By Bob Elliott
Canadian Baseball Network
There is one way of telling how much respect Blue Jays players have for non-uniformed personnel.
And that is to check the list of 66 full shares of $123,045.09 US awarded the Blue Jays after the Cleveland Indians eliminated the Toronto in the 2016 American League Championship Series.
Ron Sandelli, director of team safety, received a full share. Players with the team for the whole season voted 66 full shares, including Sandelli, plus 7 3/4 partial shares and 15 cash awards.
Now, after 17 seasons Sandelli won’t be heading south with the Blue Jays in February or being part of the Jays in 2018.
The former Toronto policeman was hired part-time by then general manager Pat Gillick in 1993 and full-time a few years later by then GM Gord Ash.
Sandelli became the Jays new RSA (Resident Security Agent) taking over for Ian Marr in 1993. He was asked to accompany the Jays on the road to Chicago for the American League Championship Series to look after the player’s wives and girlfriends and families in the travelling party.
Fran Brown, Gillick’s left and right hand, booked Sandelli a flight into Chicago the day before the families arrived.
“I flew with Gillick and he didn’t have to do it, but he invited me to diner, he always included me in anything and everything,” said Sandelli. “My guess is because his father was a former police officer just as I was.”
Sandelli’s biggest problem when he took over was “convincing players I wasn’t a spy for management. The guy that helped the most was Carlos Delgado.”
Over the years he has a lot of faves like Aaron Sanchez, Jose Bautista, Mark Buehrle, Marco Estrada, Jason Grilli, Scott Rolen, J.P. Arencibia, JA Happ and Delgado.
“I’d like to think I got along with everyone,” Sandelli said. “Carlos was the one that broke the ice.”
In 2014, GM Alex Anthopoulos dealt Happ to the Seattle Mariners for Michael Saunders, with Sandelli telling the GM “not to do it.” That is how much Sandelli liked Happ.
A good security agent is similar to a good referee or a good umpire. You don’t even know that he is there.
He should not be needed but if you read the paper you have noticed that ball players do get into trouble. If a player has a personal issue, he would call Sandelli. If a player was stopped by the police, he called Sandelli. If a player’s family needed help getting a passport in a hurray, he would call Sandellli. Or if someone needing help with a Nexus card Sandelli helped.
Visiting team managers would rave about having a police escort to the airport on getaway days. That was due to Sandelli.
Most of all when the panic phone calls were made, Sandelli answered at 2 a.m.
“Hey I have this issue. What should I do next,” a player would ask.
Sandelli’s easy-going manner and the respect people had for him earned him the nickname “Coach.”
Not many worked for the Gillick, Ash, J.P. Ricciardi, Anthopouulos and Mark Shapiro regimes.