02/13/2003 5:55 pm ET
The last scouting trip
MLB.com's Christine Destefano attended the Major League Scouting Bureau's first "scout school" in the Dominican Republic. She wrote daily reports on her experiences as she attended the school as a student, learning how to properly scout and evaluate international baseball
We meet a half-hour earlier today at 8:30 a.m. to hear a special presentation from MLB Security's Ronaldo Fernandez on some of the risks and dangers players face off of the field. Everyone is attentive as we watch a video of players -- kinda like an after-school special -- go through the shady stuff to watch for, like going to nightclubs, dealing with loan sharks and hanging with
After that the discussion turns to an evaluation of players we saw yesterday. As a class we're getting better at identifying certain qualities in players, as we agree with Mr. Pries on who the pure hitters were. (We would not have come to an agreement this quickly a few days ago).
We get back our scouting reports from yesterday and here's how mine went:
TEAM: St. Louis
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: Lean body, room to fill out. Long arms and legs.
MECHANICAL DISTINCTIVES: Straight-up stance
INJURY/MEDICAL: Right hamstring pull. Currently affecting running.
ABILITIES: Quick hands, good arm action. Flashes explosive quickness.
Throws have online carry and velocity. Level swing. More aggressive from left
side of plate.
WEAKNESSES: No extra effort. Feels for pitch, doesn't drive ball. Slight lunge
from right side. Sluggish actions limit range. Ball sticks in glove. Stiff ball
SUMMATION: Quickness, speed, agility and arm strength will lead to Major
League utility role. Better runner when injury heals.
The comments from my instructor included:
Needing more details on the player's tools
Using "sluggish" to describe his fielding actions instead of his desire
Need to explain what will keep him from being an everyday player
Needs more in mechanical distinctives
Wait a second. Yesterday I was told my mechanical distinctives area was fine
before I turned in my paper, and my classmate Jose used the exact same
words and didn't receive a comment. Hmmm. What is up with that? I bring it
up to Mr. Arnold's attention and he says Jose should have more comments
too. It just goes to illustrate how subjective scouting is. No two scouts will
come up with the exact same evaluation on a player, no two scouting
instructors may come up with the exact same comments on a student's
For the last time we load the bus as a group, eat our sack lunch along the way and arrive at a baseball academy tucked behind some palm trees. We're at the beautiful Campo Las Palmas, home of the Dodgers and they're getting
ready to play the Athletics, whom we've seen a few times, but never for infield practice.
This is one of the best things about down here is the closeness and accessibility we have to the coaches, players and staff. We find the Oakland coach and ask if there's any chance we could see them take infield. Of course! Within a few minutes they get into a little "Go team!" huddle and take the field.
In perhaps one of my greatest arm-evaluating sessions ever, I give a grade to every arm, except the catcher, whom I seemed to have missed. After the Dodgers take their infield I look to compare notes with my instructor. I am never off by two grades, but we're the same on more than half. How about that for progress?
During the game we're going to evaluate the Dodgers' starting third baseman and one of their relief pitchers. It's a brutally hot day outside and I can feel a new sunburn starting on top of my old sunburn from yesterday. The third baseman seems solid, and I start taking notes. These two teams are fun to watch play, especially the A's who always yell out baseball phrases in English like "Atta boy!" for every good to above average play and, "One out! One out!"
or "Two outs! Two outs!" throughout the game on the field. And it's also nice to see that the Athletics' white shoes have filtered down to the Dominican.
Near the end of the game our pitcher comes in and we'll just have one inning to evaluate his actions. He reminds me a little of Freddy Garcia and brings 95-mph heat. He struggles a bit with his control, but is aggressive and goes after hitters. I like his confidence on the mound -- you can tell he wants to be a pitcher and enjoys throwing his stuff.
He faces four batters (16 pitches) in the inning and only one of them makes contact with the bat. I kinda like this guy so writing the report should be fun. The third baseman is a little harder for me to evaluate since I don't really feel I got a good chance to see him do much.
As the game ends we realize this is our last Dominican instructional league game. I stop and take a look at the little things I'll miss -- the manual scoreboard in right field, the palm-tree lined entrance into the complex, the
white plastic chairs they always have ready for us to sit in. A couple of kids, still in their Little League-like uniforms, allow me to take their picture.
As we head back to the our bus we see the Oakland A's load up their bus, just like you did in high school sports, still in uniform, carrying a water cooler or equipment bag. I'm going to miss seeing the instructional league games here, as these guys play the game in the most beautiful way, full of hustle, athleticism, grace, creativity, power and most of all, FUN.
We head back to the classroom and write up the pitcher before breaking for dinner (orange ice cream for dessert). After heading back to class we finish up our reports on the third baseman and then we are free to go. We're pretty
loose, joking and laughing a lot as we wrap things up. We take some photos together and look forward to our graduation ceremony tomorrow.
Tomorrow: We get back our reports on the Dodgers pitcher and third baseman and then officially complete our week-long session. Have plans to attend a professional Winter League game in Santo Domingo, and will report on that.
Christine Destefano is executive producer of MLB.com.