In search of talent, scouts cover the United States, Puerto Rico, Central America, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands and the Pacific Rim. Each major league team has an average of thirty to thirty-five scouts, including part-time and associate scouts in the United States. Every year they collectively cover millions of miles and see thousands and thousands of players.
Your first contact with professional baseball will probably be with a scout. In the broadest sense, the scouting process begins the first time you put on a uniform to play organized baseball and ends the last time you take it off. In a nutshell, scouts get to travel, see games, and turn in reports on players that catch their eye. From that, teams compile their Preferential Draft List (PDL), and you’re drafted or you’re not; either way, as long as you play the game, major league baseball scouts can be a part of your world. Every professional baseball player had to be liked by a scout. The teams literally take the advice of the scouts, so your fame and fortune may be in the hands of the scout.
If the world of professional baseball were graphed in the shape of a pyramid, scouting would be the base holding up the entire structure. Though comparatively few in numbers, their contribution to the continuity of the game cannot be measured.
Teams call them their heroes, or backbone of baseball. Minor league players identify them as the guys with the stop watches and clipboards. Pitchers everywhere know them as the men behind the radar guns; they come in all ages and personalities, from all parts of the world. They often see the same ballplayer differently, and many ballplayers the same.
Many are former players and managers themselves, of the big leagues. (Some are 1977 graduates from Powell Valley, Claiborne County, Tennessee, to be exact.) They know baseball inside and out. Position by position they look beyond the physical ability of a player into the mental make up of the young man. They report what they see a player do on any given day, they project his overall future potential (OFP). Scouts use their expertise, overall love of the game and just plain tenacity as they “beat the bushes” in search of the next Chipper Jones or John Smoltz.
In this quest, most prefer to remain invisible to the fans and media; however, this may be the quest but it never works out that way. We must never, ever forget the fans. In essence, the fans are the heart and soul of professional baseball. I have given many television interviews, interviews with the print media, and public speaking at youth groups, business luncheons and various other events. This is my way of “Giving Back,” and I’m honored to do it.
Johnny Smith is a native of Claiborne County, Tenn., and is a 1977 graduate of Powell Valley High School. He is under contract with the Atlanta Braves. He currently resides in Knoxville with his wife and twin daughters. Any questions, comments or speaking invitations may be directed to Smith at johnnysmithscout @claiborneprogress.net.