Steve Brooks still remembers the day -- April 23, 1983.
It was a cool evening at Gyro Park in Prince George, but he got hold of ball and with one swing the bat launched it over the fence for his first of two career home runs. Brooks still has that ball, autographed by all his Little League PG East teammates, and he's taken that souvenir with him all the way on his career path to major league baseball.
The 39-year-old College Heights secondary school graduate is now overseeing the purse strings of a major league team as the Toronto Blue Jays' vice-president of finance and administration.
"Given my ball-playing skills, this is my only shot at the major leagues, through the front office," said Brooks. "When you can't hit the 95 mile-an-hour fastball and you're a decent enough accountant, I guess you can count the money for those who can hit that 95-mile-an-hour fastball."
So how does a guy from Prince George rise to the top as the Jays' chief bean-counter?
It started at UBC in 1988, where Brooks used his honour-roll high school status to get started on a history degree. He graduated in 1992, then branched off to finance and accounting. In 1994 he began articling in Vancouver with Deloitte & Touche, the start of a six-year stint that took him to New York City in 2000. Brooks was visiting a client across the Hudson River from the World Trade Center in New Jersey when the 9/11 disaster took place.
Brooks worked in the telecommunications practice for four years with Deloitte and had advanced to a senior management position when he decided to return to Canada.
"Given my telecommunications background in New York, to come back to Canada my choices were either Telus in Vancouver, Rogers in Toronto or Bell in Montreal, and Rogers at the time was certainly a company on the move in a great growth stage," he said.
Brooks joined the Blue Jays in March 2009, after five years in management roles with Rogers Communications, which owns the team. He oversees the finances of the ball club, prepares the budget for all departments, and works with the team's baseball operations to determine what players the Jays can afford.
"I jumped at the chance, it was a great opportunity," Brooks said. "It's a dream job. For a guy like me who loves baseball, there was obviously that attraction to the job. But the intellectual rigour around the business side of things is challenging and fascinating in itself and you get a real appreciation for the complexity of the business of sport.
"It's an interesting job and a whole lot of fun and I have the pleasure of working for someone like (Jays president and CEO) Paul Beeston. It's a real privilege for me. He's obviously an accomplished baseball man as president of Major League Baseball for awhile and he's won two world titles. He's probably one of the sharpest business minds that I've had the pleasure to work for. There's so much that goes on behind the scenes of a baseball game itself, you really get a true appreciation that professional sport is a business."
Brooks was born in Toronto and moved to Prince George with his family at age 8. He was a utility player in Babe Ruth Baseball and was also part of the Prince George Senior Baseball League, once hitting a ball out of Monty Gabriele Park.
Brooks's parents -- Bob Brooks and Bev (Phil) Ramage -- still reside in Prince George. He returned to the city last July and got to watch the Enbridge World Baseball Challenge at Citizen Field.
Brooks promises the Jays will back the tournament with a sponsorship when it returns to Prince George next year. The Blue Jays hosted Mayor Dan Rogers and several members of city council last week at game at Rogers Centre to discuss the team's future involvement in the WBC.
"Last summer I had the pleasure of seeing the great work (the organizing committee) put together with that tournament -- they drew some real quality teams and in 2011 it looks like they will draw equal-quality teams and better," Brooks said. "The Blue Jays certainly look forward to involvement in the tournament in 2011. It's a great tournament and premier event for Prince George sport. Citizen Field is a great ballpark. It's quality facilities like that which draw teams like Team U.S.A. and Team Canada."
Brooks and his wife Connie, who spent part of their honeymoon last year at the World Baseball Challenge, celebrated the arrival of their first baby in March, a son named Charlie.
"Spring training was not a go for me this year," he said. "My son was born March 5th and I wanted to be there for that. He's three months old and he's been to 11 Blue Jays games already. He's definitely a diehard fan."