SEATTLE -- Roger Jongewaard, the Mariners scouting director during the time the team drafted Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, Tino Martinez and a number of other Major League players, died Monday of a heart attack at the age of 76.
Jongewaard worked with the Mariners for 19 years before becoming a scout with the Rays in 2005. He most recently worked as a scout for the Marlins and his career spanned more than 40 years in professional baseball.
Jongewaard came to Seattle in 1985 as director of scouting after working with the Angels, Mets and Tigers. He was promoted to vice president of scouting and player development in 1989 and served as the team's lead talent evaluator throughout that span.
Jongewaard had considerable success with the Mariners, including the drafting of Griffey in '87, Martinez ('88), Ron Villone ('92), Rodriguez ('93), Jason Varitek ('94), Jose Cruz Jr. ('95), Gil Meche ('96), Matt Thornton ('98) and Adam Jones ('03).
"You look at our success during that period of time in the drafts and players we brought in," said Mariners president Chuck Armstrong. "He was really a scout's scout. I used to laugh with him that he could tell you who each prospect's mom went to senior prom with. His mind was a mental computer and talent evaluation was the best I've ever run across in this game. We were lucky to have him for those years."
His influence also was felt in evaluating talent in other organizations and advising general managers Dick Balderson, Woody Woodward and Pat Gillick.
"What I remember is when it came time to trade Mark Langston, he was the guy who identified Randy Johnson and the group from Montreal," said Mariners baseball information director Tim Hevly. "And when we traded Randy, he identified Freddy Garcia, Carlos Guillen and John Halama and that group from the Astros. So he really remade the team on both ends of that deal."
But those who knew Jongewaard remember him even more for his personal touch.
"From the time I started with the Mariners as an intern to the last time I saw him at the Hall of Fame induction [for Gillick last year], the level of kindness was just spectacular," said Hevly. "In our old building, everything was very cramped. And Roger wasn't always in the office, but when he was, they carved his space into our ticket office.
"A lot of baseball people -- and most people in any business -- would have been upset," Hevly said. "Instead Roger not only never said 'boo,' for years he'd come back and take everyone in the ticket office out to lunch every year. They all loved him."
Jongewaard was a baseball lifer. He signed with Milwaukee as an 18-year-old catcher out of Long Beach Poly High School in 1954 and spent five seasons in Minor League ball, including a brief stint with the Seattle Rainiers in the Pacific Coast League in 1959.
He retired as a player and opened Jongewaard's Bake 'n Broil restaurant in Long Beach before returning to baseball initially as a bullpen catcher for the Angels and then getting into scouting with the Rangers in 1973.
He moved to the Mets in '76 and was credited with signing Darryl Strawberry, Lenny Dykstra and Kevin Mitchell, as well as a young Billy Beane. He joined the Tigers in 1982 and then took the job with Seattle in '85.
Jongewaard was inducted into the R.B.I. Hall of Fame by the Los Angeles chapter in 1996 and recognized by the Topps Company for his Distinguished Service to Baseball in 1999. He received Baseball America's Roland Hemond Award for Lifetime Achievement in Baseball in 2004 and was voted Baseball America's West Coast Scout of the Year in 2005.
Jongewaard is survived by his wife, Carol, and four children -- Terry, Janice, Kristin and Don - and 12 grandchildren. His daughter Dyan preceded him in death in February.