Interview Excerpts

Identify Players

The draft has prompted teams to start looking more at college players because the players at that level are more of a finished product.  Players in college are more mature physically, so teams can get a better look at what the players will look like in the future.  It’s also important that when a college player gets drafted, it’s not his first time being away from home.  — Bill Almon, Former Player

A scout is not going to keep his job very long if he drafts a bunch of Dustin Pedroias.  He doesn’t have a real live body.  He doesn’t have quick feet. He runs with effort.  His swing is a big man’s swing on a little man’s body.  You think, “No chance that this is going to work.”  But that is why you need to build a history with those types of players.  That is why you have to keep going back.  You have to keep an open mind on players like Pedroia. 

I walked into Arizona State, saw Pedroia in one game and thought, “Okay, he’s probably a utility player.”  If you only see him for one game, you are just putting together what you are seeing and you are comparing him to the rolodex of players in your head and that is what he profiles at on a one-game quick look.  But if you have the chance to see him over time, which an area scout would, you can see his true potential.  — Russ Ardolina, Scout

Our area scout, Johnny DeCarlo, got a chance to spend some time with Joe Panik.  He told the story that he was supposed to have an at-home meeting with Joe and there was a big snowstorm on the day of the meeting.  Johnny was worried about missing the meeting.  Joe was telling Johnny, “Not a problem, be careful, we can make it another day…”   — John Barr, Scouting Director 


It’s hard enough to get there; it’s super hard to stay.  So much of the game is about opportunity and when your draft order and your bonus are not in the higher echelons, right from the get-to, you don’t get the opportunity.  The choice roles are not given to you initially as a minor leaguer.   I always knew that I would have to pitch my way to the major leagues.  I knew that I was never in anyone’s plans to start a season…  — Jeff Bittiger, Former Player and Current Scout


There was a kid right from where I live.  I didn’t draft him, but it’s Rich Aurilia.  He played at Xaverian High School in Brooklyn, not far from my house, and at St. John’s University.  For me, he never hit.  Good glove.  He wasn’t a high-round pick.  The Rangers took him in the 24th round and later traded him to the Giants for John Burkett. 

The scouts who drafted him were Brian Lamb and Omar Minaya with the Texas Rangers.  They made an adjustment with him in the minor leagues.  From the day he signed, except for one season, he never hit under .279 in the minors and had a collective .290 average for all of his minor league games.  All of a sudden, he’s hitting the ball.  I saw Brian Lamb and Omar Minaya in the fall one year and I asked them, “What did you do, sprinkle fairy dust on this kid?” I didn’t have him in.  — Billy Blitzer, Scout

In any draft, the odds are 29 to 1 against a team.  You’re competing against a lot of very good evaluators who work for a lot of good clubs.  The reason he [Billy Beane] didn’t have more success was that his makeup was not that resilient.  When he struggled, he didn’t have the makeup to know how to react.  Everybody struggles to some extent. The more Billy Beane struggled, the less competitive he became…  — Gib Bodet, Scout


The Milwaukee Brewers came in initially with an offer of about $60,000 – $65,000.  They wouldn’t budge off that figure.  The Brewers’ scout was a typical scout.  He comes in and says, “Well, you know the number one guy always gets $90,000 to $100,00 and the second guy gets $80,000 – $90,000, and the third guy always gets $70,000 – $80,000, and the fourth guy always gets $60,000 to $70,000.”  And my dad says to the scout, “Boy, I’d hate to be that eleventh guy.”

