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It's a game of adjustments
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02/13/2003 5:20 pm ET 
It's a game of adjustments's Christine Destefano attended the Major League Scouting Bureau's first "scout school" held in the Dominican Republic for a week and a half. She wrote daily reports on her experiences as she attends the school as a student, learning how to properly scout and evaluate international baseball talent.

BOCA CHICA, Dominican Republic -- We pick up right where we left off yesterday and write our scouting report on the young Oakland pitcher. He didn't dazzle anyone or do anything extraordinary. I guess you could say no one wanted to take him home. But we review his mechanics, delivery, pitches, strengths and weaknesses. This report goes a lot more quickly that our one from last night, which is an encouraging sign.

  Scout School Archive
Day 1: Intro to Scout School
Day 2: So you wanna be a scout
Day 3: Evaluating arm action
Day 4: A closer look at pitching
Day 5: Really liking a player
Day 6: A game of adjustments
Day 7: Refining our reports
Day 8: Reviewing the report
Day 9: One more trip
Day 10: Graduation Day
Scout school recap

We load up the bus and head over to luxurious Manny Mota Field at the LA Dodgers' facility. A brief thundershower forces us to take cover under the shelter along the first base side and we're entertained by Cubs scout Jose's version of "And the Thunder Rolls" by Garth Brooks, which is particularly interesting to hear over and over again with a Spanish accent. The sky clears up and we get ready for our new assignment as the Dodgers prepare for infield. We are scouting their starting catcher and then we're watching each Cardinals pitcher and writing a paragraph about the one we think is best.

While we are usually given two players to watch, we're expected to take in the whole game and observe everyone so we can talk about the others who catch our eye when we get back to class. The first day I got a little flustered trying to watch for every detail of every player and I missed some stuff on the guys I was really supposed to be watching.

I am sure this comes with practice, but sometimes it feels like it's Christmas Eve around a quarter to nine and there are still 18 people left to shop for. Sure you'll find some things, but you're not going to get many perfect, thoughtful gifts. So for today my instructor informs me and my classmate Ron, who hails from the Netherlands and has seen exactly one Major League game in his life, to just focus just on our assigned players. We're slightly relieved as our list has been chopped to just the Cardinals pitchers and Dodger shortstop.

The backup catcher just unleashes a throw to second and I feel a buzz amongst the crowd -- the same type of buzz when the bunting first baseman flew to first yesterday. Our instructor Rick Arnold asks us what kind of arm the catcher was. I don't think he waited for us to answer before telling us it was a "7" but he wouldn't argue with an "8." Then he says it might be the best arm he's seen all year.

Do you know how exciting this is? To give you an idea, Ivan Rodriguez is an "8," and there aren't many others. We're a little bummed because the starter is the other guy, but we have a few minutes of practice to enjoy and get giddy.

The Cardinals pitcher is on the mound and his first pitch (fastball) is planted in the left-field palm trees. The hitters are making contact off this guy and it appears he's only throwing fastballs and change-ups. However his teammates charting pitches next to us explain he's just had elbow surgery and will just be throwing those two pitches -- nothing resembling a breaking ball or anything with nasty movement.

The next Cardinals pitcher is pretty non-descript and the third one has a decent curve, but none of these guys are anything you want to agonize writing a report over. The catcher doesn't dazzle us, in fact he makes a lot of us mad the way he plays the game, acting like he'd really rather not be there.

But when we get back to the class we're told to make a slight adjustment -- it is a game of adjustments after all. Since the game features some of the best hitting we've seen we are to write about our favorite hitter (Cardinals third baseman for me -- aggressive, makes contact with fluid, easy swing) and just identify the best of the three Cardinals pitchers.

I guess this is what being a scout is all about -- sometimes you go to see one guy and end up getting something entirely different out of it. It's a little frustrating since most of my attention was on the starters and the catcher, but I had enough to compile something I thought made sense.

I complete my scouting report on the catcher first but am not satisfied with the OFP (Overall Future Potential) number of 46. Considering a 50 is an average Major League player, I think a 46 is a bit too high for him. I look at the grades of each tool and tweak it a bit, lowering his running speed a notch to well below average, since Edgar Martinez would have blown by him on the basepaths.

His new OFP was 44, but there's a rule which allows you to add or subtract up to 10 points to help you arrive at a number that's reflective of your thoughts. I subtract two points due to his lack of fire, hustle, aggressiveness and leadership ability. I mean, he didn't even jog on and off the field.

After that I write my paragraph on the third baseman with the wonderful swing and hope to see the Cardinals again on this trip. We get a take-home quiz for tomorrow, where we identify and rank the most important tools at each position.

The report writing is getting better, and I hope to include one tomorrow so you can get a better sense of what they consist of.

Christine Destefano is executive producer of

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