TORONTO - The New York Yankees handled Derek Jeter’s run at 3,000 in a first-class manner as usual.
General manager Brian Cashman phoned Milwaukee Brewers GM Doug Melvin to ask for permission to invite Dick (The Legend) Groch, the scout who signed Jeter out of Kalamazoo, Mich., to a Yankee contract to follow Jeter the final days of Jeter’s chase for 3,000.
Melvin agreed and Groch flew into New York for the Yanks series against the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Texas Rangers did the same with Nolan Ryan’s scout Red Murff when he won his 300th.
Groch earned his nickname coaching at St. Clair Community College in St. Clair, Mich.
“Learned more from him in one year than I did in the minors,” said Robbie Thomson, of Corunna, Ont., the Yankees third base coach.
Of course, the Legend grew in scouting circles as well.
Leading up to the 1992 draft, Groch was in the war room praising Jeter to scouting director Bill Livesey and the conversation of the often-told story unfolds like this:
Livesey: “Where’s this kid going to school? University of Michigan?”
Groch: “No, he’s not going to Michigan.”
Livesey: “Has he signed a letter of intent to attend Michigan State?”
Groch: “No, he’s not going to Michigan State.”
Livesey: “Where is he going to go?”
Groch: “This kid is going to Cooperstown.”
Groch was right.
Jeter will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer five years after he retires.
A decade ago Yankees would talk about Jeter’s intangibles, his defence, his leadership, his ability to turn an 0-2 count into a nine-pitch walk.
Well, 3,000 hits is pretty tangible.
Groch, like most wise scouts has a sense of humour. Once, he went to see Drew Henson quarterback the University of Michigan Wolverines, another eventual Yankee draft choice and infielders Chuck Knoblauch and Jeter came too. The three watched from the sidelines.
On Monday, Groch phoned the office and told Cashman how difficult his Saturday was.
“There were 104,000 people screaming wanting to know who the three guys with Dick Groch were,” Groch told Cashman.
The story made the rounds and so when George King of the New York Post noticed Groch and Jeter talking on the field before the all-star break he called Groch’s cell phone and left the message:
“Dick the stadium is starting to fill up and most of the 44,000 fans want to know who is the guy talking to you.”
On the move?
Some nights the Blue Jays bullpen can look thin.
Depth is in the eye of the beholder.
And with Jon Rauch, Jason Frasor, Octavio Dotel and Shawn Camp, the Jays are considered to have a bullpen surplus as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches.
The Jays rank with the San Diego Padres and the Oakland A’s when it comes to having the most set-up arms to move.
Could the Twins be interested in bringing back Rauch, who had 21 saves with Minnesota in 2010?
ODDS AND ENDS
Both the Jays and agent Scott Boras say that the club did go above slot with their final offer to unsigned lefty James Paxton of Ladner, B.C. with the offer reaching $1 million US in August of 2009. Boras wanted more. Paxton signed in March, 17 months later, for $942,500 after being drafted in the fourth round by the Seattle Mariners. Paxton struck out 11 in five innings for double-A Jackson in a 10-7 win over Carolina, his second start since being elevated ... There is a shiny post-season ring from 1993 in the Jays baseball operations department. Except it’s not a Jays World Series bauble. Dana Brown, special assistant to general manager Alex Anthopoulos, wears a 1993 National League championship ring from when he worked for the Philadelphia Phillies in player development ... Angel Hernandez is umping the Yankees-Jays series. In the first half of the season he and Cowboy Joe West were paired together. They had a series of ejections leading up to the break ... Told that the Conference Board of Canada has issued a report entitled The Future of Major League Baseball in Canada in which Montreal can support a major-league team, native Montrealer Russell Martin of the New York Yankees said “Let’s do it.” A stronger Canadian dollar, a metropolitan area population of 3.8 million, a strong fan base and 98 of Canada’s 800 largest companies (third behind Toronto and Calgary) are reasons why Montreal would be attractive.
HERE AND THERE
Used to be last call-up was stuck with catching the ceremonial first pitch. Ace Ricky Romero was out there Thursday night to catch a strike at the knee from George Bell, the only player in franchise history to win an MVP award ... In 1990 we sat in Bell’s house in San Pedro de Macrois in the Dominican as son Kevin crawled around in diapers. Now, Kevin, plus older brothers Chris and George Jr. have seven children making George Bell a grandpa seven times over ... The double-A Texas League played its annual all-star game at San Antonio’s Nelson W. Wolff Stadium and dedicated a seat behind home plate to the late Jays scout Al LaMacchia, a San Antonio resident. The seat will remain empty as a tribute to LaMacchia, who signed Cito Gaston to his first pro contract with the Milwaukee Braves as a free agent in 1964 ... We mentioned Butch Hobson and his son K.C. Hobson, first baseman at class-A Lansing last weekend. London’s Jim Cressman worked the plate when Hobson played in the double-A Eastern League in 1974-75. Later, scribing for his hometown Free Press, Cressman covered Hobson when the London Tigers were in the Eastern League and Hobson managed the New Britain Red Sox in 1989-90.
