday said. He committed to Oklahoma State to play and was selected in the seventh round by the Colorado Rockies. So, obviously some doubt was there for him to fall so deep into the draft.
“Holliday’s name kept coming up every round as we talked,” Daugherty has said. “We all had seen him play. We all were impressed. Without a doubt, he would have gone a lot higher. People thought he was going to college and play football. He was a big, strong, athletic player who impressed you more each time you saw him.”
Dave Holliday, Matt’s uncle, a Rockies cross checker and general manager Bob Gebhard decided to make one more call Stillwater. They called Tom Holliday, Matt’s father and coach at Oklahoma State.
Rockies wise co-ownner Jerry McMorris gave his scouting director Pat Daugherty the OK to go over slot and Daughtery signed Holliday for $842,000 US, the most money given to any player in that round.
* * *
After playing for the Guelph Royals in 1997, Ian Harvey headed to Oklahoma City and the Oklahoma City Stars, an NAIA team. His Guelph teammate Sean Travers made the contact with Oklahoma City coach Keith Lytle. Travers had played Dallas Baptist, Lytle had coached against him and then coached him when Travers played for the Johnstown Steal in the Frontier League in 1995.
Brett Gray (Wyoming, Ont.) and Harvey were roommates. It was Gray’s senior year while Harvey was a junior. Gray and Harvey helped pitch OCU to the 1998 NAIA World Series berth in Tulsa, Oak.
Bellevue thumped Oklahoma City 7-2 in the opener, but then the Stars rallied back with a 9-6 win against Culver-Stockton College and a 5-4, revenge win against Albertson before being eliminated 8-6 in the semi-final by Indiana Institute of Technology.
Harvey went 4-5 record, with a 4.26 ERA and three saves in 23 appearances, which including three starts and two complete games. On the season, he walked 22 and fanned 42 in 44 1é3 innings for the 45-20 Stars.
* * *
Josh Holliday was drafted by Your Toronto Blue Jays in the ninth round in 1999 spending two seasons in the organization.
Sharing catching duties with Ike Pohle and Juan Santos, Holliday played for the 1999 class-A St. Catharines Stompers under manager Neil Allen and alongside future majors leaguers Chris Carpenter, Casey Blake, Reed Johnson and Frank Gracesqui.
And the next year he was with the class-A Hagerstown Suns, managed by Rolando Pino, along with future big leaguers Alexis Rios, Kevin Cash, Guillermo Quiroz, Matt Ford and Johnson. Cash, Quiroz and Holliday looked after the catching.
* * *
In his second year at OKC Harvey had a good senior year as the closer, as the Stars reached the NAIA World Series in 1999 at Jupiter, Fla.
Albertson College of Idaho beat Oklahoma City 9-2 in the opener, then Oklahoma City bounced Dallas Baptist 14-3 to square its record before Birmingham-Southern College edged the Stars 8-6.
The Stars were the Sooner Athletic Conference tournament champion and were Area III champion going 57-13.
As Harvey earned NAIA academic All-American honours a grad assistant was Jeff Berry, who later worked at CAA and became one of Halladay’s future agents.
* * *
Harvey turned pro in 1999 with the London Werewolves in the independent Frontier League as part of manager Andy McCauley's starting rotation. Bruce Gray, Brett Gray’s father, was the pitching coach.
The Werewolves of London! -- Aaoooooo! -- went 54-30 to finish first in the 10-team league. Harvey compiled a 4-1 with a 5.11 with two saves in 26 games. He walked 15 and struck out 44 in 37 innings. And the next year he was back as a closer.
Harvey was charting that night when RHP Brett Gray (Wyoming, Ont.) took the mound against the Chillicothe Paints at Labbat Park. He did pretty good, tossing a complete-game three hitter. Very impressive.
Oh yeah ... he fanned 25 whiffing four in an inning twice. He was two shy of the record set by Ron Necciai pitching for Bristol of the Appalachian League in 1952.
Gray had 24 strikeouts entering the ninth, got an out, struck out No. 25 and then called pitching coach - his father, Bruce - to the mound. The pitcher asked his coach if he would be his best man at his upcoming wedding to Keely Deal.
The next day Jim Bowden, Cincinnati Reds general manager, walked into his office at Cinergy Field.
“Morning Jim, I signed a pitcher,” said his top aide, the legendary Gary Hughes.
Bowden asked when he had seen the new member of the Reds pitch.
“I didn’t,” Hughes said, “but if anyone can strike out 25, he is good enough for me.”
Besides the 4,732 fans at the park, Hughes was reading the newspaper and admiring Gray’s exploits.
The Reds were quick on the signing but real slow on the visa and Gray only made it to class-A Dayton for 13 outings which included four starts as he was 5-3 with a 3.02 ERA. Gray walked 13 and fanned 43 in 47 2/3 innings.
And before the Werewolves bus pulled out of the parking lot after Gray’s 25-strikeout performance Kangeroo Court was held.
Pitching coach Bruce Gray held up Harvey’s work on the charts and said “Ian Harvey should be fined $2 for not giving us any idea on how to defend the Chillicothe hitters.”
It wasn’t long before a Boston Red Sox scout came around noticing that Harvey had gained five MPH on his fastball. As the London closer Harvey was 2-0 with seven saves and a 1.39 ERA in 26 games, walking 18 and fanning 79 in 58 1/3 innings.
