September 2011

MLB Scout School: Day 5

“Ability and desire, then you have a star!”
-MLSB Development Handbook

“You can’t just look at his performance. This was instructional league. He was probably working on something,” Rusty explained. My instructor and I were reviewing my scout report on a 20-year old, former first round draft pick for the Angels, who had struggled with his command that day. As we reflected on the pitcher’s outing, Rusty rolled up his hand like a spy glass and asked me, “what does he have? What can he do?”

I thought about what that 6’3, left-handed pitcher could do. He threw between 90-95; mostly at 92. That’s a “good” fastball (grade: 6). His fastball (FB) had occasional cutting action, with sink down in the zone. His change had fading action away from the right-handed hitter (RHH). The curve had a ¾ break. I graded his present control “below average” (grade: 4) with a future grade of 5 (average). I noted, “struggled in command. Will improve with experience.” In my summation, I predicted he had the chance to be a major league (ML) quality #3 starter. In other words – he was a prospect.

As we mulled over that scouting report, Rusty was really reminding me of a life lesson. Truthfully, this scout development program has challenged me. And sometimes I doubt my abilities. But I think I need to use my own self-reflecting spyglass. I need to see not what I don’t do but rather what I can do. And like that Angels pitcher – recognize that I’m just “working on something.” That I’m not done developing.

Scout school is like my own Instructional League. And I might just be a prospect.

MLB Scout School: Day 4

“Time is what prevents everything from happening at once.”
-Albert Einstein

Part of being a successful scout is staying organized and working hard. My days here at the scout development program are very full. Below is what Sep. 28th looked like for me. It’s a pretty typical day here: A good mixture of challenge and fun.

4:30–6:00am
Wake-up. Text daughter I love her. Finish homework reading. Answer work emails. Review blog entry and post it.

6:00-6:40am
Looking for a day-off in the gym. Play basketball in the hotel court and just mix-in plank variations.

6:40-7:00am
Breakfast at the hotel.

7:00-8:30am
More work emails and phone calls. Need to keep up with work at Sport in Society and Baseball For All.

8:30am
Normally, class begins at 9 but today have to redo our head shots and have pictures done.

9:00-10:15am
Class. One of the hardest things for me to do is sit. Thankfully, sit in the last row, so can squirm all I want.

10:25am – 3:00pm
Make more work phone calls and emails on the bus to the Instructional game. Call family members and wish them a Happy New Year. At the game, evaluate all of the arms as players take INF. During the game, evaluate and prepare to write a report on the Indians pitcher and the Rangers SS. Even with special focus on the pitcher and SS, I still keep eye on rest of players.

3:00-5:00pm
Back in classroom. Review video of the pitcher and SS. Handwrite my scout report.

5:00-5:45pm
Check-in one last time for work, making sure emails are answered. Start typing in hand-written report into computer.

5:45-6:00pm
Back in the classroom.

6:00-7:30pm
Dinner in the courtyard. Dinner is a favorite part of the day because of informal conversations between participants and instructors. Finish entering my report in the computer and then printing it out.

7:30–8:00pm
Start blog. Try to keep up with who is winning the Yankees/Rays game.

8:00-8:30pm.
Meet with instructor to discuss my scout report. Nervous because I know report needs work. But in actuality, it was fun. Liked talking about the players and just becoming better in how I describe them.

8:30-10:45pm
Suppose to be finishing blog but get caught in the lobby watching the Red Sox lose and the Rays win. Had a fascinating conversation my group member, Craig Griffey, on what he looks for in a player. Coming from a baseball family and having played pro ball himself, his scouting perspectives have a real, original depth that I enjoyed hearing.

11:00pm
Decide to finish work in the morning. With heavy eyes, crawl into bed. Phone rings. My daughter doesn’t feel well and can’t sleep. Tell her I love her. Leave phone on speaker. Can hear her breathing. We fall sleep together.

MLB Scout School: Day 3

“Words equal numbers and numbers equal words.”
-MLSB Scout Development Handbook

I had walked this path between the parking lot and the A’s practice fields before. Back then the media was photographing every step my daughter and I took. I remember that feeling of wanting to hide but yet knowing that I couldn’t. Because I was on a mission. I was going to become the first woman to throw batting practice to the Athletics. And with each pitch, I would tell the story of how much women and girls love the game of baseball.

Today, I was at the A’s spring training site as a participant of the MLSB Scout Development Program. We were there to practice our evaluation skills on the instructional players. We would then go back to the classroom and write a scouting report.

