Minor league baseball registration is spiking across Ontario: In Richmond Hill it was up 8 per cent in 2006.
Markham, Newmarket, Barrie and Orangeville up 12-to-18 per cent. Aurora up 15 per cent. Toronto up 10-20 per cent. And North London - a whopping 60 per cent.
Across Canada, British Columbia (44,112 players registered), Alberta (17,080), Saskatchewan (10,817) and Manitoba (7,774) have witnessed similar enrollment increases since 2005.
What’s going on?
Well, Paul Godfrey, Blue Jays president and CEO, deserves some of the credit for Canada’s renewed interest in baseball. The Jays were big-time players during the past two off-seasons, landing closer B.J. Ryan, right-hander A.J. Burnett and future Hall of Famer Frank Thomas. Godfrey convinced Jays owner Ted Rogers, part fan, mostly businessman, to expand the payroll, buy the SkyDome and open the largest Rogers store. Another reason for the jump in registrations was the success of Team Canada against Team USA at the World Baseball Classic in 2006. Godfrey was pushing for the WBC years ago and served on Major League Baseball’s international committee.
Under Godfrey, the Jays donate $20,000 each January to the Baseball Canada fund raiser.
The Jays also sponsored the rookie, peewee, bantam and midget divisions of Baseball Ontario in 2006. All of which makes Godfrey Sun Media’s choice as the most influential Canadian in baseball for 2007. “Paul’s learning to be a good baseball guy,” said Kansas City Royals owner David Glass, who first met Godfrey when the two were involved in other businesses. “He’s determined that they’re going to have a good team in Toronto. It would be easy to say, ‘Well, we’ve got the currency fluctuations and problems.’ He persuaded Rogers to make an investment in the team so that they could be competitive.”
If Godfrey is No. 1, Greg Hamilton, director of national teams for Baseball Canada, is 1A. It could be argued that Hamilton deserves the No. 1 billing, based on the number of Canadians entering pro ball as well as Canada’s success on the international scene. Each year Hamilton picks 50 of the best 15-to-16-year-olds from across the country for the Mizuno junior development camp. He also selects the Canadian junior team and manages Canada’s senior team. “The best Canadian eligible for the draft this year, like every other year, wasn’t signed by a pro team and that’s Greg Hamilton,” said Bob Engle, the Seattle Mariners head international scout. The junior team is a year round commitment, taking players to tournaments as well as instructional camps in Florida. There is also a 10-day trip to the Dominican to play pro teams. “You can pinpoint when Canadians began to succeed,” said Walt Burrows, Canadian MLB director of scouting. “Greg took the junior team to Florida the first time in 1999, with Justin Morneau and Jeff Francis. Players receive pro calibre coaching and were exposed to better competition against pros. “No wonder the players we’re developing aren’t organizational guys, they’re all-stars. Greg prepares players for college or pro ball.” From his Ottawa office Hamilton put together teams that qualified for the Olympics in 2003 at Panama, reached the semi-finals at the Athens Olympics in 2004 and knocked off Team USA in the 2006 WBC. The Peterborough native scouts hundreds of players, evaluating talent on many levels to put his teams together. A year ago in Cuba, Canada finished third at the world juniors. “Greg is respected in baseball circles and goes the extra mile to promote Canadians,” said Doug Mathieson, coach of the Langley Blaze in Langley, B.C.. His son Scott Mathieson pitched for Team Canada and is with the Philadelphia Phillies. “Scouts at showcases in Arizona know of Hamilton’s program and pay attention,” Mathieson said. “He’s been instrumental in the careers of many Canadian pros.”
3. Doug Melvin, GM Milwaukee Brewers
His Brewers hit the break with a 5 1/2 game lead in the NL Central. Under Melvin the Brewers have gone from 56 wins in 2002 to 68, to 67, to 81 and 75 in 2006. The Brewers, with a $70 million payroll, have dominated each June when it comes to selecting Canadians. Melvin’s from Chatham, Ont.
4. Ted Rogers, owner, Jays
The founder and chairman of Rogers Communications loosened the purse strings to enable Godfrey and GM J.P. Ricciardi to climb to a $82 million yearly payroll. Buying the SkyDome was a good move. Canadian Business ranked Rogers as the fourth richest Canadian in 2006 ($4.54 billion).
5. Pat Gillick, GM, Philadelphia Phillies
Gillick became a Canadian citizen in November of 2005 so he qualifies. With an $89 million payroll the Phillies are either in or out of the wild-card race depending upon the inning. Gillick has always supported Canadian baseball.
