Blue Jays sign Grafton's Purdy to minor league contract

By Jeff Gard, Northumberland Today

Grafton's Nick Purdy has taken another step toward his dream of becoming a Major League Baseball player.

On Saturday, the 20-year-old signed with the Toronto Blue Jays organization and he has reported to spring training in Dunedin, Florida.

"It feels great to be signed by the Blue Jays," Purdy writes in an e-mail. "I've been waiting for this opportunity for some time now."

Purdy has twice been selected in the MLB draft -- by the Seattle Mariners in 2007 and the Kansas City Royals in 2008 -- but he didn't sign with either club. He was a later pick in both years, the 50th and 36th rounds respectively, and signing would have ruled him ineligible for NCAA college scholarships.

While the right-handed pitcher wasn't taken in last year's draft, Purdy was free this year to sign with any MLB club. His most recent teams include the Midland Redskins and Oshawa Dodgers as well as Hillsborough Community College in Tampa Bay, Florida.

"At this point I'm not sure where I'm going to end up (to start in the Blue Jays organization)," Purdy writes, but he's grateful for the chance to try and work his way up to the Big Leagues.

Purdy was recently traveling with the Ontario Blue Jays club team in Florida and it was a week ago Sunday in Cocoa Beach where he was scouted by MLB's Blue Jays.

Toronto's director of amateur scouting, Andrew Tinnish, credits the club's Canadian scout, Jamie Lehman, for the Purdy signing.

Tinnish says MLB scouts were there to see a couple of highly touted players for this year's draft. When many of the scouts left, Lehman stuck around and was on hand when Purdy came in to pitch for two innings and quickly alerted Tinnish of the potential prospect.

A workout was arranged at the Blue Jays' minor league complex in Dunedin on Saturday and Purdy threw for members of the Blue Jays' management, including pitching coordinator Dane Johnson, assistant general manager Tony LaCava and director of minor league operations Charlie Wilson.

"Charlie Wilson called me right away and said this guy's a Major League prospect," Tinnish says.

Tinnish says Purdy shows great potential on the mound, especially with his fastball and breaking ball.

"We like the way his arm works," he says. "One hundred per cent of the credit for this signing goes to Jamie Lehman. Jamie's a first-year scout, but very advanced in his scouting."

Tinnish expects Purdy to be assigned to extended spring training, rather than to a farm system club right off the bat.

"He's a little behind the rest of the guys," Tinnish says. "Some of them have been in camp for about a month."

Although plans can change, Tinnish notes, Purdy may not be assigned to an affiliate team until June.

"We want to take it slow with Nick because we really feel he's a prospect," Tinnish says.