Scout's Diary: I'm Here To Work

For scouts, 'can I ask you a question' is a loaded phrase

This diary is about the life of a scout, not about what that scout sees or the inner-workings of what he does. That stuff is pretty much classified, unfortunately. A version of that stuff can be found elsewhere these days pretty easily. In fact, you can find it on this same site. If you're looking for a scout's take or evaluation on players this diary is not for you. But if you want to get a feel for what one professional scout's life is like, at or away from the ballpark, then this is the place for you. I hope you enjoy it.

Baseball scouts have a love/hate relationship with the fans.

Most scouts understand that without the fans they would be out of a job. And, of course, scouts appreciate that fans share their love for the game. However, most of the time fans are a giant annoyance to scouts.

When we show up at a ballpark a packed house is usually the last thing we want to see, whether we're sitting in cushioned chairs at a 50,000-seat Major League monster-dome, or suffering the metal bleachers of an old, 500-seat minor league park.

You see, we want room. We show up with a shoulder bag of stuff (notes, radar guns, books, stopwatches, extra clothes) and we like to spread out. It is a bad day when we don't have at least one free seat next to us for all our stuff.

But, more than that, it's because we don't want to have to talk to the fan sitting next to us.

Don't get me wrong, scouts love to talk. In fact, it seems like some scouts can't scout without running their mouths. Communication is part of our job, part of what makes us good at what we do. But we don't want to talk to you. First of all, we are working when you see us at the ballpark. We are at our desk. We are on the clock. We are digging the ditch. Like most people we don't want to have to put up with strangers talking to us non-stop while we are doing that.

Also, and no offense to those who have done it, but fans ask some pretty annoying questions. The first of which usually comes after a poke to the shoulder and is something like, "Hey, can I ask you a question?"

Then when the question comes it is usually something like, "What are you timing with that stopwatch?"

(The answer: for the most part, running times for batters going to first base, but also pitcher and catcher release times.)

But the annoying question that all fans tend to get to eventually is, "That's a great job. How can I get a job like that?" Well, just send in an application and we'll get back to you, of course.

I'm being harsh. It's not a stupid question. In fact, I probably wouldn't be a scout today if I hadn't asked that same question of a scout many years ago. In a future diary posting I'll talk all about that, and perhaps answer that question.

But day after day, game after game, from fans of all ages with all types of backgrounds, from some guys you wouldn't hire to take out your garbage, and tipsy fans who are leaning over you and spilling their beer on your notes, it gets annoying. Especially when we are working.

I sometimes joke with other scouts that we should print up cards with the answers to all the typical questions we get and just hand them out when the nightly inquisition starts.

"Oh, question No. 4, 'Who are you here to see?' Here you go. Now leave me alone." (Most times we are not there to see one guy, but rather doing our general coverage, which includes evaluating all the players from one or both teams.)

So I, like a lot of scouts, put up a wall to the fans. I don't engage them in conversation. I send out an "I'm busy, leave me alone'' vibe. I grunt and groan my answers to their first few questions. Especially when I sense that I have a particularly nosey, annoying, want-to-be scout fan in my vicinity. And I don't feel guilty about that, even if they are paying my salary, indirectly.

I must admit, though, that there are times I like talking to the fans. The scout's job requires focus and a great deal of concentration, but once we've seen our fair share of all the players on a team we view the game with a softer focus. At this point we actually want to share some thoughts, jokes or ideas, and relax our brains for awhile.

And sometimes a well-informed or particularly baseball savvy fan becomes the perfect person with whom to talk. Sometimes he or she can even become a good source of information. The sharp season-ticket holder at a minor league ballpark, and there are always some at every stadium in the country, can tell a scout things about a player he may not pick up in a brief, five-game look.

But that is the exception, not the rule.
So, how about it, fans? Be considerate; give us scouts some space.

I'm being considerate too. I'm writing this diary to let you in a little, let you understand what it's like to be us, to answer some of those questions away from the ballpark, on my time.

I hope you forgive me and I hope you enjoy it.

The scout's diary is written by a veteran pro scout who has asked to remain anonymous.