Minaya had just been hired as general manager of the Montreal Expos, who were under Major League Baseball's stewardship because MLB allowed owner Jeffrey Loria to buy the Marlins instead -- and take most of the Expos staff with him.
When Minaya pulled into the parking lot in Jupiter at 5:30 a.m., a 24-year-old was waiting for him.
"I get out of my car," Minaya recalled recently, "and he ... came up to me and told me pretty much that he would do anything to work. I looked at him -- and Alex has a great passion and a way about him. I said, 'Well, come upstairs. I don't know what job I have for you. Just come upstairs.'
"[Alex] started making sure that all the scouts had phones. And that's how it started. We got him a little room. And he built from there. He took off from there."
Eight years later, Alex Anthopoulos is general manager of the Blue Jays. And his plan to rebuild Toronto's team stems from his experiences while working his way up from fan-mail sorter to GM.
Anthopoulos' immediate imprint on the Jays organization is in scouting and player development -- areas every team says it will emphasize. But Anthopoulos is showing he means it by sinking money into those areas.
"It's something I believe in," he said. "Being in the front office, having scouted, these are my experiences, and this is something I hope can give us a competitive advantage."
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The Jays have doubled their amateur scouting staff, from 18 to 36, so each scout has less territory to cover.
"Spending more time at the park, less time in your car," Anthopoulos said. "It's all about getting more looks at players."
For Anthopoulos, the plan is more than adding people.
"We're trying to make it a great place to work," Anthopoulos said. "You've got to build a culture. You've got to treat everybody right."
For example, the pro scouts will get 8-10 days a month off the road. Minor league coaches and managers will get a couple of long weekends during the season where they can go home or the Jays will fly in their families. Anthopoulos calls it the "family plan."
If Toronto is the best place to work, it can hire the best scouts and instructors. And that will mean better players.
Said one Jays person: "He's really sincere about having a good working environment."
Once this emphasis on finding players, through the draft or from other organizations, results in talent filtering up to the Jays, the theory goes, they can act like a large-market team -- which they are -- and top off with free agents.
Anthopoulos' plans get mixed reviews within the industry. One executive called it "progressive." Others say that hiring more scouts gives you less control over the quality of the scouting.
"We're really trying to stress quality more than anything else," Anthopoulos said. "You can have as many scouts as you like; if you don't have the right evaluators, it won't matter."
Anthopoulos is careful not to claim his ideas are completely original, or better than anyone else's.
"It's something that we need to do for us," he said. "It doesn't mean that we're smarter than anybody else or it's the right thing to do. It's just something we feel works for us."
A Montreal native, Anthopoulos broke into the business in 2000 by applying for an unpaid internship with the Expos. It came down to him and one other candidate, and Anthopoulos' relentless pestering of baseball operations assistant Mike Wickham won him the "job."
Which was collecting fan mail and putting it in the right slots in the clubhouse. For no pay.
"When I was done," Anthopoulos said, "I'd go out in the stands and try to scout, cause that was my true love. Try to teach myself and talk to scouts."
Midway through the season, someone in the media relations department quit, and media relations director P.J. Loyello plucked Anthopoulos to fill the position (he continued to sort the fan mail on the side).
Anthopoulos spent 2001 working for Fred Ferreira, the Expos' highly respected international scout, out of Ferreira's baseball academy in Pompano Beach, Fla. He would shag fly balls, fetch sandwiches, ferry players -- and, usually on his own time, scout minor league or college games. He also paid his own way to the annual "scout school."
It was Ferreira who recommended Anthopoulos to Minaya. People who were left with the Expos after the Marlins/MLB shakeup vouched for him, and new scouting director Dana Brown, impressed by Anthopoulos, asked Minaya to put Anthopoulos in his department. From there, Anthopoulos added duties as Montreal's scout for Canada.
"It was the best years of my life there," Anthopoulos said, "because I wore so many hats and was exposed to so many things."
After the Expos became the Washington Nationals, he moved to the Blue Jays as scouting coordinator. Within 2 1/2 years, he became J.P. Ricciardi's assistant GM.
Despite his rapid rise, Anthopoulos understands the grinders of the baseball world -- the type of people with which he is stocking his organization.
Anthopoulos would haul home Ferreira's old notebooks and study videos of players from drafts past, all to educate himself on the nuances of scouting. Even as GM, he'll leave the team for a day to go watch a potential draft pick.
"Alex is very versatile," Minaya said. "He can do a lot of things. Very passionate. And I think he's going to do fine. I think whatever he does, he's going to give you a good effort.
"He's very humble. He's not afraid to say, hey, I made a mistake. That's a great quality to have in this job."