By Bob Elliott
Canadian Baseball Network
On Feb. 22 of this year, San Diego Padres scout Murray Zuk walked into a Mississauga household.
Zuk, the longest serving Canadian scout, walked out of the cold and into the warm home owned by Jenice and Chris Naylor.
“You know ... I think ... I think, I’ve been here before,” deadpanned Zuk as he looked around.
The Naylor family have been talking to the same scouts, crosscheckers and scouting directors who visited in 2015. Then, they came to talk to Josh Naylor, who went in the first round to the Miami Marlins.
Three years later, the Naylor family is walking down the same road hand-in-hand, one looking out for the other. Zuk from Souris, Man. and a cadre of scouts came calling on signability visits to the same house. They are there to ask Noah Naylor the same question they asked Josh: will he sign if drafted or go to school?
“This year I wouldn’t say it is more relaxing, but it easier to prepare Noah,” said Chris. Jenice said their family knows what to expect, at times, while they are still trying to “maintain the excitement for Noah.” The mother and father gathered at a Mississauga coffee shop last week to talk baseball and their sons.
While Josh was the best high school slugger three years ago, Noah is considered one or two of the best high school bats in the annual amateur draft of high schoolers and collegians in North America which begins Monday night. The first 78 selections will be televised on MLB Network with rounds 3-to-10 on Tuesday and rounds 11-to-40 on Wednesday, conducted by conference call.
Various mock drafts by Baseball America, Perfect Game and MLB Pipeline, have Noah going anywhere from 12th (Blue Jays), 16th (Rays), 18th (Royals), 25th (Diamondbacks), 29th (Indians), 32nd (Rays) and 37th (Orioles). Assigned slot money ranges for the 12th pick at $4,200,900 US all the way to the 37th, which is $1,923,500.
Do non-baseball neighbours understand exactly who lives down the block?
“When Josh was drafted, a man down the street was so impressed, he knew Josh played ball, but he said that, ‘He always thought that maybe he was going to go to school,’” said Jenice. Josh had moved furniture for the man. Noah too. Now the neighbour goes around asking new arrivals: “So ... do you know who lives on our street?”
Seeing Josh, Noah and younger brother Myles playing catch or leaving the house with their ball gear was commonplace. Only a few people comprehend the numbers of hours Josh and Noah spent indoors during the winter at the Ontario Blue Jays complex working out. They had no idea how much travelling Josh and Noah did across Ontario, south of the border and with the Canadian Junior National Team to get where they are at this moment.
Josh has been a support system for Noah as he prepared for various showcases -- the same ones he attended -- and worldly travels, while acting in a “fatherly role,” to Myles, according to Jenice.
“Joshua always told Noah, ‘Don’t compare yourself to others,” Jenice said.
Youngest brother Myles plays short, pitches and catches for the Ontario Blue Jays 13U team Chris Naylor coaches.
“All three have the same intensity,” said Jenice. “Myles is so proud of his big brother. And so proud Noah is following in Joshua’s footseps. Myles is always smiling ... we call him ‘Smiling Myles.’”
Both sons have a deep support system led by grandmothers Mitzi Naylor and Winsome Green.
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To start at the start of the brothers Naylor, Josh was born June 22, 1997 at 12:30 AM at Credit Valley Hospital in Mississauga. He picked up a bat at age 2 1/2, started swinging and has not stopped. Josh’s uncle Dan McWilliam gave Josh his first glove and he took it to bed with him.
Josh’s favourite player was David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox. Father and son would lie on the couch and watch Ortiz go deep. We remember helping Andy Lawrence coach the Mississauga North Bengals in 2010, Lawrence was a former Montreal Expos and New York Mets farmhand. Each time the Bengals played the Tigers, Lawrence, then a New York Mets scout, would predict a great future for Josh Naylor.
Josh was selected 12th over-all in North America by the Miami Marlins in 2015. He was given a $2.5 million US signing bonus and dealt to the San Diego Padres at the 2016 non-waiver deadline as part of a package. Now, he is swinging for the double-A San Antonio Missons.
After he was drafted and before heading south, he took a number of Ontario Blue Jays coaches and employees to the La Castile steak house on Dundas in Mississauga for lunch. Josh treated and gave out Michael Kors watches.
Each watch was inscribed who were there: Sean Travers, Danny Bleiwas, Mike Steed, Kyle DeGrace, Milt Nikkel, Pat Visca, Brandon Dhue and strength coach Chris Walsh, now a trainer now in the St. Louis Cardinals organization. Walsh still trains both brothers in the off season.
