Professional and amateur scouting in baseball has always brought about excitement for those who make their living searching for players. When an aspiring youngster is first approached by a scout, he knows that he has a chance of one day fulfilling his dream of becoming a major league ballplayer. Scouts who grind it out seven days a week in all kinds of weather, covering thousands of miles, staying in cheesy hotels and eating food from questionable places, will become extremely excited when they find a true prospect and when one of their signed players makes it to “the Show,” it’s not just the player who feels elated.
Today’s players attend showcases all over the country where many scouts, both college and professional, will gather to see them go through various drills to measure their skill level.
Sometimes they may not get to see them in an actual game. Therefore, players will send scouts a professionally produced video along with stats of themselves with yearly up-dates. Radar guns and video equipment are the main tools used to gather information for scouting reports now. No longer will a scout rely on just his stopwatch and a good strong hand shake to decide if he is watching a true prospect. Today the front office wants to see numbers and video. They rely on a lot of that information to decide if they should sign someone. With pitchers, velocity is number one. If he can throw 90 and higher, he is a prospect with his “pitching ability” low on the list. I still want to know, can he throw strikes or better yet, can he get outs?
For the young player, the feeling of euphoria is incredible when they are approached by a scout. I remember the excitement of being scouted for the first time in 1965. Then, getting letters from big league teams and going to tryouts. Scouts back then were hard-nosed crusty characters and after a while I got the feeling that having to dodge spit from the tobacco they chewed was some kind of evaluation drill they did to see how agile you were.
You knew that when they came to one of your games, there would be no messing up in front of them. Prior to the draft that began in 1965, long time scouts would keep good prospects hidden. As a matter of fact, they would hide themselves when attending games so other scouts didn’t see them. Literally behind trees or bleachers.
In 1968 I was drafted by the Oakland A’s as a 19-year old pitcher. The first pick in the fifth round of the January draft, #75 over all. I will always remember that day and the scout who followed me for three years and put my name into the draft. He changed my life.
That area scout for Oakland in the state where I lived back then, was a scouting legend named Tom “T-BONE” Giordano. Over the years I have formed a close relationship with this baseball man. Tom is still working in baseball at the age of 92 and he will be entering his seventieth consecutive year in pro ball this season. He presently works for the Atlanta Braves as a major league scout and one of the top advisers to the general manager. Giordano signed Cal Ripken and Manny Ramirez among others and working with him is like being an apprentice to Michelangelo as I learn everyday from the “master.” He has signed hundreds of players and coaches through the years and obviously is a baseball “lifer.” To this day, he still gets excited when he sees a young 17-year old lefty throwing smoke in high school.
Finding that diamond in the rough has been the mission for all scouts going back to Babe Ruth’s days. The use of technology has increased tremendously over the years, but the fact remains that it still comes down to a scout’s eyes and gut feeling through years of experience that will ultimately get a kid signed, or a pro brought up to the big leagues where he has a chance to be the next phenom.