PM HARPER A FAN OF VOTTO
The awards National League MVP Joey Votto won in 2010 would fill a page in the Cincinnati Reds media guide.
Votto even received a letter from Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper ... eventually.
Votto has the letter framed and hanging on the wall of his Sarasota, Fla., home. The Prime Minister commented on his accolades and offered congrats, but the highlight of the letter?
“He crossed off Mr. Votto and wrote in ‘Joey’ in blue ink, making it personal,” Votto said.
The letter was dated Nov. 24, 2010. The Etobicoke first baseman did not receive it until April.
“Not good,” Votto said.
The letter had sat in the clubhouse until an equipment man found it when the Reds got to Cincy to open the season.
“I looked at him and said, ‘Do you know this is like from my president?’” Votto said. “I told a clubhouse guy ‘it’s like you getting a letter from Barack Obama.’
“I was a little upset at the time, because it was so important and I didn’t get a chance to acknowledge it until months later.”
Both the Prime Minister and Votto attended Richview Collegiate Institute.
LIND’S TRANSITION TO FIRST EASIER THAN EXPECTED
Half-way through the season, Adam Lind has thrown a number of strikes to second to get the lead runner on a ground ball.
Lind isn’t Keith Hernandez or Don Mattingly, but the move to first has not been as problematic as some thought during the winter meetings.
Jays minor league coach Dennis Holmberg told a story this week when Lind was re-habbing in Dunedin earlier this season at the Bobby Mattick Complex.
Lind was scheduled to take 20 ground balls, so Holmberg said: “Let’s head over to the back field, but first we need some baseballs.”
Lind replied “I’ve got one.”
“And one ball was all we needed, he didn’t boot one,” Holmberg said.
BAUTISTA JUST PLAIN ‘RIDICULOUS'
Jose Bautista hit three home runs against the Indians at Progressive Field before the break.
“What he’s doing is ridiculous,” said manager Manny Acta. “He reminds me of Barry Bonds in his prime. He doesn’t even foul off pitches — he hits them out.”
Closer Chris Perez gave up a 10th-inning homer to Bautista in a 5-4 loss.
“Chris tried to throw Jose away but the ball came back over the plate and the way he’s going now he doesn’t miss anything,” Acta said. “You make a mistake and he hits it over the wall. He doesn’t get cheated. You never see him check his swing. He takes his hacks.”
Said Perez: “He’s not hitting 1.000, so somebody’s getting him out, but leave anything out over the plate he hits it into the stands, or it’s a loud out.”
MY BEST DAY IN BASEBALL
May 5, 2006
“It would have to be my debut, with the Dodgers at home against Milwaukee,” Martin said. “I had two hits and knocked in a couple of runs.”
Martin doubled to right knocking in two runs in his second at-bat and singled to centre in the sixth against the Brewers’ Chris Capuano.
“Derek Lowe pitched, eight innings (actually 7 1/3) I think,” Martin said.
And Erie Gagne got the save?
“No, I only caught him once, then he went on the disabled list,” Martin said. “I always used to joke on the way up if I caught Eric we could stand on the mound and talk French, wouldn’t even have to cover our mouths ... as long as Pete LaForest wasn’t on third.
“I was also in Panama in 2003, but I didn’t play much (LaForest was catching) when Canada beat Mexico to qualify for the 2004 Olympics.”
THE MOST INTERESTING PROSPECT IN THE WORLD
The Los Angeles Angels have another stud in outfielder Steve Trout, 19.
His promotion to replace injured Peter Bourjos met with hosannas by Angels who think Trout is the second coming of Mickey Mantle.
Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register took pen in hand to pay homage a la the Dos Equis beer ads:
Superman is thinking of adding a guest room to his Fortress of Solitude. Just in case Mike Trout decides to stop by.
When Mike Trout downloaded the Angry Birds game app to his iPhone, the birds stopped being angry.
A word to the wise is sufficient. But Mike Trout just needs the first letter. And maybe a vowel.
When he was in grade school, Mike Trout’s dog once ate his homework. That dog now has a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University.