“At scout school. Watching Bryce Harper. Sweet! I’m think he might be a prospect “
-My tweet, at today’s Arizona Fall League game.
The left fielder threw home during In & Out and I immediately thought, I like that arm. Fluid, on target, and with carry. I note it’s a plus arm. As I match up jersey number to roster name I realize that LF is Bryce Harper. I chuckle to myself – at least I know scout school is working – prospect identified.
Today, we watched an Arizona Fall League game. Our assignment was to write a pro report on 2 position players, the starting pitcher, and a pitcher of our choice. A pro report identifies prospects at the AAA, AA, and A level and then defines the player’s prospect status and projected time of arrival as a Major League player. A pro report requires less descriptive detail than an amateur report but I think it demands more conviction.
My scout school epiphany happened today as I sat behind the radar gun. All program, I had been having trouble differentiating between a slider and a curveball and its descriptive movement. But today, I was able to instantaneously see the pitch movement, match it with a radar reading, and then have an instructor describe the movement with proper scout phraseology. And it all made sense to me.
Today was my favorite day at scout school. Now, I realize I keep writing that “that day” was my favorite day. Well…each day just keeps getting better than the last. But unfortunately, the last day is upon us.
And my Overall Evaluation (OEA) grade of MLSB scout development program: 8… “Premium.”
“Loves to play.”
-A phraseology from the MLSB Development Handbook that can used to describe a player’s intangible tools.
Wednesday began as a hump day for me. A bit worn down from my lack of sleep, I was moving at a snail pace. As we waited around at the field for rosters, I decided I just wanted to sit down. So I sat on the pavement, on top of my clipboard, put my head down, and started softly singing Snow Patrol’s Chasing Cars to myself.
“You all right,” asked Ross. Crouched down at my ear level, I replied embarrassed, “did you hear me singing?” Ross Smith is a fellow scout school participant who had just been released at Spring Training by the Cardinals. He asked me again if something was wrong. I told him I was tired. With all of the wisdom of a 23-year old, he insisted, “Get up. And fake it.”
There is a portion of a scouting report that asks for an evaluation on the player’s poise, instincts, and aggressiveness. These categories are where we get to list the intangibles. A recent ESPN reporter, described my physical presence as, “almost lethargic.” The reporter continued, “but in a baseball context she comes alive.” I’m grateful Ross reminded me of my own intangible qualities.
Today, became one of my favorite days at the ball park. The pitchers threw strikes, the players I observed had talent, and I was growing more comfortable in my evaluation role as a scout. I love scout school. But with just two days left, the end is near.
Senior Vice President of MLB’s Baseball Operations, Kim Ng, was at the field for a one day visit. As we briefly caught up, she asked me if I was enjoying myself. With the biggest smile I could give her, I answered, “I don’t want to go home.”
“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”
-Anaïs Nin, Diary, 1969
I was laying in the pool chair, under the night sky, with the hood of my sweatshirt pulled down over my eyes. I had just gotten done with my individual meeting with my instructor and I was disappointed in myself. I felt that I should have done better with my scouting reports.
I have fought for just about every baseball opportunity I’ve ever had. I was 13, when my baseball coach told me he didn’t want me on his team because I was a girl. But I didn’t quit. I was in high school when my coach said I couldn’t try out for the team. Then at a camp, I pitched against them; after that they let me tryout and play. I was 16, when one of my baseball heroes laughed when I said my goal was to coach college baseball. He said no man would listen to a woman on a ball field.
After being an assistant college baseball coach for 3 years, I went on and coached men’s pro baseball and even there, I was told that people expected me to quit. Two years later, I was talking to a MLB manager in the lobby at the Baseball Winter Meetings, telling him that I wanted to throw BP to his team. His response: “why the hell should I let you do that?” And then a few sentences later he asked me if I wanted to go up to his hotel room.
Six months ago, I asked the Major League Scouting Bureau a question pertaining to my academic work. Frank Marcos, the Director of the MLSB, emailed me back and asked if I would be interested in coming to Scout school. Of course, I said yes. The Cleveland Indians then agreed to sponsor me.
The most special part of scout school for me is that I was accepted from the very beginning. I didn’t have to fight my way in. I was invited. I was welcomed. And as I laid in my pool chair, feeling a little sorry for myself, I also thought of Mr. Marcos. Because from the beginning, he believed in me. And I am so grateful for that.
I want to be the scout school participant that Mr. Marcos thought I could be. And I know I’ll never quit trying.