The Red Sox purchased Harvey’s contract and off he went to class-A Augusta Greenjackets, Appearing in nine games, Harvey was 2-1 with a 2.63 ERA and three saves, as he walked four and struck out 17 in 13 2/3 innings.
* * *
The next spring he went south with the Red Sox and was released, heading back to London to pitch for manager Bruce Gray. He was 2-2 with 11 saves in 31 games giving out 16 free passes while recording 47 strikeouts. San Diego Padres scout Mal Fichman and Bill Bryck signed Harvey and sent him off to the Fort Wayne Wizards.
Harvey pitched for Team Canada in fall of 2001 at the World Cup in Taipei. It was not Canada’s best tourney going 2-5 and beating only The Philippines and Russia.
In 2002, he was assigned to class-A Lake Elsinore and moved up to the double-A Mobile in mid-season. He combined to go 7-3 with a 2.65 ERA and two saves in 46 games as he walked 24 and struck out 96 in 108 2/3 innings.
Harvey made the starting rotation for The Oklahoman’s inaugural Minor League all-star team, selected from pros who played high school or college baseball in Oklahoma, along with Brian Tallet who was at double-A Akron (Indians), Michael Hinckley, class-A Vermont (Expos), Steve Shell, class-A Cedar Rapids (Angels) and Kyle Denney, double-A Akron (Indians).
The others: C Koyie Hill, double-A Jacksonville (Dodgers); 1B Todd Betts (Scarborough, Ont.), triple-A Pawtucket (Red Sox), 2B Adam Rittenhouse, Canton Crocodiles (IND); 3B Sean Murphy, Duluth-Superior Dukes (IND); SS Freddy Sanchez, double-A Trenton (Red Sox), OFs Greg Dobbs, double-A San Antonio (Mariners), Steve Smitherman, at class-A Stockton (Reds) and Mike Hill double-A Round Rock (Rangers), DH Chris Richard, Baltimore Orioles and RP Beau Kemp, class-A Fort Myers (Twins).
The bench consists of INFs Jason Clements, Solano Steelheads (IND) and Tom Whiteman, class-A Lexington (Astros); OFs Jason Fransz, class-A Boise (Cubs); Drew Miller (Medicine Hat, Alta.), Richmond Roosters (IND) and Val Pascucci, double-A Harrisburg (Expos); C Kyle Roat rookie-class Danville (Braves); RPs Jared Hoerman, class-A San Bernardino (Mariners), Mike Patitucci, rookie-league Bluefield (Orioles); Chris Schroder, class-A Brevard County (Expos) and Jeff Sexton, Yuma Bullfrogs (IND) for manager, John Russell, who guided Edmonton to the Pacific Coast League title. .
* * *
Harvey began the 2003 season at Mobile, was released and signed by the Philadelphia Phillies and assigned to double-A Reading. On those two stops he had an aggregate of 6-1 with a 4.01 ERA and one save in 17 games, walking 12 and striking out 32 in 33 2/3 innings.
* * *
Now, his sons Nolan (nine) and William (six) are playing minor ball and major T-Ball, respectively, in Oakville Little League. Daughter Tessa, 10, is the eldest of the brood.
This spring there are still Holliday days in Cowboys country as ...
_ Josh Holliday is now in his fifth year as head coach.
_ Heath Holliday is in his second year as the program’s director of baseball
operations. His father, Dave, and uncle, Tom, both served on Cowboy coaching staffs, and cousin, Josh, is the program’s current head coach and he’s a cousin of current Yankees outfielder Matt Holliday.
_ Tom Holliday served as the Cowboys head coach for seven seasons, after being an assistant for 29 years. He also was an assistant with the Miami Hurricanes, Arizona State, Texas Longhorns, North Carolina State and Auburn. He is an OSU Hall of Famer.
_ Dave Holliday, Dave’s brother, is a major-league scout with the Atlanta Braves since 2012. Previously he had worked with the Colorado Rockies since 1994, when he was hired away from the Pittsburgh Pirates.
* * *
Let’s see, Harvey was on the same roster with future major leaguers Lew Ford, Freddy Sanchez, Wil Ledezma, Anastacio Martinez and Dennis Tankersley at Augusta.
He was with Oliver Perez, J.J. Furmaniak, Kevin Reese, Jack Cassel, Justin Germano, Chris Oxspring and Mike Thompson at Fort Wayne ...
And Jason Bay (Trail, BC), Jake Peavy, Cliff Bartosh, Mike Bynum, Bernie Castro, Eric Cyr (Montreal, Que.), Ben Howard, Ben Johnson, Donaldo Mendez, Chris Oxspring, Humberto Quintero, Bobby Scales, Mike Thompson, J.J. Trujillo and Steve Watkins at Lake Elisnore ...
Josh Barfield, Jason Bartlett, Wiki Gonzalez, Khalil Greene, Freddy Guzman, Jon Knott, Xavier Nady, Tom Davey, Adam Eaton, Kevin Jarvis, Kevin Walker, Roger Deago, Yamid Haad, Rico Washington and Dan Giese at Mobile ...
And Taylor Buchholz, Marlon Byrd, Brent Billingsley, Frank Brooks, Yoel Hernandez, Anderson Machado, Jorge Padilla, Carlos Ruiz, Bud Smith, Brandon Duckworth, Eric Weaver and Hector Mercado at Reading.
Yet all those clubhouses, all the bus rides and all those ball parks, the best two players Ian Harvey might have run across were probably Matt Holliday and Roy Halladay, Harvey's first year away from home.