Travers watch reads, “Let it Fly,” which was the team motto of the Ontario Blue Jays team that won the Mickey Mantle World Series in 2013.
Josh competed in the final of Jr. Home Run Derby at Target Field, taking his hacks in front of the all-stars and home run derby competitors like Jose Bautista, Justin Morneau, Troy Tulowitzki and Giancarlo Stanton, among others.
This season at double-A San Antonio he is hitting .321 with 11 doubles, a triple, nine homers and 41 RBIs in 48 with a .929 OPS.
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Noah was born Feb. 21, 2000 at 11 AM inside Women’s College Hospital in downtown Toronto. He started swinging a bat at age 2 1/2 and even went so far to sleep with it.
Noah would run across the room, slide head first and jump up and give the safe sign. Funny thing inside a downtown Montreal condo in 1981 we saw the son of Hall of Famer Tim Raines do the exact same thing with a head-first slide, give the safe sign and say “Just like dad!”
A long-time coach with the Canadian Junior National Team under coach Greg Hamilton told us last year Noah might be the “most polite player” he has ever met.
Ontario Blue Jays coach Kyle DeGrace suggested years ago that, “Noah was more athletic than Josh and could go just as high in the draft.”
Growing up with San Francisco Giants’ Buster Posey as his favourite player Noah might be a catcher and might not be in the pro world. Besides catching, he plays third.
Noah lost in the final of the 2017 Jr. Home Run Derby in Miami with big brother on hand. Noah was there for the Futures Game, along with Calgary’s Mike Soroka, now with the Atlanta Braves, and Port Hope’s Cal Quantrill, now a San Antonio teammate of Josh’s.
Carrying symmetry one step further, Noah homered 420 feet to right, in the same section Josh homered in a pre-draft work out in 2015 as sluggers Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge watched.
The Ontario Blue Jays bus from one college campus to another in the spring and the fall. Since schools are only allowed to play one international game it is one game, back on the bus for two hours or whatever until the next stop. A few years ago Ontario Blue Jays coach Sean Travers decided to alter the trip so it would venture into Texas.
“Sean took Noah over to Texas A&M at College Station in 2016 and the coaches offered him a scholarship,” Chris said.
So, if negotiations don’t work out, Noah has a soft place to land.
At the Under Armour All-American game
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It is an easy question, yet a difficult one to answer.
What makes you proudest of your respective sons?
Jenice on Josh: “As for me, it was difficult to see him launch his career and undergo adversity. I am so proud that the social media has never affected him.”
Chris on Josh: “There’s no way I could do what he did. Going to Italy and Korea at age 15? He’s managing his own life at age 20 and making decisions on his own.”
Jenice on Noah: “The way Noah is so proud of his brother. We’ll see Robbie Alomar talking to Noah at Tournament 12 and ask what Robbie had to say? Noah will answer, ‘Oh, he was asking about Josh.’ We’ll ask what a scout had to say and Noah will say ‘Oh he wanted to know what was new with Josh.’ Noah loves talking about his brother -- if someone brings him up in conversation. It’s not like he is Josh’s shadow.”
Chris on Noah: “He went from a guy who didn’t want to be the centre of attention to the point when the microphone is placed in his face, he can handle it. He matured from boy to man.”
And Monday night we find out what Noah Naylor’s next option is.
Top signing bonuses for Canadians
Year Round Team Position Name Hometown Province School/Team Bonus
2010 1 Pirates RHP Jameson Taillon, The Woodlands, Tx., The Woodlands HS $6,500,000 US
2016 1 Padres RHP Cal Quantrill Port Hope ON, Stanford University, $3,963,045
2002 1 Orioles LHP Adam Loewen, Surrey, BC, Whalley Chiefs/Jr. National Team $3,200,000
2015 1 Marlins 1B Josh Naylor, Mississauga, ON, Ontario Blue Jays/Jr. National Team $2.500,000
2014 2 Mariners OF Gareth Morgan, North York, ON, Ontario Blue Jays/Jr. National Team $2,000,000
2015 1 Braves RHP Michael Soroka, Calgary, AB, PBF Redbirds/Jr. National Team $1,974,700
2007 1 Mariners RHP Phillippe Aumont, Gatineau, QC, ABC/Jr. National Team $1.900,000
2002 1 Rockies LHP Jeff Francis, North Delta, BC, University of British Columbia, $1,850,000
2008 1 Brewers C Brett Lawrie Langley, BC, Langley Blaze/Jr. National Team, $1,700,000
2001 28 Cardinals RHP Blake Hawksworth, North Vancouver, BC, Bellevue (WA) Community College $1,475,000