The job of a scout is not only to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of a player but also to be able to tell what he or she sees. A player report must be concise and paint an overall picture of the player, including what the player can do now and what he or she may be able to do in the future.

A report will include both a number that rates the overall future potential of the player (OFP) and a worded summation that answers questions such as what future role that player may have a with a major league team. The scout’s words must support the numbers and the numbers must support the words.

My 13-year old daughter, Jasmine, bashfully put her head down in an effort to avoid the cameras as we walked from the A’s parking lot to the field. I remembered whispering to her to, “look up; it’s the one thing I have learned in life.” I thought of Jasmine and my BP journey as I walked back to the bus with my fellow scouts. And as I looked up, I felt a sense of community. My story was no longer linked with each pitch I threw but now with each scouting report I wrote. Now it is not just my dreams and the dreams of girls and women who love baseball but also the dreams of each player I scout and their own aspirations to one day play in the Big Leagues. I am not alone; I am in a community of baseball dreamers.

MLB Scout School: Day 2

“ A scout must be a positive thinker.”
-MLSB Scout Development Handbook

“Get out a piece of paper and roll it up like a spy glass; like you did when you were in 3rd grade,” instructed Jim Walton. Having scouted for the last 36 years (a.k.a. my entire life span), Mr. Walton is a bit of a legend in the scouting world. So when he says look through your spy glass, with blind allegiance, we all follow. He explains to us that what we must do as scouts is “to train our eyes to see what we are looking for.” Or in more existential terms – scout through “meaningful watching.”

Today, we observed a game between the Cubs and Diamondbacks in the Instructional Leagues. It was difficult for me to evaluate all that was around me. There was just so much to look at – from the pitcher’s mechanics, to the second baseman’s double play attempt, to how fast the hitter could run to first base. I didn’t know where to focus my eyes. In the end, I stopped trying to write everything down and just observed the players while listening to my instructor’s commentaries.

I loved listening to my instructor Rusty Gerhardt. He teaches by asking us questions. For example, Mr. Gerhardt kept asking us with each pitching change, “where is the pitcher’s hand when the stride foot lands?” With pitching being my favorite aspect of the game, these types of questions and discussions were my favorite. Tomorrow, I hope to do a better job of writing what I am seeing while also listening to my instructor.

I have seen so many baseball games in my career as a player, coach, and fan but now it’s different. Now I am seeing the game through the eyes of a scout. So whether, I roll up my own paper spy glass or just visualize 77-year-old Mr. Walton standing up in front of class with his own lens, I will remember to scout using a meaningful gaze.

As we ended our first day, our head instructor gave one last warning. He told the group that after we finish this scout program we will never look at a baseball game or player the same way. And I think that is so exciting.

MLB Scout School: Day 1

“She knew a ball player when she saw one”
-Phillies owner Bob Carpenter on the hiring of Edith Houghton, the first female MLB scout

After throwing batting practice to the Cleveland Indians, a reporter asked me: “what’s next?” I smiled and shared, “I have dreams, I haven’t even dreamt yet.”

I am now blogging from Phoenix, Arizona where I am participating in the MLB Scout Development Program. The school is from September 25-October 7. The Cleveland Indians sponsored me. And another dream has come true.

Today, was the first day. We had a 3 hour meeting filled with basic information of what to expect. Then we had staff and participant introductions. We were suppose to mention whether we had played pro ball. So when, it was my turn, I stood up, with my stomach in nervous knots, I gave my name and mentioned that I had not played pro ball. I heard laughter. I continued, “but I did coach half a season with the Brockton Rox of the Can Am league and 3 years of college D3 baseball as an assistant…” The laughter stopped and I sat down. Then Frank Marcos, the scouting bureau director, yells out, “Didn’t you also throw BP?”

According to the MLSB handbook. The purpose of a scout is to find players, evaluate players, and sign players. The number one listed quality of a scout: passion. I am so thrilled to be learning about how to scout players; to see another side of baseball; and to become a better person. So far, the vibe at the school is that instructors want us to learn and that it is ok to make mistakes. I feel relieved. And ready to learn.

As I go through this week and live out another remarkable dream, I will remember the dreams of Christina-Taylor Green. One of her dreams was to play major league baseball. Her dream ended when she was killed in the Tucson shooting last February; she was 9 years old. When I threw BP, I wore a memorial patch on my jersey sleeve in tribute to her. At scout school, I will wear the purple bracelet that her mother gave me. One side reads, “Christina-taylorgreen.org” and the other side has one simple word: “hope.” It is my hope that girls will grow up knowing that they too can become scouts, that dreams come true, and that baseball really is a game for all.

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