Scouts' efforts to be recognized in Hall of Fame exhibit

'Diamond Mines' honors those behind the scenes who discover baseball's future stars

True scouting story: Driving to a game one day, Rangers scout Joe Branzell was rear-ended. He wasn't seriously injured, so, after pulling to the side of the road, he called a friend to come and take him home.

It turned out the men had to make two trips to get all of Branzell's belongings out of his vehicle and back to the house. There were some 25 years of records of players he had signed, including future big leaguers like Mike Stanley, Dick Bosman and Billy Sample. There was also a hot plate. And countless plastic spoons and packets of artificial sweetener.

"All scouts have a second home," Joe Klein, former general manager of the Rangers, Indians and Tigers and now president of the independent Atlantic League, said with a laugh, cutting to the moral of his story. "And it's their car."

Until now, the contribution of scouts to baseball -- not to mention the long hours and nomadic lifestyle -- have gone been largely overlooked. That's beginning to change. On Saturday, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y., will unveil the "Diamond Mines" exhibit to both honor the men who gave so much to the game and to educate the public about their role in discovering the stars of the future.

"There's a lot of conversation how important scouting and player development are to the success of a Major League team. But sometimes the scouts don't receive the credit they really should," said Hall of Fame executive Pat Gillick, who always stressed that aspect of the game while helping lead the Blue Jays, Mariners, Orioles and Phillies to the playoffs. "They're kind of in the background. They're not on the main stage. They're not on display at the big league park. They're the behind-the-scenes people who get the work done. And for them to finally receive recognition, which I think is long overdue, is a wonderful thing.

"Because most of the people who are in player development and scouting have a passion, a love for the game. That's why they're doing it. They're certainly not doing it from a monetary standpoint. So finally to show some appreciation to these individuals who have really toiled in obscurity for a number of years, I think it's quite important."

Roberta Mazur, executive director of the Scout of the Year program, has been working for almost three decades to see scouts have a place in Cooperstown.

"It's really going to be an honor," Mazur said. "It's a tribute to the scouts who have worked so hard for so many years. It's for them. I'm just elated that they're going to have representation at the Hall of Fame."

Mazur got her start in baseball as an usher at Angels home games. She eventually became a ticket-taker, receptionist and worked in the accounting department before becoming administrative assistant to scouting director Larry Himes in 1985.

"I got to know all the scouts," she said. "I would sit down there with them pregame and pick their brains. I learned a lot about baseball. I was like a sponge. I wanted to learn more and more and more. I'd ask them how they worked."

Gillick and Mazur will be among the featured speakers during the "Diamond Mines" opening weekend. Gillick, Roland Hemond and Don Welke will participate in a "Voices of the Game" roundtable discussion Saturday morning at which Mazur will make a special guest appearance. That afternoon, there will be a "Behind the Exhibit" event featuring curator John O'Dell and scout Jim Martz, who donated many of the materials being displayed. Also, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET, visitors can stop by the Learning Center for a program in which Hall of Fame staff will present visitors with several scouting reports on some of baseball's all-time greats with the identifying information removed. Fans can then use the data to build their team based on the scouting reports.

Scouting has changed dramatically over the years. Before the First-Year Player Draft was instituted in 1965, scouts often competed fiercely to sign the same players. Mazur has two favorite stories about those days.

"Before they had the Draft, Tony Lucadello [of the Phillies] went to sign a player and he was having a tough time with it," she said. "He excused himself and went to his car, and in the car he had a jar of onion juice. And he dabbed it on his eyes and went back in and gave an emotional, crying speech. And signed the player.

"They would do anything to sign the player. There was the time Nick Kamzic [of the Angels] stole [Red Sox scout] Chuck Coney's wooden leg so he could get there before him. Chuck had an appointment for the same player and Nick Kamzic took his leg and hid it."

Gillick expects a rush of memories to hit him when he sees the displays.

"I'm going to think of a lot of people I worked with and a lot of people I competed against who I had a tremendous amount of respect for," he said. "That's one thing in the scouting fraternity. Even though you're competitors, most scouts have a tremendous amount of respect for people who have a love and a feeling for the game."

The Scout of the Year Foundation is underwriting the first two years of "Diamond Mines" with hopes that permanent sponsorship can be found.

"We are talking," Gillick said. "I know that [Hall of Fame president] Jeff Idelson is working very hard toward that end and I'm certainly going to support that effort. Hopefully we're going to be able to raise the necessary funds for a permanent wing."

This is a step in that direction. Dozens of scouts and team personnel will be on hand for the opening. Klein will be one of them. And one of the things he'll see will have special meaning for him: Branzell's radar gun.

Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.