The Jays played Ruben Sierra ahead of Green against left-handers.
Or how Gaston told Green: “You need to learn how to pull the ball, hit more home runs, because you don’t run well enough to steal bases.”
It’s all there and more in a new book The Way of Baseball, Finding Stillness At 95 mph — written by Green and his neighbour, novelist, Gordon McAlpine, and published by Simon & Schuster.
“The book starts in Milwaukee before my final at-bat,” said Green on Friday at the Rogers Centre as part of a book tour that brought him from the west coast to New York and two days in Toronto.
Wearing a Los Angeles Dodgers uniform, Green hit four home runs, going 6-for-6 with 19 total bases, on May 23, 2002 that night, a major-league record.
“Then, it flashes back to 1997 when Cito called me in for a meeting, told me I had to pull the ball more,” the former Jays outfielder said.
Green left the meeting, went to the hitting cage the outside the Jays clubhouse and hit more than100 balls into the net to get rid of his frustration.
He had asked Garth Iorg, a minor-league instructor, filling in while coach Jim Lett was away, to throw to him in the cage. Iorg said: “Make sure you ask Willie.”
Green and Iorg came across Upshaw, who asked: “What’s wrong with facing me?” Green explained that Iorg threw right-handed and Upshaw was a lefty. Upshaw told Green he needed to learn how to hit left-handers.
“I know how to hit lefties, Willie,” he said. “But I never get to play against lefties.”
To which Upshaw said: “You can’t go to the cage anymore without my supervision.”
A year later, Green batting third for manager Tim Johnson, hit 35 homers, knocked in 100 runs and stole 35 bases.
Two years later, with the Dodgers, he hit 49 homers, with 125 RBIs and stole 20 bases — the fourth time in his 15-year career he swiped 20 or more.
Gaston and Upshaw tried to turn spray hitter John Olerud into a pull hitter prior to that.
Green’s tee-work time became meditation time. One of the most intelligent players we’d ever met, Green gave up a scholarship to Stanford to sign with the Jays. He also discusses zen and Eastern philosophies.
Yet, the most interesting part of the book is the look behind the closed doors of the Jays clubhouse.
Time and again writers, myself included, tried to get Green to express his frustrations in 1996-97.
The good soldier never knocked anyone.
Until this book.
It’s worth the read.
Octavio Dotel, then a New York Yankees reliever, was perplexed in August of 2006.
Watching the highlights, there was his former manager John Gibbons trying to lift Ted Lilly, who said he would not leave the mound.
A shouting match ensued on the mound and later down the stairs leading to the clubhouse.
“John Gibbons was my manager in the New York Mets system. He worked so hard to be a big-league manager,” said Dotel, now a member of the Blue Jays bullpen. “I played with Ted Lilly. He’s a sweet man. We had a friendship, something must have been misunderstood there.”
The next month the Jays did their annual secret Santa event, as organized by Gregg Zaun and Lilly was given a gift of boxing gloves.
Gibbons? He got boxing gloves ... and a title belt.
Gibbons managed Dotel, then a starter, at class-A St. Lucie in 1997, double-A Binghamton in ’98 and triple-A Norfolk the next year and will never forget a certain start against Toledo.
“We get to the seventh inning and he’s got a no-hitter going and he has struck out about 10,” recalled Gibbons. “I ask: ‘How many?’ The answer was about 90 pitches. I said: ‘Don’t tell me again.’”
In the ninth, with out, Bob Hamelin, now a Jays pro scout, homered, but Dotel struck out the final hitter for a complete game, throwing more than 130 pitches.
“We get in the office and I said to my pitching coach: ‘I guarantee you within five minutes that phone will ring,” Gibbons said. “Sure enough, it was (farm director) Jim Duquette.”
Duquette: “What is going on down there?”
“Hey, it was an effortless game, but that was about that time Jason Isringhausen, Billy Pulsipher and Paul Wilson all were injured, so they were cracking down.”
Here and there
In 1990, before Canadians were eligible to be drafted, teams tried to sign East York outfielder Rich Butler.
Jays scout Bobby Prentice swooped in and, not only signed Rich, but also his older brother Rob Butler. Rob played 108 games in the majors, Rich 86.
Andrew Tinnish and area scout Rob St. Julien will attempt a similar package deal with LSU shortstop Austin Nola, whom the Jays drafted this week. Nola was staying in school as a senior to play with younger brother Aaron Nola, a right-hander from Baton Rouge, La., who committed to LSU. The Jays drafted Aaron in the 22nd and Austin in the 31st ... Canada will be grouped with Team USA, Japan, Chinese Taipei, The Netherlands, Puerto Rico, Panama and Greece at the 39th World Cup in Panama from Oct. 2-15. Cuba, Korea, Australia, Venezuela, Italy, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Germany are in the other pool.
