October 4, 2009
Canadian kid rises to Jays GM
By BOB ELLIOTT, Sun Media
As a teenager Alex Anthopoulos was an Olympic Stadium regular.
He’d go to Montreal Expos games with friend Mike Yermus to watch Marquis Grissom, Delino DeShields and Larry Walker.
“I was in awe of front-office people, I’d watch Dave Dombrowski when he’d sit in the scouts section,” Anthopoulos said of the former Montreal Expos general manager, who now runs the Detroit Tigers.
“I remember meeting him, he probably wouldn’t remember me,” Anthopoulos said.
Dombrowski will soon be on Anthopoulos’s speed dial.
Jays interim CEO Paul Beeston put an end to the J.P. Ricciardi era (642 losses, 651 wins, zero post-seasons in eight seasons) Saturday in Baltimore.
Anthopoulos is the Jays interim GM and will be in the running when the new president begins GM interviews.
The Anthopoulos story is a good one. At age 20, in his third year at McMaster University, his father, John died. That was it for studying economics at Mac. He returned to run his father’s heating and ventilation business in Montreal with older brothers George and Billy.
Then came 16-hour work days and night courses at Vanier College.
“My friends were going to cottage parties, I’m learning a new business,” Anthopoulos recalled in an recent interview.
One day in 2000 he awoke and asked “is this something I want to do for the next 45 years?”
The answer was no.
“I wanted something I loved and I had a passion for baseball, I didn’t want regrets when I was older,” he said.
Think it’s difficult to get signed as a Canadian player? Try getting a front office job.
Anthopoulos landed an internship in the Florida Marlins community relations only to be told two days later he needed a visa.
He called teams from the big leagues to the triple-A Ottawa Lynx.
Eventually he obtained the number of Expos GM Jim Beattie and placed a call.
“I was so nervous, I hung up,” he said.
Anthopoulos’ sales pitch was simple and straight forward on the second called: “I’ll mop floors, do whatever, you don’t have to pay me, I want a job.”
In April, he was interviewed by Fidelity Investments in Toronto and was offered a job of $40,000. The Expos called with a non-paying position sorting fan mail. Which job would you take?
“My aunt thought I was crazy,” Anthopoulos said. “I followed my dream.”
He worked in public relations at $7 an hour. During games he’d scout games learning the most from scouts like Mike Toomey of the Kansas City Royals plus Rudy Terrasas and Russ Bove of the New York Mets.
He worked at Fred Ferreira baseball camp in Ft. Lauderdale learning pitching and hitting mechanics. He attended tryout camps in the Dominican, scouting schools in Japan and in Phoenix.
He went from unpaid intern to earning at $25,000, thinking he’d won the lottery in 2002. He drove from Montreal to Jupiter for spring training under GM Omar Minaya.
He called Frank Marcos, head of the Major League Scouting Bureau and asked for video. Not from the previous June, but on every player back to 1998. He spent his nights watching hours of scouting vids.
“Scouting is the backbone of an organization, I couldn’t catch experienced scouts in years, but I could accelerate my learning curve watching swings and deliveries,” he said.
In 2003, he became an area scout with a bump to $27,500 and was offered the position of assistant scouting director.
Jays scouting director Jon Lalonde hired Anthopoulos as a co-ordinator at the end of 2003.
“Tony Taveras and Bob Nicholson tried to keep me in Montreal, I didn’t know how long the Expos would be around,” Anthopoulos said. “Coming to Toronto was a step back, but the right move.
“At the going away party the Expos gave me gifts and a signed ball. I cried.”
Sound like Pat Gillick?