July 21, 2023
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
Rob Ducey is headed to Cooperstown this weekend to celebrate the induction of two friends and ex-teammates.
The Cambridge, Ont., native played parts of five seasons with Fred McGriff, from 1987 to 1990, with the Toronto Blue Jays and later suited up for three campaigns with Scott Rolen with the Philadelphia Phillies from 1999 to 2001.
“I’m super happy that I played with those guys and became friends with them and I couldn’t be happier for them [on their National Baseball Hall of Fame inductions],” said Ducey in a phone interview on Tuesday.
McGriff is one of Ducey’s oldest friends from his professional baseball career. The two met in Blue Jays’ Instructional League in 1984 and these days, with Ducey living in Tarpon Springs, Fla., and McGriff in Tampa, they golf together every couple of weeks.
“We hung out a lot together back when we were with the Blue Jays,” said Ducey. “We did a lot of things together. He’s been a very close friend for a long time.”
Like many, Ducey remembers marvelling at McGriff’s power.
“When Freddie hit it, it stayed hit,” said Ducey. “I think along with his very good power, he was just a good hitter . . . He had the ability to drive in runs and he hit for a high average with power . . . And he’s right up there with the best power hitters I’ve ever played with.”
But as great as McGriff was on the field, Ducey says the Crime Dog was – and still is – just as great away from it.
“He lives 20 minutes away from where I live. We’ve been very close,” said Ducey. “He’s a very, very special individual. He hasn’t changed really one bit from our playing days together. He’s still even keeled and mild mannered. He just went about his business and didn’t cause any waves. He was an excellent teammate. And he would do anything for you.”
In the 1990s, Ducey also played with California Angels, Texas Rangers, and Seattle Mariners, and enjoyed a mid-decade stint in Japan, before landing with the Phillies in 1999 where he played alongside Rolen.
“He was an excellent teammate. We got along very well,” said Ducey of Rolen. “He was a little younger, but he had already won the Rookie of the Year. Obviously, I was older and he was very receptive to things that I would talk to him about. At that time, the Phillies were going through a transition from Terry Francona to Larry Bowa and he was a young star.
“But he did his work. He worked his butt off. He was never satisfied with his swing. I vividly remember walking past him hitting balls off the tee and I’d think to myself, ‘What’s wrong with that swing? There’s nothing wrong with that swing!’ He was never satisfied. He just had that work ethic day in, day out. He grinded it out. Obviously, he had some God-given ability and talent that was there, but he just had a drive and that was what made him the player that he was.”
Ducey was also dazzled by Rolen’s glove and arm at third base.
“If you hit it to him, you were out,” said Ducey. “So, if you want to get some hits, don’t hit it to him. He was a wall.”
Ducey can’t wait to reconnect with Rolen this weekend.
“I haven’t spoken to Scott in a month of Sundays and I look forward to seeing him this weekend,” said Ducey. “I was very, very happy when I heard he was being inducted. He’s another guy that I will definitely give a big hug to when I see him in Cooperstown.”
This will be Ducey’s third trip to Cooperstown. The now 58-year-old played 19 seasons in professional baseball and is one of just four Canadians to play for both the Blue Jays and Montreal Expos (2001). Following his playing career, he became a respected coach and scout. For his efforts, he was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2013.
These days, Ducey is an independent financial services agent for Atlas Benefits in New Port Richey, Fla. and he is also coaching at Bishop McLaughlin Catholic High School in Spring Hill, Fla.
His trip to Cooperstown will be part of a longer vacation that will include a stop in his hometown of Cambridge, Ont.
But before he heads north of the border, he will get to watch McGriff, one of his closest friends, receive his plaque in Cooperstown, an honour Ducey believes was overdue.
“As soon as I found out he had been elected, I called him,” said Ducey. “I’m very happy that he’s being inducted.”