Scouts deserve their due

Scouts deserve their due

When I think about this week, the week of the First-Year Player Draft, I think about the most important people involved with Major League Baseball in my view -- the scouts.

The scouts are the heart and soul of baseball. They are the guys who sit right behind home plate at the ballparks throughout the country and yet are overlooked in many ways.

That's why it was nice to see the recent announcement by the Goldklang Group that it would team up with the Topps Company to establish a Baseball Scouts Hall of Fame and honor 12 scouts in the inaugural class this year.

Make no mistake, this isn't the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. There is a movement to see that the scouts receive their due recognition at Cooperstown, but this hasn't become a reality as yet.

The Goldklang Group is a sports entertainment, consulting and management firm that works with six independent league teams and decided it was time to speed up the process to give the scouts some recognition.

During the course of this summer, beginning on June 21, each of the six teams involved with the Goldklang Group will honor two scouts with a plaque being placed on a Hall of Fame wall to be established at the respective parks.

The teams carry somewhat unusual names and in locations where you might not immediately think of baseball -- the Charleston River Dogs of Charleston, S.C.; the Hudson Valley Renegades of Fishkill, N.Y.; the Ft. Myers Miracles of Ft. Myers, Fla.; the St. Paul Saint Paul, Minn.; the Sioux Falls Canaries of Sioux Falls, S.D.; and the Brockton Rox of Brockton, Mass.

It's really quite fitting that the scouts would be honored at what might seem to be out of the way locations. That all ties in with the life of a scout, going to whatever location is needed in the search for talent.

Even less known than the locations are the scouts themselves who will be honored. That's simply the nature of their job. They were chosen because of their years of service as a professional scout, their contributions to the sport and to the are as where they will be honored.

Each scout will be saluted in an on-field ceremony with the unveiling of their bronze plaque that will be placed on a Hall of Fame wall at the park.

I've been fortunate to know several of the scouts to be honored in the first class -- John Tumminia of the Chicago White Sox, Tom Giordano of the Texas Rangers, Tom Kotchman and Brad Sloan of the Los Angeles Angels, Buzz Bowers of the Boston Red Sox, Art Stewart of the Kansas City Royals, Phil Rizzo and Lon Joyce of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Hep Cronin of the Atlanta Braves, Donny Rowland of the New York Yankees, Rudy Satin of the San Francisco Giants and Lennie Merullo of the Major League Scouting Bureau.

We decided to reach out to these scouts with the help of the Goldklang staff to ask these veterans to pass along their best advice to the young scouts of today. Here is a sampling of the response.

Tumminia: "Never turn your back on a player you have a gut feel for."

Giordano: "You have to be careful about getting information from other people. Do your own scouting -- show up early and watch batting practice and warm-ups and take notes. Starting pitching is more than just the gun. You have to look at physical ability and see how it is applied."

Sloan: "Respect the game. Work at your profession and try to add to the game in a positive manner. Be aggressive with your scouting and try to bring both good players and good people into the game of baseball. Never forget to make time for your family."

Bowers: "Major League scouting is a privilege; learn as much as you can and enjoy your job. You will never forget the experience."

Rizzo: "If you never played the game, reading a book won't help you. You have to get in the trenches. Also, find an older scout and let them teach you the ropes."

Joyce: "My advice to young scouts is to respect the integrity of the game and to respect the experienced scouts who have come before you. You can learn in your early career by listening instead of talking. Learn how to scout before you start looking for your next promotion. Don't be afraid to make your own gut decisions on players and don't get caught up in the decisions of your peers."

Cronin: "Work hard and keep quiet and listen and learn. Have strong convictions in your opinions and stick by them. Don't be afraid to be wrong. You won't become a real scout until you miss on some guys."

When you talk to the veteran scouts you can hear the passion in their voices. The journey never is easy, but it's clear the scouts treasure their experiences.

The reward for the scout is to have a hand in the signing of a player. The player often gains fame and fortune while all too often the scout is forgotten.

As part of its contribution to the program, Topps has decided to turn out baseball cards of the scouts being honored in addition to other scouts who have signed Major League players in recent years.

Let's hope all of this leads to a day when the scouts receive full and complete recognition at Cooperstown.

Fred Claire was a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1969-98, serving the team as Executive Vice-President and general manager. His book -- Fred Claire: My 30 Years in Dodger Blue -- was published by Sports Publishing LLC. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.