* Jamie Lehman (Brampton, Ont.) was an infielder with the 2002-03 for coach Dan Bleiwas, was an off-season instructor with the organization and Saturday was inducted into the Ontario Blue Jays Hall of Fame at their fourth annual banquet. Drafted by the Montreal Expos as a pitcher, Lehman is now Canadian director of scouting for the Toronto Blue Jays and is credited with drafting CF Dalton Pompey (Mississauga, Ont.
By Alexis Brudnicki
Jamie Lehman had a gut feeling, and he was right.
Not long after he was hired by the Toronto Blue Jays as an amateur scout, he found himself fighting for one player in particular as he headed into his first selection process with the team. Lehman wanted Dalton Pompey in the organization and he was sure of it.
“Scouting is hard, and one of the toughest things is to really express your opinion with conviction as a young scout, because you don’t necessarily have a long evaluating track record,” Blue Jays assistant general manager Andrew Tinnishsaid. “You’ve been around the game but not in this capacity.
“And there’s no doubt, no question, that Dalton Pompey was his gut-feel guy in 2010. He wanted him and he knew it, and we talked about it and he talked about it. I guess the only mistake was waiting as long as we did. Thankfully we were able to get the player but in your first year making that type of an impact – which we’re seeing now – is huge.”
Now 29 years old and being honoured for his work and accomplishments by the Ontario Blue Jays on Saturday night with an induction into the Ontario Blue Jays Hall of Fame, Lehman was fresh off of a minor-league playing career as a right-handed hurler in the Montreal Expos, Washington Nationals and Toronto Blue Jays organizations when Tinnish offered him a scouting position with his hometown club.
In that first draft, the Brampton native and the Blue Jays selected Pompey in the 16th round out of high school and fresh off of a stint with the Canadian Junior National Team and the Oakville Royals. With his big-league debut under his belt, Pompey couldn’t be more grateful for the man who got his professional career started.
“He believed in me and the player that I would become,” Pompey said during Toronto’s fifth-annual winter tour. “I wouldn’t be standing here right now without him. I give a lot of credit to him because he’s the one who fought for me, and he could have picked any other player but he chose me.
“I was in the 16th round and whatnot but that wasn’t the point. It was just the opportunity to get here, and to have the opportunity to show what I could do. I’ve taken advantage of that chance…He deserves a lot of the credit in my own success. I put in the work and stuff like that, but he gave me that initial opportunity, and that’s all I could have ever asked for.”
Lehman created his own first chance at the scouting world just through his passion and knowledge for the game. Taking in games when his regular season was over, he impressed Tinnish and Alex Anthopoulos, the same man who signed him to his initial playing contract with Montreal.
“Jamie was one of my first hires,” Tinnish said. “This would have been in the fall of 2009, and he was about to become a minor-league free agent for the first time. I called him up and [asked], ‘Have you ever thought about getting into scouting as a profession?’ He said, ‘Yeah, maybe after my playing career,’ and we hung up. About 15 or 20 minutes later, he called me back and said, ‘I think I would want to get into scouting.’
“He was literally a couple days away from becoming a minor-league free agent for the first time. I had known him prior to that and obviously Alex signed him as a player. In September he would come to some games when his season was over and at the time, Alex and I were scouting coordinators, sitting behind home plate charting games. Jamie would come sit with us from time to time and we always had good discussions about baseball with him.
“Even at a young age, he could carry very intelligent baseball conversations, not just about who leads the league in this, but about arm action and quality of breaking balls and deliveries and that sort of thing. We expanded our department a lot for the 2010 season and for me it was a no-brainer.”
Pompey was the first player Lehman ever signed, and Toronto baseball fans can only hope for much more of the same from his continuing work. Though it isn’t easy for those on the outside to evaluate scouting successes, Tinnish and the Blue Jays have been happy with what Lehman has done and are certainly looking forward to what lay ahead.
“You tend to get measured as area scouts or scouting directors by the players you sign; players you pick in the draft,” the Toronto AGM said. “Internally you can go a little deeper than that…Obviously he’s had some success with players he’s signed but there’s more to it than that. He has the ability to scout not just in amateur but in pro and wherever, and maybe those are some things he’ll do down the road.
“It’s one of those things where it is tough because people think what’s on the surface is the only way to evaluate a scout and whether it’s an opinion on a player out of his area or a player he liked that we didn’t get who was maybe better than we thought, he does a great job of that. At the end of the day the most important thing is that he gets the right people in the right park to see the right players. He’s done a good job of that and he’ll continue to do so.”
Currently covering amateur baseball players in an area that includes the entire country of Canada and a portion of New York, Tinnish has been especially impressed with the way the Toronto-born former player covers his territory and is excited for his future.
“Jamie has a bright future in baseball,” Tinnish said. “He’s a very good evaluator. He has a lot of conviction in his opinion and he’s done a very good job of positioning himself to get his gut-feel players in the draft, whether it’s in the 16th round [like Pompey] or a little earlier like with Tom Robson or a little later with a player like Shane Dawson.
“He does a good job of digging in an area that’s traditionally a tougher area to scout [in] Canada and upstate New York. It’s not SoCal, it’s not Florida, it’s not Texas, but he competes. I think other scouts in the area worry about where he is and who he takes and what he’s doing, and that’s the greatest compliment a scout can be paid by his peers.
“He’s a valuable asset to the organization. He has proved that already and will continue to prove that going forward.”