6. Walt Burrows, Canadian director, MLB Scouting Bureau
If a Canadian high schooler doesn’t catch Hamilton’s eye he’d best draw the attention of the man from Brentwood Bay, B.C. He weighs in with an opinion and his reports go to all 30 teams. In Burrows’ first year with the Bureau he identified the best player in B.C. as Steve Nash, now a two-time NBA MVP.
7. Justin Morneau, Minnesota Twins
The reigning American League MVP is an all-star with the Minnesota Twins. While the guys in the suits and the guys in sweatsuits have the power, it is the New Westminster, B.C. native with No. 33 tattooed on his right shoulder - inset into a red Canadian flag - that kids admire.
8. Jeffrey Royer, co-owner, Arizona Diamondbacks
The Toronto resident is one of four co-owners who committed $160 million over the next 10 years for a stake in the team. He sits on the board of directors with Shaw Communications.
9. Claude Delorme, VP, Florida Marlins
From Sturgeon Falls, Ont., Delorme is in charge of stadium development and construction plans for a new park in Florida. His search may be the key to the franchise’s survival. “He has not had success yet, but he’s very good at what he does,” said an MLB exec. He joined the Marlins in 2005, overseeing stadium operations after 23 seasons with the Expos.
10. Paul Beeston, ex-Jays president
While he is not on the payroll of a MLB club, in a week he may take calls from Jerry Reinsdorf, of the White Sox; Larry Lucchino, of the Red Sox; Players’ Association boss Donald Fehr and Godfrey. Beeston is on the board of directors of the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
11. Larry Walker, coach, St. Louis Cardinals
When Morneau needs hitting advice he phones Walker, a part-time coach with the Cards after coaching with Canada in the WBC.
12. Jerry Howarth, broadcaster, Jays
The lead radio announcer became a Canadian citizen in April 1994 and did his first game in 1980. The Etobicoke resident estimates he’s worked roughly 4,100 regular season Jays games and has become the voice of the franchise, educating, entertaining and painting pictures.
13. Allan Simpson, Perfect Game Scouting Service
The Kelowna, B.C. native runs a service which college recruiters and most teams use as a guide leading up to the draft. He founded Baseball America, bringing the magazine to the point where it surpassed The Sporting News as the baseball bible.
14. Jeff Mallett, part owner, San Francisco Giants
The Victoria, B.C. resident is one of 25 partners under managing general partner Peter Magowan’s umbrella. Mallett was a founder of Yahoo. Canadian Business ranked him as the 34th-richest Canadian and worth $750 million in 1997.
15. Michel Bussiere, CFO, Marlins
As executive V.P., the Montrealer oversees financial operations including financial reporting and budgeting, cash management, reporting requirements to MLB and tax auditing. Bussiere was the Expos CFO from 2000-2002. He had worked for the Expos since 1987.
16. Jim McKean, MLB umpire supervisor
After umping 29 years in MLB the Montreal native checks on those who make balls and strike calls from St. Petersburg, Fla. He suggests who gets the next big-league job when a vacancy occurs.
17. Fergie Jenkins, Hall of Famer
Canada’s only Hall of Famer may live in Arizona, but he’s often on the banquet tour. Whether it is in St. Catharines, his home of Chatham, Ont., or salmon fishing on the Chilliwack River in B.C., he preaches a never-give-up attitude to youngsters chasing their goal. Jenkins won 284 games in the majors and was given the Order of Canada award from the Governor General on May 4.
18. Terry Puhl, Team Canada manager
After guiding Team Canada to a fourth-place finish in Cuba, enough to qualify for the Bejing Olympics qualifier, the Melville, Sask. native will guide Canada’s hopes next spring in Taiwan. Three countries in that eight-team tourney will advance to the Games. He’s also head coach at the U. of Houston Victoria.
19. Phil Lind, vice-chairman of Rogers Communications
Not a limelight guy, the Toronto resident is given credit, along with Godfrey, for talking Rogers into buying the Jays from Interbrew, the absentee owners.
20. Gord Ash, assistant GM Brewers
He’s played a key role in Milwaukee sitting atop the AL Central. The Toronto native, along with Melvin, has made the Brewers Canada’s team: no less than 12 Canadians are in their system.
21. Dan Schulman, ESPN announcer
Started out at TSN, he now does 20-to-25 games a season on ESPN TV, another 45 on ESPN radio. He also calls the post-season action for the network.
