LOS ANGELES -- Quickly buried under the headline stack during the recent Winter Meetings was this: "Brito named International Scout of the Year."
That would be Mike Brito, who has had a hand in finding and signing Fernando Valenzuela, Yasiel Puig and a score of Dodgers from various corners of the world during nearly 40 years of service. That puts him behind only Vin Scully, Billy DeLury, Tommy Lasorda, Don Newcombe, Jaime Jarrin and Manny Mota on the baseball-operations tenure list.
Brito, 80, and still working, is the fourth winner of the International Scout of the Year Award, joining Dodgers executive Ralph Avila, Epy Guerrero of Toronto and Fred Ferreira of Baltimore.
Brito said the honor ranks with his induction into the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005 as the highlights of his career.
His acceptance speech was a stroll through Dodgers memory lane. Starting with the late general manager Al Campanis, who hired him in 1978, Brito thanked just about everyone he ever worked for. That included former owner Peter O'Malley, who Brito said "always took care of everybody," as well as many colleagues behind the scenes.
"One person I really thank is Terry Reynolds, who always had confidence in me," Brito said of the former scouting director, now an executive with the Reds. "He gave me the green light to sign any prospect if I felt the price was right."
Brito's thank yous also included former GM Fred Claire and farm director Charlie Blaney, as well as former scouting director Logan White (now an executive with the Padres), who teamed with Brito on a journey into Mexico to sign a relatively unknown Cuban outfielder named Puig.
Brito left pre-Castro Cuba to sign with Washington in 1955 and played seven Minor League seasons as a catcher. He continued his playing career in Mexico during the 1960s and eventually moved to Los Angeles, where he played baseball on the weekends.
That's when he discovered pitcher Bobby Castillo, recommending him to the Dodgers. Castillo is credited with teaching Valenzuela his trademark screwball when both were in instructional league. The Dodgers sent Brito to Mexico looking for more talent like Castillo, and he teamed with Mexican colleague Corito Verona to discover and help acquire Valenzuela in 1979.
Brito is listed as the signing agent for 21 players that have reached the Major Leagues. In addition to Valenzuela, Puig and Castillo, he took part in the signing of Luis Sanchez, Karim Garcia, Ismael Valdez, Antonio Osuna, Juan Castro, Dennys Reyes, Geronimo Gil, Noe Munoz, Victor Alvarez, Isidro Marquez, Arturo Lopez, Alfonso Pulido, Eddie Oropesa, David Cortes, Daniel Garibay, Joakim Soria, Oscar Robles and Onelki Garcia.
"We congratulate Mike on his significant contributions to the Dodgers' international scouting efforts and his success overall in baseball," said Bob Engle, the Dodgers' vice president of international scouting. "Mike has been an instrumental member of our organization for more than three decades and we are grateful for his service to the club."
In his acceptance, Brito reminded scouts gathered at the Winter Meetings not to get discouraged.
"Joe Cambria, the same guy that signed Tony Oliva, Camilo Pascual and Zoilo Versalles, also signed me," he said. "So, you see, we all make mistakes."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.