Ducey to share St. Marys stage with Bell

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Toronto-born, but Cambridge, Ont.-raised Rob Ducey is one of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s 2013 inductees. (Photo courtesy of Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame)

When Rob Ducey belted his first big league home run on September 14, 1987 at Exhibition Stadium, George Bell socked two home runs in the same game.

And over the next three seasons, Ducey, who was born in Toronto, was forced to battle for playing time in the Blue Jays outfield behind the all-star Dominican slugger.

So no one would blame Ducey if he has grown tired of being upstaged by Bell over the years. And it must have seemed like déjà vu on Thursday when Ducey, who along with Bell was introduced as one of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s 2013 inductees, was again waiting on Bell.

Ducey and Bell will be officially inducted in the Canadian ball hall, along with Expos great Tim Raines, broadcasting legend Tom Cheek and Vancouver baseball icon Nat Bailey, in a ceremony on June 29 in St. Marys, Ont.

But while the media dialed in for a conference call and were waiting for Bell to join the line on Thursday afternoon, a good-natured and gracious Ducey provided the entertainment.

“The bus doesn’t leave without George Bell on it,” joked Ducey, breaking the silence on the phone line and drawing laughs from reporters. “That was the rule when I played.”

The cordial Canadian, who clearly cherished being Bell’s teammate, also shared another interaction between him and the intense outfielder from early in his big league career.

“George called me over from centre field in batting practice one day and he said, ‘Hey kid, if you miss the ball, you go get it,’” said Ducey, who then paused before delivering the punch line, “And then he said, ‘And if I miss the ball, you go get it.’”

The call participants laughed again. It was clear, however, that when Bell did join the call that the two ex-Jays still enjoy each other’s company.

Sure, Ducey played in Bell’s shadow and it probably cost him valuable at bats early in his career, but the well-spoken Canadian still forged out a 19-year playing career in professional baseball.

Born in Toronto in 1965, Ducey was raised in Cambridge, Ont., in an era when the presence of professional scouts in Canada was minimal.

“When I was younger, Canadians were not eligible for the draft,” said Ducey. “Baseball Canada with Greg Hamilton and Jim Baba, they have done a wonderful job as far as promoting baseball in Canada and developing a program that has grown by leaps and bounds over the course of the last 25 years or so. I think with that exposure Canadian players are now taken seriously as far as having the ability to play the game. When I was younger, we were known as hockey players and that was about it, because there was only a handful of players that had ever reached the major league level. But now there are Canadians throughout the major leagues. Every roster basically has a Canadian present and you look at the WBC team – the Canadian team – and it’s got MVPs and it’s got all-stars. We’re now considered a formidable baseball resource for Major League Baseball.”

Despite a dearth of scouts north of the border, Ducey was signed as a free agent by the Blue Jays in 1984. After being named MVP of the Rookie Ball Medicine Hat Blue Jays that year, he rose through the organization’s ranks to make his big league debut at Exhibition Stadium against the Texas Rangers on May 1, 1987.

“There are so many memories of playing in Toronto and that first game is definitely one of them,” said Ducey, who recorded his first big league hit and RBI in that contest. “I remember getting three standing ovations from the crowd that night and there were 30,000 people there. To be part of that organization at the time with players like George and Jesse (Barfield) and Dave Stieb was very exhilarating. As a young man growing up an hour west of the city, it was very intimidating but emotionally I was on cloud nine. I’ll always remember that first game.”

The Canuck outfielder suited up for parts of five more seasons with the Jays, prior to being dealt to the Angels in 1992. Tenures with the Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners and Philadelphia Phillies would follow. His finest big league campaign came with the Phillies in 1999 when he smashed eight home runs and recorded an impressive .383 on-base percentage.

Ducey also enjoyed a two-year stint in the Japanese Pacific League with the Nippon Ham Fighters in 1995 and 1996 that saw him belt 51 home runs. He returned to Toronto for five games in 2000 and saw his final big league action with the Montreal Expos in 2001, making him the second Canadian (along with Denis Boucher) to start his major league career with the Jays and end it with the Expos. He is also one of only four Canadians (Boucher, Shawn Hill and Matt Stairs are the others) to suit up for both the Jays and Expos. Unfortunately, his 27-game stint with the Expos doesn’t bring back a lot of good memories.

“My fondest memory of playing with the Expos was rupturing my Achilles in Atlanta,” joked Ducey. “I was only in Montreal for a brief moment in time. I believe it was about 2-1/2 months before I got hurt. That injury basically ended my career. But I did enjoy playing in the city and for the Expos and to be one of a few guys to ever get the opportunity to play for both Canadian clubs was special.”

Following his professional career, Ducey competed for Canada at the 2004 Olympics and served as a coach at the 2006 World Baseball Classic and 2008 Olympics. He has also been a scout for the Blue Jays and recently worked in player development for a Mexican League team.

“Right now I’m at home and looking for a position,” said Ducey, who resides in Tarpon Springs, Fla. “The team that I was with in Mexico is under new ownership . . . The ownership group that I worked for could no longer support the club. So now I’m kind of at a crossroads. I’m looking for something to do. So basically I’m unemployed.”

