Where do I begin? I am just like the millions of sports fans who constantly take their team and its stars to heart. It's amazing how we root and cheer for an individual player whether it is Baseball, Football, Basketball, Hockey or any other professional, or collegiate sport!
Did you ever stop and think how he, or she got to be where they are. Most of them got there, because a scout took interest in each of them... and there in lies the rub. Most scouts toil in anonymity with little, or in many cases, no compensation. So, I started by asking myself a great number of questions. I found the answers close at hand.
Through my research, I found that a former associate of mine in the early days of sports management, by his actions, provided me the answer. His name is Dennis Gilbert.
Dennis is basically an insurance and investment guy today, but earlier in his career he set the standard as a Sports Agent by breaking the salary barriers and negotiating over a 1,000 contracts mostly for Baseball Players. Do you remember Jose Conseco, Bobby Bonilla, Barry Bonds Bret Saberhagen, George Brett, Mike Piazza and Curt Schilling to mention a few? In their halcyon days, he brought their compensation to astronomical heights setting the bar for others to follow.
He did this much of this by working closely with scouts. As a result and in appreciation for the hard work the scout's do, he co-founded and is Chairman of the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation. This organization has helped raise almost $5 million to aid scouts in need.
This brings me to the premise of this article. Many of us have seen the movie "Trouble with the Curve". In it, Clint Eastwood plays an aging Atlanta Braves Scout who is given one last assignment to prove his worth to the organization that feels he has lost his touch and is unable to adjust to changes within the game.
More of you probably saw Edward James Olmos portraying Virgil Sweet on the verge of losing his scouting job with the California Angels in a similar situation to Clint Eastwood's Character.
What today's sports leagues forget are that a computer cannot replace innate knowledge based on years of experience. The book "Money Ball" flies in the face of the statement I just made.
Mickey Mantle was discovered and signed to the Yankees by Tom Greenwade. Tom Grenwade was the great Yankee who helped win nine world championships. From 1949-64, the Yankees won 14 pennants and 9 world championships. Tom was a great scout when the role involved discovering young talent, not just to recommend which player to pick in the draft.
A good scout is always at ball fields... from the sandlot to the pickup games on a street. He lived in a car, a train, or a plane stopping in places we might have not heard of.
He was the prototypical baseball scout sending countless players to the major Leagues. To sum up his worth, a note from Mickey Mantle to Tom tells the entire story... Mantle said, "You made everything possible".
Before joining the Yankees, he was hired by Branch Rickey to scout the Negro Leagues. Upon watching him play, it was Tom who first recommended Jackie Robinson. Without the use of a computer, he decided that Jackie had more heart and more physical ability than any others at that time.
Modern day scouts are becoming more and more reliant on computer programs to aid and assist in the evaluation of talent being scouted. Every professional sports franchise is now using computers to organize their collected information and data. Yet, they still must depend on human management to decide which players their organization will draft or sign.
In the 1970's I was Executive Vice president of Invest West Sports. The President was Bill Bertka who at the time ran the Bertka Basketball Scouting service out of his home in Santa Barbara. This service was under contract to countless colleges and universities. From his living room turned office filled with hundreds of 3x 5 cards, Bill and his wife upon input from there scouting network made recommendations.
They scouted not only possible talent to recruit, but also opposing teams to help their team win. In such a way, my friend Bill Bertka during the season of 1971-72 as Los Angeles Lakers Director of Scouting/Consultant, we instrumental in the Lakers not only winning their first championship in Los Angeles, but also helped the team set the 33 consecutive game wins. A record that still stands 41 years later.
Then there's Mike Brito who first brought the great Fernando Valenzuela to the Dodgers, has done it again with the phenomenal Yaziel Puig. Over the years and still today, there are many outstanding scouts plying the globe searching for talent. Their road is often lonely and mostly forgiving.
A film documentary that I recommend is "Baseball Dreams and Schemes"... 'Ballplayer: Pelotero,' Baseball Scouting in the Dominican Republic'. It has won many film festival awards and pulls no punches.
So, I conclude by asking the question: "If managers are in the Halls of Fame, why not scouts"? After all, they provide the managers the tools to victory.