Scout who drafted A-Rod and Griffey Jr. dies at 76
Roger Jongewaard, longtime Mariners executive, spent more than 40 years in baseball.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Jongewaard's five best M's draft picks1. Ken Griffey Jr., first round (No. 1 overall), 1987: Owner George Argyros wanted pitcher Mike Harkey from Cal State Fullerton. Jongewaard prevailed, fortunately, for the Mariners.
2. Alex Rodriguez, first round (No. 1 overall), 1993: Jongewaard again hit one out of the park with the shortstop from Westminster Christian High School in Miami. It came down to A-Rod or pitcher Darren Dreifort of Wichita State. Once again, Jongewaard chose wisely.
3. Tino Martinez, first round (No. 14 overall), 1988: The Yankees reaped most of the benefit of Martinez's career, but Tino's outstanding 1995 season was critical to the Mariners' division-title run.
4. Jason Varitek, first round (No. 14 overall), 1994: The Red Sox reaped ALL the benefit of Varitek's talents, but it was still an astute pick by Jongewaard. What wasn't astute was the Heathcliff Slocumb deal in 1997 that sent Varitek and another Jongewaard draftee, Derek Lowe, to Boston.
5. Adam Jones, supplemental first round (No. 37 overall), 2003: Another pick that blossomed elsewhere, but Jones, drafted as a shortstop out of a San Diego high school, has become an All-Star outfielder with the Orioles.
Roger Jongewaard, the longtime Mariners executive who presided over the drafting of Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez, died Monday of a heart attack. He was 76.
Jongewaard was a giant of the scouting profession, receiving Baseball America's Roland Hemond Award for lifetime achievement in baseball in 2004. He spent more than 40 years in the game, most recently scouting for the Florida Marlins.
"Roger Jongewaard is a scout's scout. I think he's the best talent evaluator I've ever run across in baseball," said Mariners president Chuck Armstrong. "He did a remarkable job for the Mariners."
Ken Compton, a Twins scout who worked under Jongewaard in Seattle, called his former boss "a Hall of Fame scout and even better person."
Jongewaard joined the Mariners as director of scouting in 1985, having worked previously with the Angels, Mets and Tigers. In 1989, he became vice president of scouting and player development until stepping down after the 2004 season. When Bill Bavasi took over from Pat Gillick as general manager, he replaced Jongewaard with Bob Fontaine as head of scouting and offered Jongewaard a part-time scouting position, which he declined.
In 1987, the Mariners had the first overall pick. Owner George Argyros wanted to take Cal State Fullerton pitcher Mike Harkey. Jongewaard wanted a high-school outfielder from Cincinnati named Ken Griffey Jr. Jongewaard's judgment prevailed, much to the benefit of Mariners history.
With the first overall pick in 1993, Jongewaard hit big again with Alex Rodriguez. Other players drafted under Jongewaard's watch included Tino Martinez (1988), Ron Villone (1992), Jason Varitek (1994), Jose Cruz Jr. (1995), Gil Meche (1996), Matt Thornton ('98) and Adam Jones ('03).
As a top Mets scout before that, Jongewaard presided over the selection of Darryl Strawberry, Len Dykstra and Kevin Mitchell, as well as Billy Beane, as later detailed in "Moneyball."
"He was simply a good evaluator," said Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik via email. "We were with the Mets in my very early years and he made some great selections back then. Dykstra, Kevin Mitchell. Strawberry went No. 1 from his area of coverage."
Zduriencik said Jongeward was "quite low-keyed, but he had a great deal of success. It's one thing to select high in the draft as he so often did, it's another to get it right ... and he did that so very often.
"He was a good person and made his mark in this game. He was well liked by his peers and we will all miss him. Roger had a lot of friends and was truly respected," the Mariners GM said.
Larry Beinfest, Marlins president of baseball operations, also has fond memories of Jongewaard. "He was awesome. Patient, nurturing, a lot of fun," Beinfest, who began his career with the Mariners, said in an email. "Signed some great players and had tremendous feel for the game. It was an honor to hire him with the Marlins and have him work in our pro-scouting department. Everyone he knew he made better."
As a player, Jongewaard had a brief minor-league career as a catcher in the Braves' organization (1954-57), and played four games with the Seattle Rainiers in 1959.
He was catcher on the classic "Home Run Derby" television show, filmed at old Wrigley Field in Los Angeles, not far from Jongewaard's Long Beach home.
For years, Jongewaard owned and operated a restaurant in Long Beach, Jongewaard's Bake 'n Broil.
Jongewaard is survived by his wife, Carol, their five children — Terry, Diane, Janice, Kristin and Don — and 12 grandchildren.
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @StoneLarry