Twins scout is our No. 1

BOB ELLIOTT, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:24 AM ET

On the first weekend after the annual June draft, we pick our annual scout of the year.

It has not been easy, save for this year.

Howie Norsetter of the Minnesota Twins is our 13th annual scout of the year. He signed Justin Morneau as an 18-year-old catcher out of New Westminster, B.C., drafting him in the third-round of 1999 draft..

Norsetter now lives in Sydney, Australia. He used to have two areas of coverage: Canada in the summer and Australia in the winter -- which, of course, is their summer.

Talk about frequent flyer miles.

"I was excited when I heard he was named MVP," Norsetter told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, "As a scout, that's the pinnacle: Signing an MVP or an all-star.

"But it's icing on the cake. The nuts and bolts of the job are getting players into the system who have the tools and makeup to succeed."

Norsetter had a heart attack and nearly died in 2002 during a heat wave at the University Games in southern Italy.

When he awoke, doctors apologized because his chest was smoking. They'd burned him with the paddles. Like most scouts, he asked when he could go back to work.

Finds such as Morneau allow the Twins, usually 19th or 20th in team payroll, to make a run at the playoffs.

After growing up in Madison, Wisc., Norsetter was one of the top amateur hitters in the state during the 1980s. He coached. He drove cabs. He met Twins scouting director Terry Ryan. And in 1990, Norsetter was hired as a scout.

Norsetter also signed Corey Koskie, of Anola, Man., a 26th- rounder in 1994, and played a part in acquiring David Arias from the Seattle Mariners in 1996. You may know Arias now as David Ortiz.

In all, Norsetter has signed 12 major-leaguers.

Previous winners of our scout-of-the-year honours: Bill Scherrer of Buffalo, N.Y., (Marlins); Bill McKenzie of Ottawa (Rockies); Tim Harkness of Oshawa (Padres); Walt Jefferies of Paris, Ont., (Jays); Claude Pelletier of Ste-Lezare, Que., (Mets); Cambridge's Ed Heather (Jays); Brampton's Jim Kane (Braves); Ken Lenihan of Bedford, N.S., (MLB Scouting Bureau); Dick Groch of Marysville, Mich., (Yankees), Burlington's Jim Ridley (Twins), Walt Burrows, of Brentwood Bay, B.C. (Scouting Bureau) and Montreal's Alex Agostino (Phillies).

CHECK IT OUT

Bart Simpson pretends he is Tomo Ohka of the Montreal Expos (http://youtube.com/watch?v=U0XDo-p4Fmo) as a hitter, while Millhouse chooses to be Esteban Yan of the Devil Rays.

STAIRS TAKES THE LEAD

What with lefty Real Cormier, of Moncton, N.B., retiring at triple-A Richmond, Frederiction's Matt Stairs is now the Canadian with the longest amount of service time in the majors.

Cormier broke in on Aug. 15, 1991 with the St. Louis Cardinals and pitched 16 seasons. He had a 71-64 won-lost record with two saves and a 4.03 ERA in 683 games.

Stairs broke in on May 29, 1992 with the Expos.

SHOWCASE VALUE

Seattle scouting co-ordinator David May, who saw first-round Mariners draft pick Phillippe Aumont of Gatineau, Que., three times: "I saw him at the Wilmington (Del.) showcase last summer. He was 92-93 (m.p.h.) with the makings of a slider and saw him twice in the spring and his velocity was up to 96 with heavy sink and his slider was better.

"To me, he has one of the highest ceilings in the draft. He has a chance to be very special. I really love this guy."

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4 High-schoolers selected by the Jays in the first three rounds of the 2007 draft. In the first three rounds the previous five drafts, Toronto took one high-school player (fewest in the majors): Travis Snider in 2006. Atlanta selected 19.

10 Triples by Tigers outfielder Curtis Granderson, who is on a pace to become the first big-league player in nearly 60 years to leg out more than 21 triples in a season. The most recent one was Cleveland's Dale Mitchell, with 23 in 1949.

17 Players on the current Tampa Bay Devil Rays 25-man active roster with less than three years of major-league experience. Closer Al Reyes (11 seasons) and DH Greg Norton (8) top the club's seniorty list this season.


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