Canadian lefty fired up to be first

BOB ELLIOTT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:19 AM ET

Todd Campbell sat in the heat of the concrete clam known as Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg this March.

At the plate was Jose Bautista.

On the mound was lefty Ryan Kellogg.

The Blue Jays slugger, recognized as the best player in the game, was facing Kellogg, a Grade 12 student, pitching for the Canadian junior team during the second annual St. Pete’s International Series in March.

Campbell, who manages the Ontario Prospects program, had watched Bautista emerge from a backup to the all-star game’s leading vote-getter in history.

Yet, his eyes were on Kellogg, who he began coaching in Whitby rookie ball in 2003.

“It was really emotional,” Campbell said. “Watching Ryan, with Bautista in the box, I got choked up. I said to my wife Kelly how I was having a hard time holding it together. How would Ryan’s parents hold up?”

Ryan’s parents, Sandy and Bruce Kellogg, were fine, although they were on the edge of their seats, sitting with “all their friends from the Prospects.”

“I was quite calm,” said Sandy. “I was more nervous his previous start against The Netherlands. Their hitters were so big.”

Kellogg retired Mississauga’s Dalton Pompey, a Jays second-year minor leaguer, allowed up a line single to Brett Lawrie, popped up Bautista, retired Adam Lind on a grounder and J.P. Arencibia to open the second inning in front of 30 scouts.

And one scout will get his wish by drafting Kellogg on Tuesday.

The three-day, 40-round draft of high schoolers and collegians begins Monday night. The first round and compensation picks will be televised live by the MLB Network.

Kellogg, who has been with Rich and Rob Butler’s Ontario Prospects since 2006, will be the top Canadian selected. Most evaluators see him going between the third and sixth rounds.

• • •

There is a closeness and a bond between coaches and former players ,no matter the stage.

I remember timing a call to Devon White’s coach in the Bronx from Yankee Stadium so we’d be on the phone as Yankees announcer Bob Sheppard announced White’s name in 1993.

“I’m a tough guy, right? I served my country,” Bill Eagel said. “I scream at my players, sometimes I get so dang angry I almost smack them. So how come I’m sitting in my living room, tears running down my face on to my shirt?’’

The reason was the 77-year-old Bronx sandlot coach was watching his former player. Earlier that day, White bought next season’s uniforms for his old coach’s team.

• • •

Kellogg played for Whitby Chiefs coach Steve Chaisson in rookie ball and minor mosquito. Campbell was an assistant and coached major mosquito the next year.

Four teammates in 2003, are still together with the Prospect: Nate Borges, T.J. Campbell, Kosta Lykos and Kellogg, the tallest.

“He had close to a foot on most boys,” said Campbell, whose team won back-to-back tournaments at major mosquito, the Silver Bat in Newmarket and London.

After the Silver Bat, Kellogg did a victory lap around the bases, holding the trophy over his head and tripping on the plate, almost breaking the trophy.

The next year, Kellogg and Campbell joined the Prospects for their 12-and-under season.

“Ryan was our hardest thrower,” said Campbell. “I’m not sure if he was the best then. One day, he’d be lights out, next time he’d walk a couple, hit a couple.”

The Prospects was one of the first teams to break away from OBA play.

“We took our lumps that first year. We don’t throw breaking balls until our pitchers are 16. We work on arm strength and arm speed,” Campbell said. “I’ve heard people say Ryan’s breaking ball needs work. He’s only been throwing it since he was 16.”

• • •

What is mom Sandy Kellogg proudest of?

“The fact he’s a nice kid, a humble person,” she says. “You don’t have to tell him to take out the recycling. I’ll hear him finish his homework and unload the dishwasher at midnight.”

• • •

The ride began back wearing a Whitby Chiefs uniform, but it moved to another level in the fall of 2010.

Rob Butler told Greg Hamilton, director of the Canadian national teams, that Kellogg was worthy of an invite to the Mizuno Camp, a feeder system to the junior team.

Hamilton showed at the Butlers’ Home Run Academy, watched Kellogg’s bullpen and extended an invite to the Rogers Centre with instructors like Bruce Walton of the Blue Jays.

