2016 Canadian draft list
Letters of Intent
By Alexis Brudnicki
Canadiana Baseball Network
There is no way of really knowing how many lives Bob Elliott’s contributions to the game of baseball in Canada have touched, only that it is an incredibly large number.
While he will tell you that all he did was watch the game, prominently covering the Montreal Expos and Toronto Blue Jays over the last several decades, that doesn’t even come close to describing the impact the Toronto Sun columnist has had on baseball north of the border, most recently recognized by his election to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, where he will be inducted in June.
“He’s as true a Canadian as you could expect,” Blue Jays consultant Howard Starkman said. “Although he covered the Blue Jays and the Expos and Major League Baseball, he’s taken a deep interest in baseball in Canada. He developed that passion doing a little coaching, but he was really good at spreading the gospel…and he was able to use his pulpit of being at the Sun to push baseball in Canada.”
Elliott became the first Canadian to receive the J.G. Taylor Spink Award in Cooperstown in 2012, and he already has a spot in the Canadian Hall as the Jack Graney Award winner in 2010. He has also been inducted into the Ottawa-Nepean Canadians Hall of Fame, the Kingston and District Sports Hall of Fame, and the Okotoks Dawgs/Seaman Stadium Hall of Fame.
“This is a little unique because he’s a member of the media actually going into the Hall of Fame,” Starkman said. “It isn’t because he wrote for the Toronto Sun, it’s because of what he did on the other side that got him in. In my experience, some of the old-time hockey journalists got a lot of recognition, and some of the guys in the States on the baseball side get a lot of recognition, but it’s mainly for their writing and not so much for their passion for the game.”
Elliott’s passion has always been north of the 49th parallel, and his dedication to covering Canadian players at every level of the game can’t be matched. Ian Harveyhas always been an avid reader of the scribe’s columns, and first learned of a Major League Scouting bureau camp because of one of them. The now-38-year-old credits Elliott for helping on his way to playing at the collegiate level, the professional level, and for the national team.
“It was something I always appreciated,” Harvey said. “He could have just focused his efforts on continuing his excellent coverage of the Blue Jays, but he seemed to make it his mission to make sure that Canadian players of all levels were also part of his coverage … For guys like me, it is his personal investment in amateur and lower levels of professional baseball at the local and national level that really sets him apart from the pack.”
Phil Frankowas coached by Elliott with the Ottawa-Nepean Canadians in 1978-80. Retiring this year after a teaching career in Two Rivers, Wisc., it was only because of the writer that Franko’s friends and family at home could keep up with what he was doing while he was playing collegiate baseball.
“He would come in and see me in spring training, and I went to school in New York City and he did a few pieces on me when I was at John Jay College of Criminal Justice,” Franko said. “He kept people informed back home in Canada which was really nice, otherwise I don’t know if anybody would have done a story on me. I’ve always appreciated that he took the time to do an article or two on a Canadian kid.
“And when the all-star game game came in Milwaukee he made sure my son and I had tickets.”
Jeff Francis started following Elliott’s work when he first landed on his Canadian draft list. Now, heading into his 14th season of professional baseball, the southpaw from Vancouver continues to keep an eye on the game in Canada through Elliott and the website he started years ago to highlight Canucks on the diamond, the Canadian Baseball Network.
“It’s because of him that I do follow other Canadian players,” Francis said. “He’s the authority on the issue. If something is happening in Canada that relates to baseball, if he’s not writing about it, it’s probably not newsworthy. If he is, you know that it’s a big deal. He’s the authority on Canadian baseball news. There have been people I’ve met, too, just around baseball who aren’t even Canadian and they know Bob and follow and like Bob.”
Toronto Star columnist Richard Griffin has known Elliott since their days together with the Montreal Expos, Griffin heading up the PR department and Elliott getting his start in the majors. Over the years, Griffin has seen how big a difference his friend and colleague has made for so many young players, and is appreciative for his passion and contributions to the sport.
“For a while, I would get nervous when he would go to the back of the press box and get on his phone because I thought he was getting a scoop,” Griffin said. “Then I realized he was talking to some parent in Canada somewhere about their son’s future in baseball and what he should do. That’s where Bob spends most of his spare time, and that’s a contribution that nobody else could possibly keep up with.
“It’s the passion for making Canadian baseball as prominent as possible that led to Canadian Baseball Network and led to him being in two Halls of Fame. I smile whenever I see him take a call, or come back and ask, ‘What do you think of this situation?’ It’s always about a young player, and he’s always trying to make it better for young kids playing baseball moving forward.”
Also being inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys this summer are former Blue Jays Carlos Delgado, Matt Stairs and Corey Koskie, and long-time Montreal Expos skipper Felipe Alou.
“I’ve had some very wonderful honours the previous few years,” Elliott said upon learning of his induction. “As a writer, I don’t think my uniform from the Kingscourt Little League Pirates in Kingston or myself belong with these guys – these guys could play. I saw all four play. I’m humbled. I feel like that one thing on Sesame Street that doesn’t belong with the others.”