Roger Jongewaard dies at 75; longtime baseball scout


Roger Jongewaard, a longtime baseball scout from Long Beach who presided over three No. 1 draft picks — Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez for the Seattle Mariners and Darryl Strawberry for the New York Mets — has died. He was 75.

A resident of Fallbrook, Jongewaard died June 11 of a heart attack, the Mariners announced.

Roger Jongewaard: A news obituary of longtime baseball scout Roger Jongewaard in the June 24 California section reported that he was drafted by the Milwaukee Braves in 1954. Jongewaard did sign with the Braves in 1954, but major league baseball did not have a draft until 1965.

Jongewaard received Baseball America’s Roland Hemond Award for lifetime achievement in baseball in 2004.

“Roger Jongewaard is a scout’s scout. I think he’s the best talent evaluator I’ve ever run across in baseball,” Mariners President Chuck Armstrong said last week.

Jongewaard was also a restaurateur, whose family has operated Jongewaard’s Bake ‘n’ Broil in Long Beach’s Bixby Knolls neighborhood for more than 40 years. The coffee shop is known for its comfort food, including pot roast, cakes and pies.

Born in South Dakota on Sept. 3, 1936, Jongewaard played high school baseball in Long Beach. A catcher at Poly High School, he was drafted by the Milwaukee Braves in 1954 and played five years in the minor leagues.

When his playing career ended he returned to Long Beach. He was driving a bread delivery truck in 1965 when he noticed a for sale sign at one of his stops, an old hamburger joint. Later that day he bought it and with his wife, Carol, who was a superb baker, opened the Bake ‘n’ Broil restaurant.

He also was a catcher on the classic “Home Run Derby” television show, filmed at old Wrigley Field in South Los Angeles, before becoming a bullpen catcher for the Los Angeles Angels.

Jongewaard began his scouting career with the Texas Rangers in 1973 and joined the Mets in 1976. Besides drafting and signing Strawberry, a Crenshaw High School outfielder, in 1980, Jongewaard was responsible for the Mets selecting Lenny Dykstra, Kevin Mitchell and Billy Beane, who later became general manager of the Oakland A’s and the subject of the book and movie “Moneyball.”

Detroit was Jongewaard’s next stop as scout, in the early 1980s, and he received a World Series ring with the Tigers in 1984.

He joined the Mariners as director of scouting in 1985 and four years later became vice president of scouting and player development.

In 1987, the Mariners had the first overall draft pick. Owner George Argyros wanted to take Cal State Fullerton pitcher Mike Harkey. Jongewaard wanted a high-school outfielder from Cincinnati named Ken Griffey Jr. Jongewaard’s judgment prevailed.

Griffey ranks sixth on baseball’s all-time home-run list with 630, right behind Alex Rodriguez, another of the scout’s No. 1 draft picks for Seattle, in 1993.

Jongewaard left the Mariners after the 2004 season and later worked for the Tampa Bay Rays and Florida Marlins.

“He was simply a good evaluator,” Mariners General Manager Jack Zduriencik told the Seattle Times. “It’s one thing to select high in the draft as he so often did, it’s another to get it right … and he did that so very often.”

In addition to his wife, Jongewaard is survived by their children Terry, Janice, Kristin and Don, and 12 grandchildren. Another daughter, Dyan, died earlier this year.