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Sean Fine

A change is in the air for Blue Jays Add to ...

After that he went to Scout School in Arizona run by major-league baseball’s scouting bureau. The Expos sponsored him; he paid his own way. Eventually the Expos scouting director, Dana Brown, gave him his first paid baseball job in 2002-03, as scouting co-ordinator, for $25,000 a year.

“It was like I made $20-million,” he says.

Yearning to know as much as he could as fast as he could, he called the scouting bureau and asked for video on “every amateur player they ever had” the bureau keeps tabs on all prospects for each year’s amateur draft. “I used to go home at night after I was done at the stadium. I’d be sitting in bed. I had my laptop. I burnt everything on CD. I would pop CDs into my laptop and watch the 1998 draft year. The next day I’d ask Dana, ‘why did Joe Blow not pan out? What about this guy’s swing? What about that guy’s delivery?’ It was a great way to expedite learning how to evaluate players.”

The Expos were a dying franchise. Andrew Tinnish, a colleague, left to work for the Blue Jays, and recommended Anthopoulos. He joined the club after the 2003 season with the same title as his first paid job in Montreal – scouting co-ordinator.

“Being a general manager is a privilege,” he said this week from Florida, shortly after a scouting trip to the Dominican Republic. “But if you ask me what the greatest job in baseball is, it’s the scouting director. It’s so much fun because you get to go see players and you get to impact the organization immediately. I just love scouting.”

Beeston calls him a natural as a general manager.

“His most important quality is to recognize what he doesn’t know. He learns relentlessly.”

THE BEAST STAYS

Beeston is the whiz kid who never grew up enough to stop having fun. As a child he used to cross the border to Detroit with his father, an accountant who taught high school, to see the Tigers. He knew every baseball statistic there was. A friend of his, Peter Fowler, an orthopedic surgeon, lived next door to Don McDougall, the president of Labatt Breweries. McDougall hired him, partly on the strength of his apparent baseball knowledge, to be the Jays’ chief administrative officer. This was back in 1976, when Labatt’s expected to buy the San Francisco Giants. Beeston was the Jays’ first employee. He was 31 years old, one year younger than Anthopoulos when he chose him to run the baseball operations after the 2009 season.

The late Peter Hardy, a Labatt’s chairman who became chairman of the ball club’s board, was a mentor. Hardy took over when team president Peter Bavasi stepped aside in 1981, though without the title. “He was clearly the conscience” of the organization, Beeston says. “This was a man of incredible integrity, a world of experience and he made sure we did things properly.” The two travelled together each season to visit all the minor-league teams so they didn’t feel forgotten.

It was Hardy who appointed him president “when a lot of people would have thought that was a leap,” says Herb Solway, a former chairman of the ball club and another mentor. “Hardy was clearly right. He saw something in him.”

Beeston, now 67, is the whiz kid who never grew up enough to stop having fun.

When Beeston chose Anthopoulos as general manager, “it was an act of historical repetition,” Solway says. Beeston was playing Peter Hardy to a young version of himself.

There was one difference: Beeston was just an interim president when he hired Anthopoulos. It was Anthopoulos who asked him to stay.

IT’S MORE THAN MONEY

Money is not the key to the Blue Jays’ resurgence, says Bart Given, who was an assistant general manager for the Blue Jays alongside Anthopoulos. “It’s more about player-development acumen and dedicating resources to it. The most prudent tactic from Alex was getting Rogers to spend more on scouting and development.”

When Anthopoulos became general manager, the organization was ranked 28th out of 30 in the quality of its prospects. It hired 35 scouts, added a farm team and about 10 development people – instructors, coaches, managers. The team has three former general managers working as scouts: Jim Beattie, who ran the Expos; Ed Lynch, formerly with the Cubs; and Chuck LaMar, Tampa Bay’s first general manager. Three years ago it brought in Mel Didier, now 87, who was an assistant general manager.

By last season, its prospects were ranked fifth among franchises.

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