Mazur Shines Spotlight On Sport’s Hidden Stars

DENVER-—Roberta Mazur always figured she would grow up to be a housewife.

“I didn’t really have a plan,” she said. “My mother, though, was into women’s liberation before there was women’s liberation. She believed all women should be working, so she made sure I was out there working.”

ringolsby250110Nobody, however, could have ever figured that Mazur’s work would turn into a passion that now has become the driving force in her life.

Through an unlikely chain of events, Mazur became executive director of the Scout of the Year program in the late 1980s. She has not only helped the program, which recognizes outstanding scouts each year, grow and become an established part of the game, but she now has helped get scouts more recognition in the Hall of Fame.

The Scout of the Year program is celebrating its 30th season in 2013, and the biggest moment came on May 4 when the Hall of Fame unveiled a new exhibit called Diamond Mines, exposing the Cooperstown visitor to the world of scouting.

It’s scheduled to be a two-year exhibit, underwritten by the Scout of the Year Program with the hope that a sponsor can make it a permanent display.

Opportunity Knocks

Growing up in Anaheim—her father worked at Disneyland—Mazur’s first job was as an usher for Angels games. Then she became a ticket taker. Next she was a receptionist, which led to her becoming what she calls a “flunky” in the accounting department.

Roland Hemond and Roberta Mazur

Roland Hemond and Roberta Mazur

And then came the life-changing moment.

Larry Himes, the Angels’ scouting director at the time, brought Mazur upstairs to be his administrative assistant in 1985. “I was tired of the accounting end,” Mazur said. “Scouting was a better fit for me and the Angels.”

That happened to be the same year Himes was approached by the founders of the Scout of the Year award—Tony Pacheco, Jim Russo and Hugh Alexander—to help them build the program into something that would have credibility in the baseball industry.

Himes agreed, which meant Mazur was thrown into the mix. And when Himes left the Angels following the 1986 season to become general manager of the White Sox, Mazur was left with a fledgling award program to sort out.

She considered it a part of the job with the Angels and then the two years she spent working in the scouting department with Montreal. And when she got out of professional baseball following the 1994 season, she became the volunteer executive director.

“It was just sort of left on my desk, I guess you could say,” she said. “It was just getting started, but I had gotten to know a lot of those scouts and really respected them. I couldn’t just let the program disappear. I felt it was something they deserved.”

She has done fine, with a big assist from Linda Pereira, the director of player personnel for the Class A San Jose Giants, whom Mazur describes as her sounding board. Joe Klein, president of the independent Atlantic League and a former major league GM, has helped Mazur navigate baseball’s bureaucracy.

“We all do what we can to help out, but it’s Roberta who puts in the time and effort to make this thing work,” Klein said.

Diamond Mines represents the end of a long effort by Mazur and many others, and the highlight of the exhibit is an interactive database from which fans can call up more than 14,000 reports that scouts filed on players they evaluated. Some of the players are in the Hall of Fame. Some never got into pro ball. Each of the players has a story to be told.

“It was in the ’80s and I went to a cousin’s wedding in Saratoga, (N.Y.),” Mazur recalled. “I thought, ‘This is close to Cooperstown; I might as well drive up.’ I did and met with Bill Guilfoile from the Hall of Fame. I told him about the Scout of the Year Program, and a desire to get recognition for scouts.

“Nothing came of it, but I wanted to let him know what we were doing.”

In 1998, David Rawnsley, who worked in the Houston scouting department before getting into the media, approached Mazur about a similar idea, and the push was on. Mazur asked each major league team to make a contribution to finance the effort. Through several changes in Hall of Fame leadership, Mazur continued her campaign. Finally, Jeff Idleson assumed the role of president of the Hall of Fame, and the door opened.

“He asked if I’d help sponsor the exhibit,” Mazur said. “I said, ‘Sure.’ We had put the money in a bank account, looking for a chance and we had it. It’s a big step.”

Mazur says she is a lifelong fan of the game. Her father, Dale Cicero, was an umpire who worked high school and college games in Southern California. Mazur frequently attended the games and remembers watching the likes of Gary Carter and Steve Busby.

“That’s where I met my first scout,” she said. “It was Jesse Flores. Then in 1985, he was the West Coast Scout of the Year. I told him about meeting him. I don’t know if he really remembered me, but he definitely remembered my dad.”

Mazur won’t be forgotten now, certainly not by the scouts, for whom she has worked so hard, making sure they are remembered in the ever-changing world of baseball.

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