(Dunedin, Florida) - It's hard not to 'people watch' at the Bobby Mattick Complex, home to the Blue Jays spring training efforts, as there stands Ben Cherington, Eric Wedge and Gil Kim all within a few feet of each other. All three are speaking to different individuals but all three are gathering information during a Minor League Baseball game between the future of the Toronto Blue Jays and the next generation of Philadelphia Phillies.
It's an interesting dynamic considering the pedigree of this group and that is before you add Charlie Wilson into the conversation, the Blue Jays long-tenured Director of Minor League Operations.
Ben Cherington, named Vice-President of Baseball Operations late last year by the Blue Jays, was pulled hard by the Minnesota Twins to take on one of baseball's biggest overhaul projects, yet opted for what some may call a 'smoother ride' in Toronto, re-grouping after a roller-coaster ride as General Manager of the Boston Red Sox, which included helping them to the 2013 World Series.
There is no doubt that Cherington is one of baseball's brightest minds, and to see him tucked away within the Blue Jays Minor League complex is not nessecarily perplexing, but call it more 'intriguing'.
Then there is former Cleveland Indians and Seattle Mariners manager Eric Wedge, who over his 10-year MLB career led the Indians to 93 and 96 win seasons. His three-year stop in Seattle never mustered up much, but his time spent in Cleveland was plenty enough to garner him a veteran at his craft dealing with some of baseball's biggest personalities and talents.
The final piece of the puzzle is Gil Kim, the Blue Jays Director of Player Development. Admittedly new to the ranks of Player Development, he was called upon aggressively by the Blue Jays while working within the Texas Rangers organization as Mark Shapiro saw something in the worldly Kim that made Toronto's president take notice. Kim is described by others as a 'sponge' that cannot stop collecting information that could help the Blue Jays in any number of ways. Analytical, a strong and logical eye-test and simply knowing how to work the phone - Kim is as hard a worker as you will find, likely one of the reasons the Blue Jays came knocking.
To think that this kind of 'braintrust' works collectively within the Blue Jays Minor League system, some might consider it a 'dream team' of knowledge with all four coming at this project totting along a wealth of knowledge and ability.
Add Roberto Alomar and Tim Raines to this list as the Hall of Famers can be seen daily out at the complex and the Blue Jays prospects have to feel as if this ship is being guided toward the warm sun.
It's crunch time for a number of Blue Jays players wondering where they will land come Opening Day and not just at the Major League level, but within the ladder of the Minor League assignments. Former Canadians Jon Berti, Shane Opitz and Rowdy Tellez all wonder if and when their call to the "Bigs" will finally come in 2017 beyond a pair of exhibition games out in Montreal.
What does Ben Cherington think of Roemon Fields and Dalton Pompey? Can Vladimir Guerrero Jr. take the next step as the Blue Jays #1 prospect, according to anyone with a laptop and an internet connection.
The Blue Jays prior to this new nucleus did miss on a few players, and watched as former General Manager Alex Anthopoulos traded away the farm for a shot at the post-season. Few fans will show any regret as those moves helped Toronto to back-to-back post-season appearances and we hope a third straight just months from now.
However, as we cheer on Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki and a cast of others who arrived via trade, it's on Cherington, Kim and Wedge to develop the next batch of players that are accumulated by GM Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro in the coming months. The draft is just weeks away and suddenly it becomes apparent how lucky the Blue Jays are to have this type of experience awaiting the new crop of prospects when they first arrive.
You can see the culture change throughout the Minor League Complex. The food is different and more thought out to meet today's athletic dietary needs. The weight room is bigger and has an army of staff all at the beckon call of any player looking to compete, and the players themselves conduct themselves more business-minded. The music a little lower, the chatter a little less as the players take on this camp with a new-found sense of maturity knowing who is watching and what is at stake.
You can even see the shift in the staff as well. Reports are tighter, conversations never end as the core of this organization is constantly sharing thoughts and ideas.
The goal? Win.
The cupboards are starting to fill once again after the draining of them from a few years back. The one tie between Cherington, Wedge and Kim is all Mark Shapiro who has always been known to create a tightly-knit circle around him.
This feels different. This feels right. The Blue Jays system is starting to bear fruit once again and those picking it seem to be the right people for the job.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.