Brantford lefty a name to watch

BOB ELLIOTT, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:19 AM ET

When Jake Eliopoulos made his initial tour of the Intercounty Baseball League last summer, he drew attention.

Not only because the Brantford Red Sox lefty will be the first area high-school player selected when the annual Major League Baseball amateur draft begins tomorrow but also because his father is Jimmy Eliopoulos.

"Every place we'd go, players, coaches and umpires would ask: 'You Jimmy's son?' " Eliopoulos said recently. "I didn't realize my father was such a big name."

Jake was not referring to the 10 letters in his surname.

Jimmy caught for the Toronto Maple Leafs of the IBL and Team Canada at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

The way Jake has pitched for the Canadian national junior team and Brantford, Jimmy eventually will be known as "Jake's father."

The draft begins at 6 p.m. tomorrow with the first three rounds, plus supplemental picks, televised by MLB Network. It resumes Wednesday afternoon via conference call and ends Thursday afternoon with the 50th and final round.

While Jake is excited about the draft -- and will be the top Canadian high-schooler selected -- it's uncertain whether he'll sign or attend school in the fall. He has a number of scholarship offers to weigh and a busy summer ahead of him.

Before Jake hears his name, University of Kentucky Wildcats lefty James Paxton, who walked 20 and struck out 115 in 781/3 innings, will be the first Canuck selected from late in the first round to early in the second.

After Jake, the next selections should be: Right-hander Steven Inch of Edmonton, Guelph outfielder Josh Garton of Volunteer State College, outfielder Adam Nelubowich of Stony Plain, Alta., and Kitchener lefty Mitch Clarke.

Both Inch and Nelubowich played for coach Les McTavish at the Vauxhall Academy in Alberta, while Clarke pitched for coach Danny Thompson and the Intercounty Terriers.

Garton was invited to private workouts by the Blue Jays -- and many other major league clubs, including Baltimore, where he homered out of Camden Yards to impress Orioles scouts.

The Jays select 20th overall and have five of the first 104 picks.

In March, Jake was at a Red Sox practice at The Baseball Zone in Mississauga. Both Phillippe Aumont and Brett Lawrie dropped by to see him work.

Aumont helped Jake with his off-speed pitches. Lawrie gave Jake advice on what to expect the final three months before the draft.

The next afternoon Aumont pitched out of that bases-loaded, none-out jam against Team USA in the World Baseball Classic at the Rogers Centre.

Jake will pitch for the junior team against Team USA in Cary, N.C., and in Havana.

"The progress Jake has made has been tremendous," coach Greg Hamilton said. "Mentally and physically he has his game together. He is at a point where he commands all three pitches and handles difficult situations well."

Jimmy played for manager Eric Mackenzie, legendary coaches Alfie Payne, Dick Groch and Brian McRobie, when Canada won its first senior international, the Haarlem Honkbal tournament in The Netherlands in 1984. Canada beat the host in the final, while Team USA was third.

Jimmy played with future big-leaguers Kevin Reimer of Enderby, B.C.; Mike Gardiner of Sarnia and lefty Steve Wilson, of Victoria, B.C.

"Wilson had wicked movement, I caught him in the Olympics. He'd be the closest I ever caught to Jake," Jimmy said.


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