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Meet the Toledo scout who signed Derek Jeter and helped build the Brewers

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  • SPT-Dick-Groch

    Dick Groch played on Macomber High School teams that stood out in the area in 1957 and ’58. Now 78, Groch is a front office staffer for the Milwaukee Brewers.


  • NLCS-Brewers-Dodgers-Baseball-6

    Milwaukee’s Orlando Arcia is congratulated after scoring by Lorenzo Cain during the National League Championship Series. Toledo native Dick Groch is a special assistant to the general manager for the Brewers, who are two wins away from the World Series.


  • Orioles-Yankees-Baseball-5

    One of Toledo native Dick Groch’s claims to fame is scouting New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter.


Dodger blues! Brewers win the pennant!

For one former Blade paper boy, it is the news he hopes the nation soon will be reading all about.

“We have a real good club,” Dick Groch was saying the other day.

Now 78, the kid from Toledo is an editor of sorts of the best October story going as a special assistant to the general manager for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Wiser readers may remember Groch as a guard on the Macomber basketball team that electrified the city in 1957. The one that led unbeatable Middletown by seven points with 70 seconds left in the state semis, only for boy wonder Jerry Lucas to hit a game-tying 20-footer at the buzzer and carry the Middies in overtime, preserving an eventual state-record 76-game winning streak.

The rest of us, if we don’t know Groch, we sure know his work.

He is the scout who famously signed Derek Jeter to the Yankees and who, in his 16th year as a Brewers adviser — most spent in charge of pro scouting and player personnel — has helped piece together this irrepressible Milwaukee club.

Despite playing in the game’s smallest market, the Brewers are within two victories of the World Series, trailing the Dodgers 3-2 in the best-of-7 National League Championship Series. Game 6 is Friday at Miller Park.

Groch’s favorite story on a motley Brew Crew filled with them? Close your eyes, Indians fans: Jesus Aguilar.

A former Cleveland farmhand, the 6-foot-3, 315-pound Aguilar had the look of either a classic 4A player or, as Groch put it, the “middle guard for the Toledo Rockets.” But the Brewers couldn’t get past the big first baseman’s slugging potential, which he flashed with an International League-leading 30 home runs for Columbus in 2016. When the Indians oddly waived Aguilar — then 26 — in February, Milwaukee pounced. All he did this year was swat 35 homers.

“Classic example of why you have to be patient,” said Groch, who resides in St. Clair, Mich. “Now, did anyone think he would be an all-star? … “

Still, you might say Groch knows a good thing when he sees it.

By rule, we must now tell the Jeter story. He still hears about it only every day.

Groch played basketball at Olivet (Mich.) College but made his living in baseball, first as a junior college coach, then a pro evaluator. As the Yankees’ area scout for Ohio and Michigan in 1992, he staked his reputation on a skinny shortstop from Kalamazoo Central High, submitting this report: “A Yankee! Five-tool player.” Never mind Jeter had signed to play for Michigan. As Groch assured team officials worried the prep star would head to Ann Arbor, “The only place he’s going is Cooperstown.”

Why so confident? “All the intangibles,” Groch said. “His heart. His ability to perform in high-level situations. His ability to handle failure. Very few players have that makeup.”

The rest is legend. The Yankees drafted Jeter sixth overall and, come 2020, the scout who made sure of it will indeed watch him enter the Hall of Fame. 

For Groch, it is the Bronx tale of a lifetime. Well, a tale, at least. A magical ending may await these Brewers too, and forever the news boy, Groch knows the biggest story always is the next one. 

Contact David Briggs at: dbriggs@theblade.com419-724-6084, or on Twitter @DBriggsBlade.

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