22. Alex Anthopoulos, assistant GM Jays
Considered a bright mind by agents, the Montreal native is a excellent negotiator. Agents often call “uncle” after he wears them down. His years of scouting for the Expo give him an added perspective.
23. Tim Hallgren, scouting director, Dodgers
The Clarkston, Wash. native is the son of Tim Hallgren, of Victoria, the first B.C. born player to make a 40-man roster (Boston Braves, 1953). Hallgren, 48, has been with the Dodgers three years after 17 scouting for the Rangers. Said GM Ned Coletti” “Tim’s been a valued member of the scouting department for the last few years and Tim's contributions have added to the Dodgers success in recent drafts.”
24. Doug Beeforth, SportsNet
As president of SportsNet, he oversees the production of 100 Jays games. SportsNet also holds the rights to the All-star Game and World Series.
25. Jon Lalonde, scouting director, Jays
The Midland, Ont. native became scouting director in 2003. He’s done well, going beyond the college-only draft process which used to exist. Very humble and treats people well.
26. Nancy Newman, host, YES Network
The Toronto native works pre and post-game shows with the Yankees network. In addition, Newman hosts Yankee Magazine, just like Mel Allen used to do.
27. Stubby Clapp, hitting coach, class-A Greenville
Though the Windsor, Ont. native is as hitting coach in the Astros system, he’s regarded as Canada’s Prime Minister on baseball’s international stage. He’ll play on the qualifying team bidding for a spot in Bejing.
28. Terry McCaig, coach, University of British Columbia
The Vernon, B.C. resident coach runs the first four-year scholarship program in the country. His UBC Thunderbirds produced Jeff Francis of the Colorado Rockies. He recruits from coast to coast and has produced eight pros - Brooks McNevin, Jonathan Forest and Francis are still pitching.
29. Ray Carter, president, Baseball Canada
Hailing from Tsawwassen, B.C., Carter is in his seventh year. He was instrumental in putting together Greg Hamilton, Jim Baba and Andre Lachance, the best 1-2-3 punch Canada has ever had in Ottawa - leading to this golden era of Canadians in the majors.
30. Dr. Ron Taylor, Jays club physician
He keeps a close eye on the day-to-day injuries of the millionaires and he’s been a busy man in 2007. Besides the big-leaguers, Taylor runs the S.C. Cooper sports medicine clinic at Toronto’s Mt. Sinai where he gets the best amateurs back to the field after baseball injuries.
31. Neil Munro, statistician
The former North Bay, Ont. teacher checked stats on all major leaguers for STATS Inc. It took eight years as Munro spent 4-to-6 weeks from 9 a.m. until closing time at the Hall of Fame library in Cooperstown sorting old newspapers and microfilm. He wrote The Canadian Baseball Players Encyclopedia.
32. Tom Valcke, CEO, Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame
He’s steadily making progress in St. Marys, where the Hall has attractive fields attracting touring teams. He oversees the Hall’s elections each year.
33. Blair Kubicek, coach, Prairie Baseball Academy
The Lethbridge, Alta. native is in his 13th year running the two-year program. Over 30 of his players have been drafted - including third rounder Lars Davis of Grand Prairie, Alta. this June - and 100 players have gone on to scholarships in the U.S.
34. William Humber, Historian
If Humber says it happened in Canadian baseball, it happened. The Toronto resident traced the roots of all Canadians to appear in the majors from 1871 (Guelph’s Mike Brannock was the first) as well as every pro team Canada field back to 1876.
35. Dave McKay, coach, St. Louis Cardinals
The first base coach for Cards allowed more home runs to Mark McGwire than anyone - both with the A’s and in St. Louis - and none counted. McKay threw batting practice to McGwire. The Vancouver native is in manager Tony La Russa’s inner circle.
36. Rob Thomson, coach, New York Yankees
The Corunna, Ont. native is a major-league field co-ordinator, serving as coach with the Yanks. Manager Joe Torre has Thomson run the show during spring training. Thomson is in his 18th year with the Yanks and has four Series rings.
37. Darcy Raymond, vice president, Devil Rays
The Montrealer is in charge of branding and fan experience. Raymond joined the Rays in 2006 and earned the nickname D-Ray. He’s responsible for developing fan experience at Tropicana Field. He graduated from Concordia in Montreal and has an MBA from the Harvard Business School.
38. Bart Given, assistant GM, Jays
Is knowledgeable on the MLB rules and regulations. Does contract work. The Haliburton native is responsible for bringing Scott Downs to town.
