The name Tom Greenwade would make a great answer in the category of “Baseball Legends” for the final round of Jeopardy. Think you know?……….the answer will come later. But first ………
If you’ve ever gone to a college or minor league baseball game, you might have noticed the group of men sitting behind home plate with the tools of their trade……a radar gun, notepad, binoculars, and specially designed “tracking sheets”. While the typical fan is usually dressed in shorts and a tee shirt, these men will be easily spotted wearing khakis, sun hat, and a golf shirt.
And unlike the rest of us, they won’t be wolfing down two hot dogs and a beer. Between innings, they also won’t be paying attention to the sack race on the field. Instead, they’ll be on their cell phone securing a place to stay for the night…….or mapping out the road to the next destination.
These are your baseball scouts. They come in many sizes, shapes, and colors. They operate sometimes on instinct, while other times they are in a panic mode trying to get there first, always with the aid of modern technology, but never with the assurance of always being right……..
Lets take a revealing peek behind the scenes……………
“Who is the scout that signed Mickey Mantle?…………that is the answer to the Jeopardy question. In his own words, here’s how Tom Greenwade recalls how the signing came about according to SABR .
“We all went to Baxter Springs, and for the first time I see Mickey hit right-handed. Mickey racked the pitcher for four “clothes lines,” and I started looking all around for scouts, but none were there.
When the last out was made, Mr. Mantle, Mickey and I got in my car behind the grandstand and in 15 minutes the contract was signed. We agreed on $1,500 for the remainder of the season and the contract (Independence of the K.O.M.) was drawn calling for a salary of $140 per month. Mickey reported to Harry Craft at Independence. He was slow to get started and as late as July 10th was hitting only .225, but finished the season over .300. The following year at Joplin he hit .383, I believe. You know the rest”
Yes, we do. But it was Hall Of Famer Lefty Gomez who coined the phrase “I’d rather be lucky than good” and maybe that’s what scouting is more than anything……being at the right place at the right time. Still, that doesn’t give the job of being a scout justice.
Because the complexity of the job reveals a myriad of coulda’s and shoulda’s ……..witness this report filed by Russ Bove of the Brewers when he filed this unenthusiastic 1999 report on a third baseman for Maple Woods CC in Kansas City: “Heavy, bulky body … future weight problem … tends to be a hacker. Chases.” The player was Jose A. Pujols, whom you probably know from his middle name.
Or how about this one …….The 1965 scouting report on a USC sophomore pitcher named Tom Seaver read: “This boy showed a real good fast ball with good life … boy has plenty of desire to pitch and wants to beat you.”. That one was filed by Tom Lasorda.
Usually though, it’s about more than the numbers recorded by the radar gun. “You have to take advantage of anything you can to help you look beyond the numbers,” said a National League scout nearing his third decade in the business. “That’s why you have to scout. The statistics help, but the numbers never tell the full story.”
Another veteran scout adds, “It’s an inexact science because we all see players differently. It’s based on our experiences of watching and our experiences of seeing similar players perform. Usually, when you see a guy, you can relate them to another player you’ve seen in the past and that helps your boss visualize what he looks like and could be capable of doing.”
Still, it’s not exactly rocket science either. Because even I can recall going to a Class A game in 2005 or thereabouts and watching one of the first games played by Josh Hamilton when he returned from a one year suspension. At the time, he was being given a chance by the Tampa Bay Rays and playing for the Hudson Valley Renegades in Wappinger Falls, New York. I remember that he just stood out from the rest…….his body, the way the uniform looked on him, and oh yes that sweet wonderful swing.
And maybe that’s why there is no recipe for the qualifications to be a Major League scout. So while many scouts have a history attached to baseball and perhaps even played in the majors, and this is a way of staying connected to the game after retirement, a successful scout can just as easily be someone (like Tom Greenwade) with no official connection to the game.
But one thing they generally have in common is that they don’t do it for the money. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a median salary of $28,340 for professional coaches and scouts in the United States, based on 2010 data. The 25th to 75th percentile pay range is $18,800 to $43,930 a year. The 10th percentile salary is $16,380 and the 90th percentile figure is $63,720. These figures take into account both full-time and part-time positions.
As a result, a comraderie exists within the fraternity of scouts that often lends itself to freely sharing information. For example, if the team you are working for has already passed on a player you’ve been scouting, there is a unspoken rule that you can silently make your report available to a scout who’s team is still in the hunt for the player.
Finally, although the Baseball Hall Of Fame has a exhibit reserved for scouts, Tom Greenwade is clearly the exception to the rule………..because you don’t generally get rich and famous as a major league scout………… And yet while that may be true, clearly the success of any team in baseball has its roots in their scouting department and they continue to be a integral and interesting component in the world of baseball………
SOURCES AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS:
Scout Salaries. ehow.com
Hall Of Fame Exhibit And Tom Greenwade espn.go
General Background coloradan.com