“I didn’t know earlier, but at 16 you knew it was going to happen,” said Campbell.

Kellogg impressed at an invite-only MLB Scouting Bureau camp in Etobicoke in February and soon was named to the junior roster headed for ESPN’s Wide World of Sports at Lake Buena Vista, Fla., in April.

Bruce Kellogg says that when the roster was published, his son was listed as uniform No. 24.

Rosters were handed out to scouts, but No. 24 did not fit the 6-foot-5, 220-pounder.

So he was issued No. 49.

Scouts like ’em tall.

“Hey you, No. 49, what’s your name?” a Chicago White Sox scout asked Kellogg, who explained the number change.

The next day, Kellogg and the scout spoke again. Instead of asking who Kellogg was, the scout complimented him on how well he pitched.

“People called the house asking if they could be his adviser,” Bruce Kellogg said. “Advise him on what?”

From September 2010 to next week is less than 20 months.

Entering the season as the co-favourite as the top Canuck with East York right-hander Jeff Gibbs of the Maine University Black Bears, Kellogg has been consistent.

London’s Dayton Dawe of the Ontario Terriers was clocked at 93 m.p.h., on Thursday night in the Dominican Republic.

• • •

Sandy Kellogg remembers a Whitby tournament win.

Rather than taking the trophies to present them individually, organizers handed them out straight from the dealer.

“Look mom, we won a box,” she recalls her son yelling.

• • •

The lefty was so impressive last summer, he earned an invite to Chicago to pitch in the Under Armour game in August, working a scoreless inning against the best prospects from across North America.

“To be at Wrigley where history has been made opened opportunities,” said Kellogg’s father.

Arizona State Sun Devils pitching coach Ken Knutson met Kellogg in Chicago.

Kellogg toured the ASU campus before pitching for Doug Mathieson’s Langley Blaze in Phoenix in October, signing a letter of intent.

Then, he faced host Colombia at the world junior championship qualifier on Nov. 26.

“There were about 20 Canadian fans and about 3,000 noisy Colombia fans who didn’t want Canada to win,” said Bruce Kellogg.

Kellogg allowed a run in the first. He had runners on the corners in the fourth with one out, struck out a batter as the runner from first took off. Second baseman Kyle Hann cut the throw to second and threw home to catcher Anthony Marra for a 2-4-2 double play.

A Kellogg wild pitch cut Canada’s lead to 3-2 and he departed after 62/3 innings.

“It was the first time I’ve seen Ryan in that atmosphere, that huge crowd,” said his father, used to noisy crowds as catering manager at the Metro Convention Centre.

Mom works as municipal property assessment corporation product design specialist.

For the win, he earned junior team MVP.

If you don’t know the lay of the elite landscape, better players flock to the Ontario Premier League teams.

“Ryan was approached by others, but he trusted where he was at,” Campbell said. “He knew he was getting good advice, some of it may have stem to our relationship to when he was 8. He’s learned how to pitch from Chris Kemlo, Rob and Rich. We have four ex-major leaguers at our place some nights.”

Ex-Jay lefty Paul Spolajaric coaches the Prospects 13U, former Florida Marlins Greg O’Halloran does catching clinics and the Butler brothers are on site.

And now, Kellogg awaits to hear his name called.

TOP CANUCK PROSPECTS

Canucks expected to go in the first 10 rounds next week:

LHP Ryan Kellogg, Whitby, Ontario Prospects

RHP Dayton Dawe, London, Ontario Terriers

OF Julian Service, Whitby, Ontario Blue Jays

OF Tyler Hollick, Calgary, Chandler-Gilbert College

LHP David Otterman, Coquitlam, B.C., UBC

RHP Brock Dykxhoorn, Goderich, Ont. Ontario Nationals

OF Derek Jones, Brampton, Ontario Blue Jays.

RHP Jeff Gibbs, East York, Maine

INF Maxx Tissenbaum, Toronto, Stony Brook

OF Jackson Gooch, Delta, B.C. Lamar College


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