Now is — and this is much different than when I first got involved in the draft — and that is that the various different sources of data, including the opinions of the scouts, are pulled together, more and more often, and by “pulled together” I mean aggregated and weighed into a decision-making model.  That is a relatively recent trend in baseball, over the last five or ten years.  — Bill Bordley, Former Player

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

Dunston had athleticism, the arm, electricity.  The kid could run, hit and do a lot of different things.  He was a little rough around the edges as a player.  The Cubs were trying to build from the ground up at that point and he was a good pick for us.  I still see Shawon.  He works for the Giants.  When I was with the Giants, we acquired him twice and then hired him as a coach after that.  So I have had to make a decision on Shawon three or four times — always glad I did, by the way…  — Ned Colletti, Former General Manager


Tony Gwynn as a kid, he didn’t just wake up and be a great hitter, he worked. I used to go down to San Diego State to watch them play and even after Tony was in the big leagues, he would be in the batting cage hitting for hours, talking about hitting. learning the game. Some guys make it their goal to be drafted high, some guys have a goal of just getting to the big leagues, others like Tony really strive to be the best player they can be and they put in the work to achieve that goal. The guys like Tony Gwynn are going to succeed because they work at it and work at it properly…  — Orrin Freeman, Scout


What impressed me most of all was I thought [Derek Jeter] he had the maturity to play in Yankee Stadium, which is the toughest place to play in all of sports.  He had so much poise and so much confidence.  He had the ability to handle failure.  He turned out to be Pied Piper of the Yankees.  Whatever Derek was doing, everybody followed…  — Dick Groch, Scout


I started going up with my dad to the Alaskan collegiate league when I was maybe five or six years old.  That was when my real love for scouting began.  It was when wanting to do this for the rest of my life blossomed.  I’d hold the radar gun.  I would tell people when I was that little that I want to be a baseball scout…  — Amanda Hopkins, Scout


We used to say that a college player was a smarter pick.  The two biggest risks in the draft are high school catchers and high school right-handed pitchers.  History will show you that.  The failure rate is astronomical.  Yes, you can also get some good ones going that route…  — Ron Hopkins, Scout


I believe firmly in drafting athletes.  I believe that the sooner you get them the better.  I am heavily weighted toward picking high school kids for a lot of reasons.  We want to get the kids out of school and teach them to play baseball.  The college coaches do a very good job, but their job is predicated on one thing—winning.  College coaches are not in the player development business.  Their job is to win.  Pro teams are in the player development business.  That’s why I like to get the players as soon as possible, preferably before they go to college.  — Gary Hughes, Scout

They asked if anybody else wanted to throw anyone else in the mix, I raised my hand and said, “Kris Bryant,” and I told what I saw and liked about Bryant and mentioned the reasons why I thought this was a guy we should still consider, his athleticism, his makeup, his power, his ability to hit, he had all five tools, and I just thought he was too good to ignore, they all doubled back on him… — Sam Hughes, Scout


Billy Beane was ahead of me.  In spring training, I used to peek at other fields to see what the other players were doing.  I wanted to see the guys that I had been reading about, the guys in front of me, watch them take batting practice and infield practice.  We’d all be in the cage together.  I remember the balls that Billy would hit.  He was tall, handsome, had a cannon for an arm.  I would think, “Who chiseled him?”  He could smoke the ball from both sides of the plate.  He ran fast.  From afar, it looked like he was really going to be something.  — Stan Jefferson, Former Player

My first year scouting, there was a gentleman named George Digby who signed Wade Boggs and so many great hitters for the Red Sox.  He was a Southern gentleman but he was known as a “hitting scout.” So we were sitting at a minor league ballpark and I said, “Mr. Digby, I’m Dan Jennings, I’d like to pick your brain about hitting.”  He goes, “Okay…”  — Dan Jennings, Former General Manager


[Nick Markakis] was probably one of the toughest kids that I have ever scouted.  He just had no desire to give up on anything.  In any part of the game, there was no give whatsoever.  He was very determined, a very hard worker, quiet.  Some of the guys you notice just because of their antics.  Nick was just a quiet, go-at-it type who did everything he needed to do.  I think he could have been a first-round pitcher.  He was just determined to make it.  There was no quit in that kid.  I did an in-home visit with him three days before the draft.  I asked him, “When they introduce you in Baltimore, are they going to introduce you as a pitcher or an outfielder?”  He said, “I don’t care, as long as they introduce me.”  His makeup was off the chart.  — Dave Jennings, Scout