39. Jacques Doucet, Broadcaster
The Montreal Expos broadcaster for 33 years wasn’t out of work for long. He does the Quebec Capitales games in the independent Can-Am League. Finished in the top five the last two years in voting for the Ford Frick award. Owner Miles Wolff calls him the “The Vin Scully of the French-speaking world.”
40. Kevin Briand, Canadian scouting director, Jays
The Montreal native is the Jays link to amateur ball, is responsible for developmental funding from coast to coast and scouts Canadians as well. In his first three years he signed one Canadian. In the past two the Jays have signed nine Canadians.
41. Orv Franchuk, minor-league hitting coordinator, Astros
From Lac La Biche, Alta., he moved into ball full time after 20 years as an Edmonton teacher. Franchuk earned a Series ring with the 2004 Red Sox. He spent four years with Boston, eight coaching in the A’s system, was a hitting coach and a scout for the Angels and from 1977-84 scouted for the Reds.
42. Jay Lapp, scout, Brewers
The London, Ont. resident is a reason Milwaukee is the No. 1 force in Canada when it comes to drafting amateurs. Lapp inherited Dick Groch’s network and has drafted 19 Canadians in the previous three drafts.
43. Ellen Harrigan, assistant director, administration, Dodgers
The Agincourt native is in charge of day-to-day administration and does the majority of the contract language. Harrigan is the liaison between the Dodgers office and MLB on waivers, rules and transactions. Said Coletti “Ellen possesses a great working knowledge of the game, is thorough, trustworthy and dependable, someone I depend on every day.”
44. Alex Agositno, technical director, Baseball Quebec
He wears two hats as the new head of Baseball Quebec and the Phillies’ Canadian scout. Over the years Agostino drafted Shawn Hill, Pierre-Luc Laforest, Russell Martin and Eric Cyr.
45. Claude Pelettier, scout, Mets
The Ste-Lezare, Que. native seldom gets the highest Canadian in the draft, but he always gets someone as evidenced by the seven Canucks in the Mets system. With the Dodgers he signed Cy Young award winner Erie Gagne.
46. Jason Dickson, executive director, New Brunswick baseball
There was a time when all of southern California followed the exploits of the Chatham, N.B. native when he pitched for the Angels. Unlike many ex-big leaguers he’s giving back and has been named the executive director New Brunswick baseball.
47. Bill Byckowski, scout, Reds
The Georgetown, Ont. resident never had a pick as high a 53rd over-all in North America when he was Canadian scouting director for the Jays. He gave second rounder Kyle Lotzkar a $594,000 bonus, sixth highest ever for a Canadian last month.
48. Jim Ridley, scout, Twins
The Burlington resident is a workaholic logging many hours throughout the U.S. with both pro and amateur coverage, as well as covering Canada for the draft. He didn’t land anyone this June, but gave Whitby’s Jonathan Waltenbury the top bonus for a high schooler a year ago.
49. Mike McRae, coach, Canisius College
The Niagara Falls, Ont. resident is in the midst of turning around the Canisius program, as he did with Niagara University (with Canucks like Josh McCurdy, James Avery and Reed Easterly). He had 11 Canadians in the spring of 2007. Also a national team coach.
50. Joel Landry, coach, Academic du Baseball Canada
The head coach of the Academie du Baseball Canada is filling the shoes of legendary coach Richard Emond. Aumont pitched for the ABC for two seasons.
51. Wayne Morgan, scout, Mariners
The former Jays scouting director, of Kindersley, Sask. is a major-league scout for the M’s. Morgan, who lives in Morgana, Calif., signed Terry Puhl.
52. Murray Cook, scout, Tigers
The Sackville, N.B. native, a former GM of the Yanks, Expos and Reds now work for the Tigers as their regional crosschecker in the East, for amateur scouting.
53. Wayne Norton, scout, Mariners
Only four other scouts can claim they drafted a Canadian in the first round and the Port Moody, B.C. scout is one of them after his M’s chose Phillippe Aumont 11th in North America in June.
54. Phillippe Aumont, first round pick
The Gatineau, Que. right-hander was selected 11th over-all in North America. While he has not signed yet and has until Aug. 15 to reach an agreement, one of Aumont’s outings in Florida came in front of over 150 Quebec players on tour during their school break.
55. Clyde Inouye, B.C. Premier League
The Sir John A. Macdonald of the B.C. Premier League - Canada’s best high school league - which produced the likes of Justin Morneau, Adam Loewen, Jeff Francis. He’s president of the loop in its 13th season.
