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  Wed, June 9, 2004


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NFL CANADA




Milwaukee likes home-Brews
Bob Elliott explains how the Milwaukee Brewers are set to become Canada's ball team
By BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

Milwaukee Brewers' Junior Spivey is hit in the helmet by a pitch in the 15th inning against the Anaheim Angels in Anaheim, Calif., late Tuesday night, June 8, 2004. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

Say hello to Canada's team -- the Milwaukee Brewers.

Maybe the Brewers aren't No. 1 in Pointe Aux Trembles, Que., or with those lining up to buy tickets in front of the SkyDome.

Yet, in the 17-to-21, cleat-wearing, dream-chasing demographic, the Brewers are No. 1.

The annual Major League Baseball draft of high schoolers and collegians concluded yesterday with the Atlanta Braves picking in the 50th round with the 1,498th overall selection.

37 CANADIANS OVERALL

A total of 37 Canadians were picked, the least since 2000 when 35 were chosen. Clubs, or at least some, were operating without a net in the wake of the US work visa situation.

The U.S. cap for any work visa was reached in March, so players can be signed only to 2005 contracts, but they can attend instructional league in the fall.

Still, the Brewers drafted more than twice as many (seven) players as any other team. The Atlanta Braves and the Jays were next with three each.

Look for Brewer caps coming to a diamond near you, although we think that Cheesehead triangle might be a little tough to deal with while wearing a batting helmet.

Chatham's Doug Melvin is the Brewers new general manager and Gord Ash, former Blue Jays GM, is Melvin's assistant.

Dick Groch of Marysville, Mich., is the man responsible for putting together the scouting network across Canada.

Groch's group includes Halifax's Brad Lalor, J.P. Roy of Quebec City, Kingston's Sam Dempster, Toronto's Paul Solarski, Richard Cleamons of Richmond Hill, Jay Lapp of London, Ont., Mike Labossiere of Brandon, Man., Dale Tilleman of Tabor, Man., and John Harr of Surrey, B.C.

During his days with the New York Yankees, Groch signed Derek Jeter.

The Brewers chose right-hander Craig Langille of Bedford, N.S., as the top Canuck high schooler in the seventh round, much like in 2001 when Steve Nelson of Cole Harbour, N.S., was the top high schooler going to the Dodgers.

He bumped himself in his final two starts, a no-hitter in front of former Seattle Mariners GM Pat Gillick and Jays director of Canadian scouting Kevin Briand.

Milwaukee also drafted lefty Andrew Albers of North Battleford, Sask., in the 12th; righty Alexandre Periard of St-Eustache, Que., in the 16th; righty Ryan Patterson of Duncan, B.C., in the 29th; righty Kris Dabrowiecki of Toronto in the 34th; catcher Chris Copat of Calgary in the 35th and reliever Jamie Metzner of Langley, B.C., in the 46th.

As a reference point for where the Brewers' seven selections stand, the Anaheim Angels led all teams with five Canadians selected in 2003; the Dodgers were top dogs in 2002 with seven; the Jays had eight in 2001 and six in 2000.

During that time frame, the Brewers drafted two Canadians: Caledon's Judd Richardson in 2001 and Thornhill's Michael Reiss in 2000.

The top area high schooler was outfielder Tim Smith, selected in the 21st round by the New York Mets. Smith showed well for Team Ontario and the Team Canada Junior Team, so well that Mets scout Claude Pelletier selected him. Pelletier is the scout, who, while working for the Dodgers, found free-agent Eric Gagne, the reigning National League Cy Young award winner.

Smith was followed closely by Waterloo infielder Steve Hornastaj of the Ontario Blue Jays.

Toronto selected Bobby Scott of Victoria, B.C., in the 20th round, the highest Jays pick since Pickering's Mike Roga went in the 12th in 2002.

The Jays' other Canadian picks were lefty Jon Hesketh in the 42nd and first baseman Jordan Lennerton, both of Langley, B.C.