“Your authentic self is the soul made visible.”
-Sarah Ban Breathnach
“You mean were not just here to get married,” I jokingly said to Tyler. She laughed, and replied, “I’ve heard that one before.” Tyler and I are the only women at the scout development program. But both of us are use to being the only females in a room filled with baseball guys. For me, the chance to hang out with another baseball woman has been awesome.
Tyler Tumminia grew up in baseball and is now a successful baseball executive. She is the V.P. of marketing and operations for the Goldklang group (NJ). She hosts a webisode called Be Your Own Fan TV (byoftv.com). Her father, John Tumminia, has been a scout for more than 30-years. Tyler spearheaded the creation of the Professional Baseball Scouts Hall of Fame.
Both Tyler and I have had our scout abilities and motivations questioned because of our gender. And so I wanted to ask her more about her experiences. Before coming to scout school, I had run into Tyler at various baseball events. When describing her to others, I would say that she is, “beautiful; dresses like a model; really smart; and way cooler than me.” Now that I have spent a week with her at scout school I would add: funny, sensitive, hard worker, and trustworthy. Below is my interview with her:
Why did you want to come to scout school?
I wanted to attend Scout School in order to hone and develop my scouting skills, which I believe will assist me in whatever role(s) I may occupy within the sport in the future. Enhancing my ability to evaluate players will add to my already well developed business skill set and help me become a well rounded candidate in the future. Everyone, new to the game or a veteran, can benefit from this program to further develop their ability to evaluate players.
Your dad is a well known, established scout. Tell me about him and what its like being his daughter?
I’m always under the gun! I’m always being evaluated (she says with a laugh) My father used baseball as an analogy for every life experience. For example, he would reference my academics like Ty – I think you sit 94-96. You can dial it up to 98-99 when the competition calls for it, though. He is a tough evaluator off/on the field, but my relationship is unique for a father and daughter, we can talk baseball and there was always time for a catch even to this day. When we have a catch, that’s when we can talk about anything under the sun.
What has been the most challenging aspect of scout school?
The schedule is a grind here. We start at 9:00AM with a day ending around 10:00pm- everyday for two weeks straight! The challenge is to maintain balance physically and mentally. They push you with information overload, expectations to capture an accurate snapshot of multiple prospects in your verbal evaluations and report writing, assignments at night and then you press play the next day and do it all over again.
If you could give one piece of advise to a girl who one day dreams of working in professional baseball what would that be?
Be your authentic self. It may seem simple- but as you mature and grow into success- it becomes a challenge. I encourage everyone male or female to be their authentic self and I promise you will find success in all aspects of life.
What are your dreams?
To be content with whatever life throws at me.
“A scout must have honesty, integrity, and loyalty.”
-MLSB Development Handbook
Today, we had the honor of meeting and listening to Don Pries. Eighty-four year old, Mr. Pries founded the Scout Development program 26 years ago. Beyond the amazing things that he has contributed to the baseball world, there is another reason I like him – He just looks happy. He radiates a sense of peace with his smile, kind eyes, and the encouraging words he shares.
Mr. Pries addressed us with a brief but inspiring talk. The beginning and end of his speech will always stay with me.
Thin and white haired, with a small bend in his upper back, Mr. Pries slowly but steadily walks up to the podium. He looks out at us. And in a confident and booming voice, he begins:
Do you have goals?
Do you have dreams?
Do you have goals and dreams that haven’t come true?
If it happens to you – then get another goal – get another dream.
Soaking in every word, we listen with rapt attention. Mr. Pries continues on about the joy of scouting, the benefits of the school, and the friends he has made along the way. Then he stops; looks out at us one more time. And with a smile, he concludes:
God bless you all.
And may all of your dreams come true.
“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.
“Time is what prevents everything from happening at once.”
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.
Wake-up. Text daughter I love her. Finish homework reading. Answer work emails. Review blog entry and post it.
Looking for a day-off in the gym. Play basketball in the hotel court and just mix-in plank variations.
Breakfast at the hotel.
More work emails and phone calls. Need to keep up with work at Sport in Society and Baseball For All.
Normally, class begins at 9 but today have to redo our head shots and have pictures done.
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.
Back in classroom. Review video of the pitcher and SS. Handwrite my scout report.
Check-in one last time for work, making sure emails are answered. Start typing in hand-written report into computer.
Back in the classroom.
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.
Start blog. Try to keep up with who is winning the Yankees/Rays game.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
“ 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.
“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.