The Pig arrived too soon


Scanning the American League ststs at the All Star break I noticed that the two leaders in RBIs were both Canadian—Jason Bay and Justin Morneau, both from BC. This brought back memories of the Pig.

Bruno Jurgaitis was a great athlete who caught for me in the mid 70s. We had a province wide championship team with many good ball players.Maybe the one with the greatest potential was Bruno or the Pig as we called him, a brawny catcher who had the tools and the moxie to be a big league player. About 5:10 and 190 pounds, he had a cannon for an arm and could fly on the bases.The physical tools should have been obvious to any baseball scout. As well Bruno was highly intelligent, a Commerce  student at the U of T, who also played fullback for the Varsity Blues. He was a delightful young man with a great atitude, a player who gave his best at a demanding position. He was not afraid of hard work.On hot August nights he revelled in the dirt around home plate, hence his nickname, “The Pig.”

After his junior career was over he asked me what I thought about the lack of major league interest in him.I told him the fault lay not in him but in the blind prejudice I call “statism”. Bruno’s only sin was that he was a Canadian (not from The States) and at that time the received wisdom among baseball scouts was that only pitchers had a chance at the Big Show, As Ed Terry, a noted sandlot coach in Toronto’s west end used to say, :”They would not know the Babe if he walked over the hill.” Well not quite true but American scouts then were simply interested in position players, Pitchers alone were scouted. The reasoning was fairly simple: if a kid had a live arm, no matter where he was born, they could teach him the rest. But their prejudice blinded them as the later  appearance of players like Bay, Morneau and Larry Walker proved.”Statism” (only in USA or Latin America) rampant in the 50s to the 80s dictated that only pitchers surfaced on their malfunctioning radar.

Now these scouts know better—Koreans, Chinese, Dutch and  Japanese players dot major league rosters. Great Canadian ball players in other position are there as well, first baseman Joey Votto (Toronto)  of the Reds, Russ Martin (Montreal)  of the Dodgers to name a couple.

The Pig at 17 was the match of any of them.His failure was that he arrived too soon.The scouts were hobbled by an inherited prejudice, a collective myopia which prevented then from seeing the obvious. The Pig would have had a great shot. Just as Hall of Famer Pitcher Bob Feller came from a hamlet in Iowa called Van Meter, so a big league catcher could have easliy come from a northern city known more for hockey.

The fact that there was no interest in him as a potential ball player  did not overly  bother Bruno Jurgaitis. His education and excellent attitude served him well in his post-baseball life.

That summer day when he asked me the question, it was not out of any deep frustration. He was as they say, “just asking.”


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