Bureau Shuttered, Longtime Scout Soldiers On
Dan Dixon will always remember March 12, 2018. That was the day Major League Baseball laid off the final five scouts at the MLB Scouting Bureau, effectively shuttering the game’s centralized nervous center for scouting over the last 50 years.
Dixon was the longest tenured of the remaining scouts. He had been at the Bureau for 35 years, writing up nearly 400 future major leaguers as amateurs and supplying reports to clubs back before they employed full-time scouting staffs of their own.
But with the increased spread of information and teams relying mostly on their own scouts now, the Bureau’s scouts were deemed expendable.
“The writing was on the wall,” Dixon said. “I wasn’t too surprised when this went down.”
Dixon, 60, wasn’t exactly sure what to do next, so he did what he’s always done. He set up a summer showcase for the best talent of the next draft class, invited every scout in the region, and made all the arrangements to make it happen.
Dixon is bringing together 48 top prospects in the West for a showcase at Cal State Fullerton on June 9. In past years, he ran similar events for the MLB Scouting Bureau. Now he’s doing it on his own under the banner of his company, Elite 48.
“I still have passion for the game and for scouting,” Dixon said. “I’m still serious and still have the passion for my craft and my trade. I came up with, 15-20 years ago, doing showcases for the Bureau. This is what I’ve been trained to do.”
The Central Scouting Bureau began in 1968 at a time when teams were downsizing their in-house scouting departments. It became the Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau in 1974 and came under the umbrella of the Commissioner’s office in 1985.
The Ontario, Calif.-based Bureau employed 58 scouts at its peak. In an era before teams had their own full-time scouting staffs, clubs relied on Bureau reports for pitcher’s velocities, hitter’s power potential, health updates and all the other information needed to accurately assess a player.
It was frequently the Bureau who pointed clubs in the direction of players they needed to know. Dixon, by virtue of his longevity, became a valued asset for scouts in talent-rich Southern California.
“Dan has been a great resource over the years for Major League Baseball, for all the organizations,” said Tom Myers, president of the Professional Baseball Scouts of Southern California and a Cubs area scout. “He brought to the forefront information as well as video on all the top prospects, as well as the mid-level guys, that allowed the area guys to make sure they had appropriate information to share with their organizations.
“Dan had earned the trust of a lot of the area scouts and the organizations. So whenever he would ring the bell, area guys would definitely follow that chime.”
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The bureau’s role changed over the years, but Dixon always played an integral part in identifying the next wave of talent. Recently, Dixon and the Bureau recommended or outright chose the players who were invited to the Prospect Development Pipeline showcases put on by MLB, getting the right prospects in front of the right decision-makers in advance of the next year’s draft.
Though he’s no longer employed with MLB, Dixon is continuing to do the same. Players committed to attend his Elite 48 showcase include top 2019 draft prospects Spencer Jones (La Costa Canyon HS, Calif.), Wesley Scott (Woodcrest Christian HS, Calif.) and Cooper Benson (San Luis Obispo, Calif.), among many others. Scouts from all 30 teams have committed to attend, both to support their longtime friend and because they know the event will give them a consequential leg up for next year’s draft.
“Dan’s been doing it a long time. He knows how to cultivate the land, so when he decided to put this event together, of course guys were going to be responding positively,” Myers said. “It’s a win-win for everyone. It’ll benefit the kids and it will benefit the scouting community.”
It’s what Dixon has always done, and what he knows.
Whatever the next step is, Bureau or not, he has no plans to stop scouting and identifying the next wave of talent coming up. Even though he’s officially unemployed, he will always be a scout.
“This is what I’ve been trained to do for 35 years,” Dixon said. “It’s all going to work out. Just gotta keep the faith, keep plugging along.”