Bob Elliott's Baseball: Braves' Bourjos has deep connection to Blue Jays
Father Chris worked for years in the organization as a scout
Like all men, Chris Bourjos is adept at clicking from one station to another.
For 18 seasons, starting in the fall of 1984, Bourjos scouted for the Toronto Blue Jays. Now, at times he comes across a game televised from Rogers Centre.
"At times I don't even want to watch, I turn it off," said Bourjos from Scottsdale, Az. "The memories are so good that I miss it so much. I used to love going into Toronto. Loved being in the office. We worked hard. We had fun."
Five trips to the post-season — including back-to-back World Series championships — in an eight-year span almost qualifies as too much fun.
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On Wednesday Bourjos, now a San Diego Padres pro scout, and his wife, Janet, were watching the Toronto-Atlanta game in the top of the third when their son, Peter Bourjos, hit the sixth pitch of his at-bat against Jays starter J.A. Happ 364 feet into the Jays' bullpen.
There was some "jumping up and down" in Arizona as the Atlanta Braves evened the score 2-2.
Then the texts began to flow in: from Gord Ash, former Blue Jays general manager, now an assistant GM of the Milwaukee Brewers, plus other current Blue Jays employees (we'd rather not use their names in case they get in trouble for consorting with the father of an enemy player.)
"Peter always hits when Gord is watching," Chris said, recalling a 2016 trip his son made to Toronto with the Philadelphia Phillies. Ash and his son, Aaron Ash, took Peter for lunch "and Pete went on a streak. I told Gord he is Pete's lucky charm."
The Jays drew 45,563 for their 5-4 win over the Braves on Wednesday as Chris said "the park looked like the old days."
Peter is playing in his ninth season in the majors after being signed by former Jays executive Perry Minasian, now assistant GM of the Braves. His father appeared in 13 games with the 1980 San Francisco Giants.
"We're not as nervous watching as we used to be," said Chris, who has friends with sons playing high school and college ball.
"You are more nervous for your son than you ever were for yourself, and you are happier for them than you ever were for yourself. When they're down it's, 'Oh man.' You live and die with every game. Right now, my career means nothing to me."
We venture a guess it is the same with the Blue Jays' current father-and-son combos, whether your name is Guerrero (Vlad and Vlad, Jr.), Bichette (Dante and Bo), Biggio (Craig and Cavan), Clemens (Roger and Kacy) or Conine (Jeff and this year's second-round pick Griffin, given a $1.35-million US signing bonus.)
Yet, life happens. Priorities change.
Peter has a son, Max, three, who hits line drives at grandpa (which also can be found on Facebook), a daughter named Charlie and another baby on the way.
"I told Peter it won't be long before we forget all about him," said Chris jokingly, as only a grandpa can say.
Peter's homer landed directly below the name Tom Cheek on the Rogers Centre Level of Excellence. Chris's father had a lot to do with the most recent name unveiled on the same level, down the right field line: Roy Halladay.
In 1994, Chris Bourjos was based in Chicago and saw Halladay pitch for the first time at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.
"I knew I was moving to Arizona and would have Colorado in the spring, so I concentrated on Halladay," Chris said. "It was a junior Olympic festival or a national team event."
Seeing Halladay in St. Louis helped a lot because in the spring, Halladay had two rough outings to start the season.
In the spring of 1995 there were replacement players at Dunedin as Ash took over as GM, replacing Gillick. Former GM Gillick, serving as a consultant, was based in Arizona that spring scouting amateurs.
"I told people for a few weeks I had [Hall of Famer] Pat Gillick as my part-time scout. Pat wrote a decent report on Halladay, which helped a lot. I was the area scout ... Bus Campbell [who taught Halladay to pitch from the time the right-hander was a teenager] did all the work on Roy."
Bourjos was in Scottsdale, after returning from scouting the Class-A Midwest League. "And Friday it's off to the [Double-A] Eastern League and after that ... I don't know."
Such is the life of a scout.
Long before he ever scouted for the Blue Jays, Bourjos knew a lot of Blue Jays as the Giants and Toronto sent their players to Barquisimeto to play for the 1980 Lara Cardinales in Venezuela winter ball.
Bourjos shared the outfield with Lloyd Moseby and Willie Upshaw, since George (Boomer) Scott played first. He roomed with Ernie Whitt. Future Jays Garth Iorg, Fred Manrique, Alexis Infante, Luis Leal and former No. 1 pick Colin McLaughlin played for manager Vern Benson on the Lara team
The boss of the Lara team was and is Humberto Oropeza.
"So three years ago I'm eating at a Golden Coral buffet ... I look over and think there's a guy who looks like Humberto."
After another run at the buffet it was:
They had seen each other only a few times over the years at spring training.
"Humberto was going to see High Desert play and said 'Pat Gillick told me it was right down this road,'" Bourjos said. "Straight ahead ... there is nothing else there."
On Nov. 7, Peter Bourjos called his father to give him the news that Halladay had died in a plane crash.
The father recalled how Halladay sent Peter a glove when he was 11 or 12.
"It was an outfielder's glove, but Peter played short then, so he never used it," Chris said. Peter attended Notre Dame Prep in Scottsdale, helped build the outfield fence and now his No. 8 is retired there.
The man who replaced Torii Hunter, a nine-time Gold Glove winner, in centre for the Anaheim Angels and also played centre while Mike Trout was in left, has started 532 games in the outfield. And zero at shortstop.
"Maybe Roy knew best," said Chris Bourjos.
DRAFTY IN HERE: The two top Canucks drafted — Mississauga's Noah Naylor, who went to the Cleveland Indians in the first round, and Mississauga's Tristan Pompey, chosen by the Miami Marlins in the third — have not signed as of yet. The two sides have until July 6 to agree on terms.
Canadians to have signed include: C-1B Kole Cottam, a fourth rounder chosen by the Boston Red Sox, who was given a $375,000 US signing bonus. Cottam is a dual citizen, as his father Jeff starred on Burlington, Ont. sandlots and then at Memphis State.
The Houston Astros signed sixth rounder RHP RJ Freure (Burlington, Ont.) from Pitt University with a bonus of $348,800. He's a former Ontario Blue Jays, like Naylor.
Also signed are LHP Erik Sabrowski (Edmonton, Alta.) a 14th-rounder, given $125,000 by the San Diego Padres; RHP Michael Brettell (Fonthill, Ont.) a 15th round choice of the St. Louis Cardinals from Central Michigan; 3B Mitch Robinson, a 21st-rounder selected by New York Yankees scout Denis Boucher; LHP Ben Onyshko, chosen in the 24th round by the Seattle Mariners; RHP Will McAffer (North Vancouver, BC) a 25th-round choice of the Toronto Blue Jays and RHP Jake Sims (Guelph, Ont.) a 31st-rounder the Padres gave $50,000.
TO FIRE OR NOT TO FIRE: While we hear many debates how all of this is manager John Gibbons' fault, let me ask you: What do the Jays do if they make a change and give this roster over to a guy we'll call New Manager. New Manager takes over without a closer, without a third baseman, without its opening day shortstop — and for much of the year without a shortstop despite stockpiling infielders — and with J.A. Happ the only pitcher performing to expectations.
And then what does the Ivory Tower do when the New Manager starts off 1-12?