EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 15, 2006

Little-known scout instrumental in landing Dice Man

On Pro Baseball , Rob Bradford

BOSTON - The important players involved in making Matsuzaka Day at Fenway Park possible yesterday took their rightful places at the press conference's head table. Owners, CEOs, a general manager, agents and, most importantly, the 26-year-old pitcher who made the entire chaotic scene possible.

One key character, however, was not present. He was sitting at his desk in Australia.

Jon Deeble had done his part in getting Daisuke Matsuzaka to Boston, now it was time to move on.

"(During the press conference), I was home on the Internet doing some work, putting together our preference list for Japan for next year," said Deeble, Red Sox director of Far East scouting. "The job's not over. Whether it's Japan, Taiwan or China, we've got our finger on the pulse, and that's the main thing."

Other than occasional mentions from Craig Shipley, Boston's international scouting director, and Red Sox GM Theo Epstein, Deeble would never be identified by the Nation as playing a key role in Matsuzaka's bizarre trip to Boston. But in reality, there were much less important people involved trying to convince management to invest $103 million in the Japanese pitcher.

In fact, some might not realize that Deeble's role in the organization actually stretched beyond his one year as manager of the Lowell Spinners (2003).

Deeble is one of two point men responsible for the Red Sox's pursuit of Matsuzaka. He has, after all, seen the pitcher perform more than 60 times, starting back when the hurler was in high school.

Deeble is quick to point out, though, he was just part of the process. But, by most accounts, it was a fairly sizable part.

"We had a philosophy in place and we stuck to that philosophy," Deeble said. "Probably the thing we did the best, as a whole organization, was keeping it under the radar screen. We were in a lot of these places nobody knew we were in there. We didn't talk to the Japanese media about anything. We just did our job.

"It was a whole team effort, and we did a lot of homework as far as splits and breakdowns. It wasn't like we said, 'We like this guy. Let's go put a bid on him.' We did a lot of homework. I take my hat off to (Shipley). He did a lot of leg work in terms of getting all the figures out of Japan, which was a tough job. (Red Sox trainer/translator) Masai Takahashi did a fantastic job, too. We were getting information and he had to translate it from Japanese into English for us. (Takahashi) was in Japan with us throughout September. It was a total team effort."

The pomp and circumstance that encompassed Fenway Park yesterday was a far cry of the bumpy trails traversed by Deeble and Shipley while scouting Matsuzaka in Japan.

As Deeble explained, "We've had a lot of laughs. There's been a lot of heartache, and there's been a lot of agony, too. But there has been a lot of laughs."

The journeys have included photo documentaries made by the two friends, who first met as young Australian baseball players in the mid-1970s. There were also dozens of inconveniences which they later laughed about. Such as when Shipley jumped aboard the wrong train to Seibu.

"I was meeting him out there, and it's very difficult to get to Seibu, although Ship and I have been there too many times to count. Well, Ship caught the wrong train and he ended up coming out there on this little two carriage train with rubber wheels on it. Yeah, we've had a few laughs along the way.

"We have traveled around with our suitcases, hopping off and on trains trying to follow this guy around. And anybody who has traveled in Japan knows it's not as easy as just hopping on and off trains. There's up and down stairs like you wouldn't believe. It was a workout, that's for sure. We'll look back at it and say, 'Wow, what an effort!'"

The primary goal, scouting Matsuzaka, was never a laughing matter, although the pitcher did offer plenty of enjoyment.

Besides the traveling pitfalls of the Far East, Deeble had to first overcome another obstacle. Because of some questionable overseas dealings by the Boston organization in the past, the Red Sox name was anything but welcome in Japan.

"When I first started, we didn't have a very good name in Japan," Deeble said. "We've had to move mountains. Basically, we weren't allowed in stadiums. That went back from the old days and some things that obviously happened. Anytime we walk into a ballpark now, the media just comes running over, and I'm sure the next time they will want to know about this. We've got a good name in Japan, but the work isn't done."

After witnessing the best of Matsuzaka in person (he struck out 14 batters in Japan's Olympic meeting with the Australian National Team that Deeble managed in '04), the scout finally came to the end of the line a month ago. The homework was complete, the reports had been filed and the decision as to what the pitcher was worth had been made.

All Deeble could do was wait.

"I was in Taiwan at a tournament, and I knew we had the posting (to negotiate with Matsuzaka) but had to deny that I knew anything about it," he said. "There were so many rumors flying around Taiwan because there were a lot of scouts there. They were saying that such-and-such were bidding $40 million, but Seibu wasn't going to accept that. I was sitting there thinking, 'Holy cow, if they only knew.' It wasn't about keeping a secret, it was about doing my job."

The waiting continued throughout the negotiating process, stretching to 4 a.m., yesterday in Australia when Deeble jumped out of bed to check if Matsuzaka had boarded owner John Henry's private jet.

And then came the call from Shipley as he stepped off the plane onto the Hanscom Field tarmac. Deeble and the Red Sox had their man.

"My job was done. The negotiating part was up to the front office guys, and I think we were in very good hands," Deeble said. "My job was to get the reports in on this guy, track him around, follow him, and get an idea what the market would be. It was a total team effort. Nobody could put their hand up and say they were responsible for this guy. And again, without the ownership none of it would be possible.

"I know it's been a circus in Boston the last day or so, but I still don't think people realize how big this guy is. This guy's massive. This guy is bigger than (Hideki) Matsui in Japan. This is huge."