In more than eight years as the Blue Jays’ beat reporter for the Toronto Star, Geoff Baker has written countless stories about members of the team jumping to the United States. Now he’s following in their footsteps.
Baker is jumping to the Seattle Times, where he’ll cover the Mariners. He will be missed by readers of the Star and of Metro (which has run many of his stories) because he’s been first-rate, often exploring subjects others shunned.
He was the one, for instance, who in 2003 reported that the Jays had become an organization practically devoid of black and Latin players, prompting a highly controversial headline on the Star’s front page that screamed: “The White Jays.” The piece created a hysteria that infuriated the Jays and many of their fans, although Baker still defends it.
“The story got twisted a bit by the headline (written by an editor),” Baker told me yesterday, “and there still are people today who say they’re furious about it. But I think it was an important story and still is. The Jays have fewer Latins now than any team in baseball because they don’t want to spend much money scouting in Latin America. Well, they’re paying the piper for that.”
Baker also wrote about steroid use by Dominican prospects, a series that led to a National Newspaper Award this year for the 37-year-old native of Montreal. It was one of four awards he won while with the Star and, before that, The Montreal Gazette.
The awards came in handy for Baker because, ultimately, they landed him the job in Seattle, where he’ll unite with his girlfriend Amy. She is from Philadelphia and recently moved to Seattle. The two have had a long-distance relationship since meeting during a Jays’ road trip more than 18 months ago.
Baker deemed the Times job perfect for obvious reasons, but the Bush regime has been trying to restrict the number of immigrants and so the reporter wasn’t sure until this week whether he would actually be able to work in Seattle.
“The Times used a legal team to get me there,” Geoff said. “It cost them $7,000 US and it was only a 50-50 shot whether they could succeed. If they didn’t, they were planning to hire their No. 2 choice this week.”
The lawyers were able to get Baker something called an Extraordinary Ability Visa, status he was granted largely because of his newspaper awards. He’ll start in Seattle early next month, and his visa will expire in three years.
What he’ll do after that, who knows? But he won’t be sleepless in Seattle. And I’d be surprised if he doesn’t wake up Seattle fans with his reporting.
Marty York’s column appears Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. Listen for Marty on The ROCK 94.9 FM, Monday and Friday at 8:40 a.m.