INSTANT REPLAY: Defying the oddsmaker
What are the odds of your picture – one you didn’t even know had been taken – getting printed in the newspaper? And on your birthday, the very day you turned 13?
What are the odds of a North Shore Little Leaguer, born in North Vancouver, growing up to play professional baseball? And right here with the home town Vancouver Canadians in 2011?
What are the odds that both you and your older brother would get signed to play pro ball? And with the same major league organization, the Toronto Blue Jays?
What are the odds of pitching your very first win as a pro ballplayer with your mom and dad, two of your three brothers and your twin sister all in attendance? And right on your dad’s birthday on July 19, 2011?
What are the odds of all of these things happening to one person?
Let me introduce you to Brandon Kaye and how he has defied the oddsmakers.
Born in North Vancouver on Aug. 16, 1988, Brandon pitched and played shortstop on Forest Hills Little League all-star teams that won the B.C. District 5 (North Shore) 9- and 10-year-old championships in 1998 and 1999 and the majors (ages 11 and 12) title in 2000. In 2001, Forest Hills lost to Highlands in the North Shore fina1 but Brandon’s picture was taken by Rob Newell during the action at Chris Zuehlke Memorial Park and it showed up in The Outlook on Aug. 16, 2001 – exactly 10 years ago – in a little photo feature called Player of the Week.
While chatting with Kaye earlier this month, Brandon noted that The Outlook had printed his photo in 2001 on his 13th birthday. That was very lucky indeed considering there were hundreds of kids playing baseball from Cypress Park to Mount Seymour who could have been pictured.
Even more impressive is that 10 years later he’s playing pro ball. The percentage of former local Little Leaguers that get that opportunity is astronomically small. My research indicates Brandon is possibly only the 10th since Little League began here in 1952. Ian Dixon was the first, signing in 1961 with the New York Yankees and playing in their farm system as a P-3B for four years. However, he wasn’t born here. He moved to North Van at age 10. To be born in North Van and go on to pro baseball has equally astronomical odds.
Brandon is the son of Kelly Kaye (who coached Brandon in Little League) and Linda Kaye and the younger brother (by nine years) of Scott Richmond who is in his seventh season of pro ball, mostly in the Toronto Blue Jays’ organization. Scott, the eldest of Linda’s three sons by her first husband, was also born in North Van and played in the Forest Hills Little League too.
Kelly, though born in Vancouver, also played in the Forest Hills league, and – after graduating from Delbrook – went to spring training in Arizona with the Pacific Coast League’s Spokane Indians where an arm injury derailed his aspirations.
Scott pitched for universities in far-flung Missouri, Louisiana and Oklahoma, then for pro teams as far north as the Edmonton Cracker-Cats, as far east as the New Hampshire Fisher Cats and as far south as the Dunedin Blue Jays as well as two seasons with the parent Blue Jays in Toronto in 2008 and 2009. He’s currently in the “AAA” Pacific Coast League with Toronto’s top farm club, the Las Vegas 51s, meaning he plays in a city full of oddsmakers. (Brandon should be so lucky.)
On the other hand, Brandon – who moved with his family to Langley just after that photo appeared in The Outlook in 2001 – has had all his opportunities close to home.
He played for the Premier League-champion North Shore Twins in 2007, then for Douglas College and UBC. He did play for Canada in the 2008 World University Games in Czechoslovakia, but his lone venture for a team based outside of B.C. was in 2009 when he pitched in Alberta for the Okotoks Dawgs of the Western Baseball League, a summer circuit for college players. As you can see by his brother’s travels – which are not too far from the norm – for Brandon to start his pro career with the Vancouver Canadians bucks all odds.
Brandon was selected by Toronto in the 45th round of the 2009 major league draft. He elected not to sign in order to continue his education. However, the Blue Jays were still interested two years later and a deal was signed in Dunedin at the Blue Jays’ spring training site in June.
His first win as a pro came a month ago at Nat Bailey Stadium against Eugene on July 19 (his dad’s 55th birthday) when he came in during the fifth inning to pitch three superb frames of shutout relief while his teammates scored four runs. He gave up only one hit but the Canadians caught that guy trying to steal. Brandon also hit one batter... then picked him off first.
What are the odds of pitching that well and finding your performance being overshadowed by the antics of a mascot in a chicken suit? Yes it did happen. But actually that’s normal.
You see, it was the night the Famous San Diego Chicken was in town to entertain the fans by heckling the opposition and spoofing the umpires, which he does masterfully.
Upstaging The Chicken is hard to do – even for Brandon Kaye who seems to defy the odds as well as just about anyone.
This is episode 429 from Len Corben’s treasure chest of stories – the great events and the quirky – that bring to life the North Shore’s rich sports history.