VOTTO SAYS THANKS
Joey Votto was searching for an idea.
A flight for two to Mexico maybe? Europe?
He wanted to give his former Etobicoke Rangers coach, Bob Smyth, a thank you.
He came up with flying Smyth, from Ladysmith, B.C., east for a the Cooperstown Golf Classic next weekend, Father’s Day weekend, featuring Hall of Famers Goose Gossage, Andre Dawson, Jim Rice, Ozzie Smith, Phil Niekro and Tony Pérez.
The tourney will be played on the Leatherstocking Golf Course layout at the Otesaga Resort Hotel. The weekend includes a cocktail reception in the Hall of Fame plaque gallery with the Hall of Fame team captains, a private breakfast and golfing with a Hall of Fame member. Each golfer experiences a behind-the-scenes archival tour into the heart of the museum’s collections.
“I’m sitting out here enjoying our weather, Joey phones and says: ‘How’d you like to go?’ He hit me out of nowhere, so I say sure I wanna go,” said Smyth, who has been termed grouchy on his good days by former players.
“He’d been working on it for two weeks. What do you think of that?”
Of all the players I’ve known for remembering people who helped them get them are in the game, Roy Halladay, Pat Hentgen, Devon White and certainly Votto lead the way.
“I wanted to do something nice for Bobby. We haven’t spoken much this winter because of my schedule,” Votto said. “It’s not because I signed a new contract, but because I now have the means to give something to him. He’s as a baseball historian so this is up his alley. He’ll fit right in with the Hall of Famers.”
Votto signed a three-year $38-million US deal coming off his MVP season.
Smyth’s wife, Cathy, was invited to attend too, but has a prior commitment this Father’s Day weekend.
“Joey’s like a son to me,” Smyth said. “Did I cry? Hell no. Are you crazy?
“Joey has elevated himself to another level, this is a thank you. We still talk, but I’m given up giving him sh--. He’s got this game figured out pretty good for a 27-year-old.”
Votto is right about Smyth being a historian, from the triple-A Toronto Maple Leafs to early Jays days to attending spring as a guest coach in Dunedin.
The Hall of Famers may learn a thing or two.
“I’ve never played golf with him, but I’ve heard he’s good,” Votto said. “He does have a reputation for winning by any means necessary, if you know what I mean.”
MATHIESON TOP SCOUT
When not hitting ground balls, getting players to the next level by explaining that they have to compete and how to compete, Doug Mathieson scouts for the Minnesota Twins.
Oh, he also does a little coaching on the side too, running the Langley Blaze.
Mathieson once again had the top Canadian selected in this week’s draft in right-hander Tom Robson, who went in the fourth round to the Blue Jays.
So, to Mathieson goes our 18th annual scout of the year award, named after the late Jim Ridley of Burlington, who died in 2008.
Ridley scouted for the Jays and the Twins and Mathieson and he were good friends.
Mathieson has had 29 players drafted since 2002, the tip of the iceberg being Brett Lawrie, a first-round choice of the Milwaukee Brewers and now the Jays third baseman in waiting.
His Blaze team in B.C., was selected the No. 1 high-school aged team in Canada by the Perfect Game USA scouting service.
Besides Lawrie and Robson, graduates of the Blaze program include Kellin Deglan, a first- rounder selected by the Texas Rangers a year ago, Jordan Lennerton, Kyle Lotzkar, Carter Morrison, Wes Darvill, Stosh Wawrzasek and Justin Atkinson, who signed this week with the Jays.
All received signing bonuses of more than $100,000 US.
Former Blaze, Scott Mathieson, Doug’s son, has overcome two Tommy John surgeries to make the Phillies bullpen on three occasions.
Previous Toronto Sun’s scout of the year winners:
1994 Bill ScherrerBuffaloMarlins
1995 Bill MacKenzie OttawaRockies
1996 Tim Harkness Hampton, Ont. Padres
1997 Ed Heather CambridgeJays
1998 Wayne Norton Port Moody, B.C. Orioles
1999 Walt Jefferies Paris, Ont. Jays
2000 Claude Pelletier Ste-Lezare, Que. Mets
2001 Jim Kane Brampton, Braves
2002 Ken Lenihan Bedford, N.S. MLB
2003 Dick Groch St. Clair, Mich. Brewers
2004 Jim RidleyBurlingtonTwins
2005 Walt Burrows Brentwood Bay, B.C.MLB
2006 Alex Agostino MontrealPhillies
2007 Howie Norsetter Sydney, AustraliaTwins
2008 Greg Hamilton Ottawa BaseballCanada
2009 Jim Ridley BurlingtonTwins
2010 Jay LappLondonBrewers