Sam Hughes, an area scout for the Chicago Cubs, liked outfielder Buck Coats from the start. He was not a known commodity; only Hughes had shown any interest. When Hughes visited Coats and his mother he could see that they did not have an easy life…
“Dick Young, a sportswriter for the New York Daily News, once encountered an irate Yogi in the Yankee clubhouse. Berra was looking at the boxscore printed in the Daily News for the game played the previous day…”
I was in my third year with the Tigers. John Young [scouting director for the Detroit Tigers] said to me, “I want you to go to McAdory High School, right outside of Birmingham, and go see this kid Bo Jackson. I don’t know what he can do, but I know he’s a great athlete…”
Birthdate of scout Harry Craft – April 19, 1915
Harry Craft played centerfield for the Cincinnati Reds for six seasons, 1937-1942. Known primarily as a stellar defensive outfielder, Craft closed out his major league career with a .253 batting average and 44 home runs. Following his playing days, Craft managed the Kansas City Athletics (1957-59), Chicago Cubs (1961), and Houston Colt 45s (1962-64). After stepping down as Houston’s manager, Craft remained in baseball for the next 26 years, working as a scout and farm system official for the Baltimore Orioles, San Francisco Giants and New York Yankees.
Since the introduction of the amateur player draft in 1965, there have been 56 players honored as the American League Rookie of the Year. A total of 18 of these players were drafted in the first round of the June draft. However, in the years since 1965, only one player who was named as American League Rookie of the Year has been the first overall pick in the June draft. Who was that player?
Feeling a Draft Excerpt
Baseball scouts are storytellers. Perhaps this trait comes from sitting in ballparks for extended periods—something to do in between taking radar gun readings. Greg Smith, Special Assistant to the Texas Rangers, is a ready example. Smith tells of the time that a veteran scout sent him to check out a prospect who was pitching for Sandra Day O’Connor High School in Phoenix. The veteran instructed Smith to see if the kid “could live up to his name.”
The kid’s name was Maverick Lasker. Smith thought to himself, “Top Gun? Really?” Smith went to see Lasker pitch. And the kid threw 94 mph, with a decent curveball. Smith reported back, “Yes, the kid can live up to his name.” Lasker played professionally for four years in the Brewers organization, but suffered a serious back injury and never advanced beyond the lower levels of the pro ranks. He was out of baseball at the age of 22. Today, he is on track to become an orthopedic surgeon, with hopes of enabling injured athletes to get back to the playing field. Meanwhile, Maverick’s own baseball experiences live on in the stories that Greg Smith tells.
Our purpose in writing this book is threefold. First, we wanted to analyze the results of baseball’s amateur draft during the first 50 years of its existence, 1965 to 2014. Second, we wanted to report on and assess, in the era of the amateur draft, the role of the scouts who go to investigate high school and collegiate prospects such as Maverick Lasker. Third, we wanted to relate the vibrant experiences and anecdotes of the scouting community. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and anecdotes attributed to scouts and others whom we have interviewed are derived directly from the interviews.
We have divided the book into nine sections—nine innings, so to speak. The “first inning” introduces the book. Innings 2 through 4 provide an account of each year of the draft and highlight some of the significant players selected in a given year. Innings 5 through 8 focus on the unique role that scouts play―and the unique difficulties that they face―in attempting to identify legitimate prospects from among all the ballplayers at the high school and collegiate levels. The ninth inning attempts to take a look into the future and discern the role of scouts in the age of baseball analytics.
We have felt both a need and an obligation to record on paper the very compelling stories spun by the scouts with whom we talked. In satisfaction of this mission, we have inserted, throughout the book, brief accounts in the form of sidebars. These sidebars relate the stories of the unique individuals who search the back roads, school yards and college campuses in the hope of finding that one ballplayer who can fill out a major league uniform.
San Francisco Giants assistant general manager John Barr says that baseball scouting is all about keeping an eye on the future. The hope is that good decisions at the scouting level will translate, some day, into victories at the major league level. In Barr’s view, “that is what gets a scout in his car every day or getting on an airplane every day to see a game in a distant city.” The scout’s mentality, Barr says, must be, “Today I have got to make a difference.” We hope that this book, in at least a small way, will make a difference as well.
“There is no department in baseball that is more important than the scouting department. I say that for this reason: if you don’t identify and sign the players—no matter how great your player development program is and how great your major league staff is—a team is only going to go as far as the talent will take it. People who know me know that I believe one of the most overlooked parts in scouting is understanding the ability to know the makeup of a player, what is his character.
To succeed in this game, you better be passionate about it, you better be determined, and you better be driven to be the best you can be, because somebody is passing you by.”
— Fred Claire, Former General Manager