Flores eager to cap journey from hill to war room

Former reliever preparing for first Draft with Cardinals as their scouting director

Flores eager to cap journey from hill to war room

MILWAUKEE -- Once it became apparent that there was no bubbling interest in a lefty reliever who had shuffled between three organizations in 2011, Randy Flores set his sights on returning to the path that a career in baseball had delayed. He made his way back to school.

Accepted into a post-secondary graduate program at the University of Southern California, Flores sought to advance his education, even if admittedly unsure to where that might lead. For the former World Series champion who played eight seasons in the Majors, the task was as much about the journey as it was the destination.

2016 MLB Draft: June 9-11 on MLB Network, MLB.com

"If nothing else, it was to show someone that I was willing to put in the time and energy and work and have the aptitude to be challenged in new and uncomfortable settings," Flores explained in recent a sit-down interview with MLB.com. "It's uncomfortable having grey hair and going to graduate school when you have two kids and you came out of a uniform while working during the day. My hope is that showed that I was willing to put in the work to whatever was next in my life."

It was the first stepping stone in a post-playing career that has since featured all sorts of unfamiliar landscapes. Flores graduated, dabbled in broadcasting, launched his own startup company and then took his most unexpected leap yet with a return to baseball. A surprise hire by the Cardinals late last summer, Flores, now the team's scouting director, is putting the finishing touches on preparation for next week's MLB Draft.

It'll be his first experience in an organization's Draft room, and Flores will be leading the way.

"From Day 1, he hit the ground running," general manager John Mozeliak said. "He certainly hasn't cheated in terms of time. He's one of the guys who you hear from at 5 in the morning and sometimes get texts from at 1 the next morning. As he prepares for his first Draft as scouting director, he's going into it with a lot of confidence that he understands how and why we make decisions."

Flores is the fourth person to hold that position since 2011, and his skill set is unique. While Jeff Luhnow, Dan Kantrovitz and Chris Correa each had more analytical backgrounds, Flores brings fresh perspective as a former player.

Flores' assimilation into the department has been a whirlwind, however, as the hacking scandal that cost Correa his job last July forced Mozeliak into his second scouting-director search in less than a year. He considered a variety of candidates outside the organization before settling on Flores, with whom he had stayed in contact following Flores' tenure as a Cards reliever from 2004-08.

"The one thing that always attracts me to someone is energy, the willingness to innovate and someone who is going to attack a job with excitement," Mozeliak said. "We interviewed a lot of different candidates with a lot of different backgrounds, but I felt like we needed someone who didn't have inherited biases in how things worked."

Flores accepted the offer and jumped right into a buzz of activity. Because he had missed the summer scouting period, he spent the first few months going backwards to find context. Flores described that as deciphering "how the pieces of the puzzle got to where they were in front of me."

After studying the organization's process and Draft history, Flores looked at the department through a procedural lens to see if he wanted to make any changes in the way the Cardinals got to their end goal. There ended up being few of those. The most notable was his decision to nix pre-Draft workouts. Then, beginning this spring, Flores dove into the scouting side of things.

This was where he encountered his biggest surprise yet.

"I had a picture in my head of what a scout did and how they acted and how they talked about players, and I couldn't have been more wrong," Flores said. "I thought that it was trying to find what's wrong in players. And what our scouts do is they try to find what's right in players. That excites them."

Flores recently returned from the road and will be hunkered down in St. Louis until after the June 9-11 MLB Draft passes. Over this final week of preparation, there's a Draft board to build and mock drafts to hold. It's the closest Flores can get to simulating what he'll encounter as he steps into yet another unknown setting.

Flores noted that his greatest asset could be the untrained eye he brings to the process.

"I think the uniqueness might be the lack of experience," Flores said. "There is a fresh set of eyes and a fresh lens without any indoctrination into, 'This is how it should be done,' or 'This is how it has been done.' For some, that's a great, great skill to have. For others, it's a drawback. I am inordinately grateful that Mo appreciated that."

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.