56. Denis Boucher, scout, Nationals
The Lachine, Que. native is like a lot of people on our list, Boucher wears two hats. He’s the Canadian scout for the Nationals and Team Canada pitching coach.
57. P.J. Loyello, vice-president, Marlins
The Montreal native, a senior VP of communications and broadcasting, oversees media relations, broadcasting, community affairs, community foundation, creative services and in-game entertainment departments. He’s in sixth season with the Marlins after 15 years with the Expos.
58. Rob Ducey, scout, Jays
Ducey is new to scouting, but the Cambridge native has his father Ed Heather to lean on in times of stress. He scouts the AL Central for the Jays, triple-A and double-A.
59. Jim Baba, director general, Baseball Canada
The Moose Jaw, Sask. native can do it all from administration to hitting pre-game infield, to helping coach Team Canada.
60. Les McTavish, coach, Vauxhall Academy
The Stettler, Alta. native and ex-national team pitching coach is the head man in Vauxhall, Alta., a high school which offers scholarships. McTavish targets players for his high school from anywhere but the big three provinces - B.C., Ontario or Quebec.
61. Ken Lenihan, scout, MLB Scouting Bureau
Also a multiple-hat man as the Maritime scout from Bedford, N.S. works for the MLB Bureau, is pitching mentor to many of the top Maritimers and a coach with Team Nova Scotia.
62. Andrew Tinnish, scout, Jays
Involved in the administrative part of the Jays amateur and pro departments. He does workups for arbitration. Has scouting background and was sent out for second looks on players in the spring. The Burlington resident has coverage for seven pro teams during the summer.
63. John Ircandia, GM, Okotoks Dawgs
Driving force behind the Dawgs and their new Seaman Stadium south of Calgary, a roughly 4,500 seat stadium with theatre seating, one of the nicest parks in the country. It’s the start of an $8 million complex.
64. Todd MacFarlane, Collector
He isn’t with a team but he has impact. The Edmonton comic book artist bought Mark McGwire's 70th home run ball for $3 million and later bought the ball that gave Barry Bonds the single-season record of 73 home runs in 2001 for some $500,000. The creator of the Spawn comic book series says Bonds’ final home run may be more valuable than his record-breaking No. 756th.
65. Charlie Wilson, minor league operations, Jays
Wilson worked at 1 Blue Jays Way before moving south to Dunedin where he oversees the Jays minor-league system along with Dick Scott.
66. Sam Katz, owner, Winnipeg Goldeyes
The Goldeyes boss is so popular he could run for mayor. Oh wait a second he holds down that office. They play in a beautiful park and average 6,000 fans per independent-Northern League games. They don’t miss a triple-A franchise at all.
67. Suzanne Rayson, director of broadcasting, Marlins
In her fifth season with the Marlins. Rayson works with English and Spanish radio and TV partners as well as national broadcast crews as well as Inside the Marlins. Has worked with the Jays, Kansas City Royals, Yanks, Leafs, New York Jets, Dallas Cowboys, Houston Oilers and radio networks.
68. Michel Laplante, manager, Quebec
The Val D’or native guided Les Capitales to the Can-Am League championship in 2006. He’s a former minor-league pitcher.
69. Gary Van Tol, pitching coach Gonzaga University
From Pincher Creek, Alta., Van Tol is also the recruiting co-ordinator for the Bulldogs, who had a pair of Canadians this spring. In his 16 years in college he has coached or managed 14 pitchers who have played pro, eight of whom have reached the majors.
70. Alan Mauthe, hitting coach, Red Sox system
The White Rock, B.C. resident is the hitting coach with class-A Lowell for his third season. He’s in his fifth season in the Sox organization.
Honourable Mentions: Danny Bleiwas, Thornhill, Ont., coach Ontario Blue Jays, scout San Diego Padres; Remo Cardinale, Mississauga, Ont., instructor Team Ontario, coach Team Canada; Jason Chee-Aloy, Toronto, coach Toronto Mets Ontario Youth Team; Bill Green, Vancouver, coach Coquitlam Reds; John Harr, Vancouver, coach, North Shore Twins; Peter Hoy, Cardinal, Ont.
pitching coach, Le Moyne; Doug Mathieson, Langley, B.C. coach, Langley Blaze; Ari Mellios, Surrey, B.C., North Delta Jays; Mel Oswald, Hamilton, Ont., coach, Canadian Thunderbirds; Todd Plaxton, Saskatoon, Saskatoon Yellowjackets; Marc Picard, Pickering, Ont. coach Team Ontario; Danny Thompson, Burlington, Ont., coach Inter-County Terriers.