team manager and Blue Jays scout Jim Ridley dies
TORONTO Jim Ridley managed the national team at the 1988 Olympics and scouted and signed several Canadians for the Toronto Blue Jays.
But regardless of where he was coaching, he was never too big to spend time with any player, talented or not, provided he was willing to work hard and show some effort.
"He'd work with anyone who wanted to work at the game," said Greg Hamilton, Baseball Canada's director of national teams. "You'd see him at a park trying to help out kids and pass his knowledge on, didn't matter if it was the greatest talent in the world, or just some passionate young player."
It's that devotion to the game that made him so beloved in Canadian baseball circles. Ridley died Friday morning of cancer at Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital in Burlington, Ont., leaving many in the sport across the country mourning his loss.
Ridley was 64.
"The one thing I could say about Jim is he had an incredible love and passion for baseball," said Kevin Briand, the director of Canadian scouting for the Blue Jays who played for Ridley with the national junior team.
"At tryout camps, you'd see him working with some kid who doesn't throw well and definitely was not a prospect, and he was just trying to help the kid get better."
A schoolteacher in Stewarttown, Ont., baseball was definitely Ridley's passion, reaching the upper levels of the sport in this country after playing minor-league baseball in the Atlanta Braves system.
He managed the national junior team from 1983-88, winning a pair of world bronze medals, and later led the senior team into the Seoul Games.
His trip to the Olympics included Canada's stunning 8-7 win over the eventual gold medallist United States, its only victory in the preliminary round.
Ridley would also lead Canadian teams into the Pacific Cup, the Student Games, the world seniors and eventually the 1991 Pan American Games, which featured one of the country's most infamous baseball moments.
The Canadians were involved in a testy game with Mexico which exploded into a wild brawl in the sixth inning, an incident the mild-mannered Ridley was powerless to prevent in a charged environment before a hostile Cuban crowd.
It's all part of a well-respected legacy he left behind at Baseball Canada, an organization he was always helping out.
"He truly was what you would call a baseball man through and through," said Hamilton. "He managed the junior national team, the Olympic team and he was a very loyal and devoted supporter of Canadian baseball.
"He deeply cared about the game and his life was in so many ways devoted to the betterment of the (Canadian) game in that context. He was a huge part of the family."
The Toronto-born Ridley joined the Blue Jays as a scout in 1976, coached with the Medicine Hat Blue Jays from 1978-80, and scouted for the team until 2002.
"Jim is a longtime friend," interim Blue Jays CEO Paul Beeston said in a release. "He made a huge contribution to baseball in Canada and helped the Blue Jays establish roots across Canada.
"The results of his fine work, much of it done at the grass-roots level, helped to create a foundation for the success that so many Canadian players now enjoy at all levels."
Canadians Paul Spoljaric, David Corrente and Clint Lawrence are among the players he scouted and signed. In recent years he had been working as a scout for the Minnesota Twins.
"I will never forget Jim's passion for baseball, it was infectious to all those around him," said Blue Jays scouting director Jon Lalonde. "His energy to teach, to evaluate and to work with young players was truly special."
Ridley leaves behind daughter Shannon, sons Jeremy and Shayne. Funeral arrangements were pending.