But the versatile Ducey shouldn’t have much trouble finding work. Since his playing career ended, he has always managed to find a job in baseball somewhere.

“I want to be – and have been – creative in my approach to this game,” he said. “Along my travels, I have met many good people and developed tremendous friendships. I’m a baseball lifer and I hope to continue to work in the game in one capacity or another.”

And who knows maybe Bell, his pal and fellow 2013 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee, who’s helping to coach the Dominican squad in the Caribbean World Series, can help Ducey land a position?

At the end of the conference call, the two former teammates shared an inside joke, and you get the feeling that Ducey’s induction speech might include a Bell story or two – that is, of course, if Bell doesn’t make him wait too long for his turn behind the podium.

12 thoughts on “Ducey to share St. Marys stage with Bell

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  1. Tom Valcke – Stratford, Ontario – Tom Valcke put his iCASE Baseball Academy as well as his position of Head Coach at George Brown College into hiatus, when Hong Kong brought him there in 2018 to serve as head coach of their Men's Olympic baseball team, where he finished with unprecedented success in the 2018 Asian Games held in Jakarta, Indonesia, spiking their WBSC World Ranking from #41 to #28 in just one year under his tutelage. China then scooped up Valcke, as he became the GM and Head Coach of Panda Sport and Culture, a division of the China Olympic Federation, overseeing baseball and softball, and training the national team coaches of baseball and softball, men's and women's teams. Panda Sport and Culture is based in Zhongshan, China's nationally recognized "#1 Baseball City," located on the southeast tip of China, and has a climate much like Florida. On his own initiative, he spent his evenings working with the local coaches of Zhongshan's local amateur youth baseball teams. For the first time in history, the same city won all four 2019 China National Championship gold medals, in 18U, 15U, 12U and 10U, that city being Zhongshan! Valcke worked with the China Baseball Association and Major League Baseball in helping the world's largest country accelerate their evolution into baseball, and helped them design and build a professional baseball stadium, a 600-room dormitory, and a new HQ for Panda Sport and Culture, where he held the role of CEO, in charge of a staff of 60. Valcke, former Technical Director, and Executive Director of Baseball Canada, and former coach of Team Canada, remains a baseball analyst with CBC Canada Radio and TV. The former president/CEO of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, who spent a decade as the Canadian Supervisor with the Major League Baseball Central Scouting Bureau, served as a television broadcaster for the Montreal Expos, the GM of the Calgary Cannons Triple-A club, and the CEO/Head Coach of the World Children's Baseball Fair. He is the proud father of Alanna, Jaxon and Mia, and lucky husband of Paula since 1987. Jaxon and Mia are current star players and captains, respectively, of the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds baseball and softball teams. Mia also became the second female in history to play in World Cups for Team Canada Women's baseball team as well as Team Canada Women's softball team. https://www.canadianbaseballnetwork.com/canadian-baseball-network-articles/baseball-nomad-valcke-a-top-amateur-executive http://www.wbsc.org/csta-prestige-awards-honors-tom-valcke/ https://cooperstownersincanada.com/2012/01/23/valcke-recognized-for-global-baseball-efforts/
    Tom Valcke, iCASE Baseball Academy GM says:

    GREAT piece Kevin – a very enjoyable read!

    1. cooperstownersincanada – Kevin Glew is a professional writer based in London, Ontario. His work has been featured on CBC Sports, Sportsnet.ca, MLB.com and Sympatico.ca. He has also written articles for Baseball Digest, Baseball America, The Hockey News, Sports Market Report and the Canadian Baseball Network. He has been involved with the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame for more than 16 years, including a two-year stint as the museum's acting curator.
      cooperstownersincanada says:

      Thanks, Tom. Ducey seems like a great guy.

  2. Great post! I remember playing for the ‘Ducey Cup’ in the Junior Intercounty circuit back in the day. And I remember his dad, who was a Jays scout.

    1. cooperstownersincanada – Kevin Glew is a professional writer based in London, Ontario. His work has been featured on CBC Sports, Sportsnet.ca, MLB.com and Sympatico.ca. He has also written articles for Baseball Digest, Baseball America, The Hockey News, Sports Market Report and the Canadian Baseball Network. He has been involved with the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame for more than 16 years, including a two-year stint as the museum's acting curator.
      cooperstownersincanada says:

      Thanks, Todd. I think his dad also had a baseball card shop for a while as well.

