DALLAS - Omar Minaya remembers pulling into the parking lot at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Fla., in 2002.
“It’s about 5 a.m. and here is this kid standing in front of the locked door wearing a shirt and a tie,” Minaya said Thursday.
Major League Baseball had taken over the Expos and Minaya had been appointed as the general manager.
“The kid is dressed nicely, but I’m thinking to myself: ‘What in the world can this guy want?’ He introduces himself as Alex Anthopoulos and says: ‘Mr. Minaya, Mr. Minaya, Mr. Minaya. I want to work, I want to work. I’ll work for free.’ ”
Minaya had taken over and he had Tony Seigle and not much more man power at his disposal.
The new GM took the eager beaver inside and began to get organized for his day. He told his executive assistant, Marcia Schnarr, to find something for Anthopoulos to do.
“Alex’s first job? Ordering new cell phones for our scouts,” said Minaya.
Now, like Kevin Malone, the former Expos GM who once ran up a bill of $30,000 in the month leading up to the draft or like Hall of Fame manager Pat Gillick, who manager Bobby Cox would often say uses the phone as a weapon, Anthopoulos is often on the phone. When he is not on the phone he’s punching the keypad on his Blackberry, like the winner of the Kalahari Typing School contest — two-thumb division.
As if on cue Gillick, assistant to the president of the Philadelphia Phillies walked by and congratulated Minaya on his new position with the San Diego Padres.
“Hey your old team in Toronto is getting better,” Minaya told Gillick. “Like when you used to run it. Alex is bringing in athletes. I really like what he’s doing.”
Replied Gillick: “I think Alex is doing an excellent job.”
Minaya, 53, is serving as an advisory role to Padres GM Josh Byrnes dealing with scouting — particularly in Latin America — and trades.
For five years Minaya ran the Mets until he was fired 13 months ago. During his tenure, he brought free agents Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran to Queen’s.
He added Carlos Delgado, Paul LoDuca and Billy Wagner as the Mets reached Game 7 of the 2006 National League Championship Series.
Minaya almost wound up working for the Jays. Minaya explained that had assistant GM Tony LaCava taken the Baltimore Orioles job, Minaya would have joined the Jays — the man who put Anthopoulos to work nine years ago would have been working for his former pupil.
But when LaCava said no to the O’s, Minaya looked elsewhere.
After being let go by the Mets, he spent the last year travelling. He’ll be paid one more year under his Mets contract, but was “ready to return to work.”
“I was looking forward to working with the Jays,” Minaya said earlier in the week at the 110th winter meeting. “Alex is changing the culture ... getting it back to the where Toronto used to be under Pat Gillick.
“I really admire Alex’s passion toward the game and the respect he has for people who have been in the game a long time.”
BUCS GETTIN' BUSY
There was a time, a decade, okay, maybe two decades ago that the Pittsburgh Pirates would sign two or three free agents.
Two or three out of the remaining five .
While the Blue Jays have not reached post-season play since 1993. Neither have the Pirates reached October since 1992 nor have they had a winning season.
Yet this week the Bucs were busy.
Recruiting free agents was easier after manager Clint Hurdle guided the Pirates to a winning record on Aug. 1 before going 18-37 the final two months.
The Pirates signed Clint Barmes, Rod Barajas, Nate McLouth and lefty Erik Bedard of Navan, Ont.
“The fact that we got a left-hander with some pretty good angle who can be difficult in a very good matchup against some of the better left-handed hitters in our division is important to me,” Hurdle said.
After earning $3.125 million this season with the Seattle Mariners and the Boston Red Sox, as he was 5-9 with a 3.62 ERA in 29 starts, Bedard signed one-year, $4.5-million deal.
Barmes signed a two-year, $10.5-million deal, Barajas, the ex-Jay, signed for $4 million and McClouth a $1.75-million deal.