  3. Tom Valcke – Stratford, Ontario – Tom Valcke put his iCASE Baseball Academy as well as his position of Head Coach at George Brown College into hiatus, when Hong Kong brought him there in 2018 to serve as head coach of their Men's Olympic baseball team, where he finished with unprecedented success in the 2018 Asian Games held in Jakarta, Indonesia, spiking their WBSC World Ranking from #41 to #28 in just one year under his tutelage. China then scooped up Valcke, as he became the GM and Head Coach of Panda Sport and Culture, a division of the China Olympic Federation, overseeing baseball and softball, and training the national team coaches of baseball and softball, men's and women's teams. Panda Sport and Culture is based in Zhongshan, China's nationally recognized "#1 Baseball City," located on the southeast tip of China, and has a climate much like Florida. On his own initiative, he spent his evenings working with the local coaches of Zhongshan's local amateur youth baseball teams. For the first time in history, the same city won all four 2019 China National Championship gold medals, in 18U, 15U, 12U and 10U, that city being Zhongshan! Valcke worked with the China Baseball Association and Major League Baseball in helping the world's largest country accelerate their evolution into baseball, and helped them design and build a professional baseball stadium, a 600-room dormitory, and a new HQ for Panda Sport and Culture, where he held the role of CEO, in charge of a staff of 60. Valcke, former Technical Director, and Executive Director of Baseball Canada, and former coach of Team Canada, remains a baseball analyst with CBC Canada Radio and TV. The former president/CEO of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, who spent a decade as the Canadian Supervisor with the Major League Baseball Central Scouting Bureau, served as a television broadcaster for the Montreal Expos, the GM of the Calgary Cannons Triple-A club, and the CEO/Head Coach of the World Children's Baseball Fair. He is the proud father of Alanna, Jaxon and Mia, and lucky husband of Paula since 1987. Jaxon and Mia are current star players and captains, respectively, of the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds baseball and softball teams. Mia also became the second female in history to play in World Cups for Team Canada Women's baseball team as well as Team Canada Women's softball team. https://www.canadianbaseballnetwork.com/canadian-baseball-network-articles/baseball-nomad-valcke-a-top-amateur-executive http://www.wbsc.org/csta-prestige-awards-honors-tom-valcke/ https://cooperstownersincanada.com/2012/01/23/valcke-recognized-for-global-baseball-efforts/
    Tom Valcke, iCASE Baseball Academy GM says:

    I forwarded you piece to Ducey, as it might be the only place where Cheek or Bell don’t steal the headline! He’ll appreciate it.

    1. cooperstownersincanada – Kevin Glew is a professional writer based in London, Ontario. His work has been featured on CBC Sports, Sportsnet.ca, MLB.com and Sympatico.ca. He has also written articles for Baseball Digest, Baseball America, The Hockey News, Sports Market Report and the Canadian Baseball Network. He has been involved with the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame for more than 16 years, including a two-year stint as the museum's acting curator.
      cooperstownersincanada says:

      Thanks, Tom. I appreciate this.

  4. Those were some awesome drops by Ducey. More than anything, though, I am overwhelmed with how impressive this class is. 2013 has to be one of the best St. Marys has ever enshrined…

    1. cooperstownersincanada – Kevin Glew is a professional writer based in London, Ontario. His work has been featured on CBC Sports, Sportsnet.ca, MLB.com and Sympatico.ca. He has also written articles for Baseball Digest, Baseball America, The Hockey News, Sports Market Report and the Canadian Baseball Network. He has been involved with the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame for more than 16 years, including a two-year stint as the museum's acting curator.
      cooperstownersincanada says:

      Thanks, Lando. Yes, it is a great class of inductees. I’m hopefully going to write more about some of the other inductees soon.

  5. It was a great conference call. Thanks Kevin for writing such a great story. It really helps me remember what happened when your facts are so accurate.

    1. cooperstownersincanada – Kevin Glew is a professional writer based in London, Ontario. His work has been featured on CBC Sports, Sportsnet.ca, MLB.com and Sympatico.ca. He has also written articles for Baseball Digest, Baseball America, The Hockey News, Sports Market Report and the Canadian Baseball Network. He has been involved with the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame for more than 16 years, including a two-year stint as the museum's acting curator.
      cooperstownersincanada says:

      Thanks, Scott. Yes, it was a thoroughly enjoyable conference call. I think it’s going to be a great ceremony this year.

  6. cooperstownersincanada – Kevin Glew is a professional writer based in London, Ontario. His work has been featured on CBC Sports, Sportsnet.ca, MLB.com and Sympatico.ca. He has also written articles for Baseball Digest, Baseball America, The Hockey News, Sports Market Report and the Canadian Baseball Network. He has been involved with the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame for more than 16 years, including a two-year stint as the museum's acting curator.
    cooperstownersincanada says:

    From Devon Teeple: Great write up kevin.

    I remember growing up watching ducey and being in awe that a canadian was playing with a Canadian team!

    Thanks for sharing this.

    And congratulations to mr. Ducey

    1. cooperstownersincanada – Kevin Glew is a professional writer based in London, Ontario. His work has been featured on CBC Sports, Sportsnet.ca, MLB.com and Sympatico.ca. He has also written articles for Baseball Digest, Baseball America, The Hockey News, Sports Market Report and the Canadian Baseball Network. He has been involved with the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame for more than 16 years, including a two-year stint as the museum's acting curator.
      cooperstownersincanada says:

      Thanks for the comment, Devon. I grew up watching Ducey as well.

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