02/05/2004 8:00 PM ET
Notes: Scouts working hard
Big-league teams eyeing Caribbean Series closely
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- Charlie Kerfeld always wanted to be a baseball player, and for parts of four glorious summers, he made it to The Show.
|Scouts are always in sight during Caribbean Series games. (Doug Miller/MLB.com)
He gained some fame as the 6-foot-6, 225-pound reliever that helped the Houston Astros to the National League Championship Series against the New York Mets.
Although his playing days are over, Kerfeld still gets a taste for the dream of making it to the Major Leagues.
He's in his second year of player scouting for the Seattle Mariners, and he's been soaking in the sun in the Dominican Republic all winter, including this week's Caribbean Series in Estadio Quisqueya.
The work of a scout is very personal, according to Kerfeld.
"It's all about identifying talent," he says. "Somebody's view of a talented player might be completely different from someone else's. It's all in the eye of the beholder. That's what makes it so beautiful."
During Thursday's first game, Kerfeld joined about 10 other scouts in the seemingly nonstop ritual of raising the radar gun for each pitch and jotting down notes from practically each swing of the bat and each throw from the outfield.
Kerfeld says he's not just looking for those occasional finds that can star in the big leagues.
"We're looking for guys to fill out minor-league rosters, too," Kerfeld says. "You're always looking to improve your organization in any way you can."
At Kerfeld's request, the Mariners signed Jose Nuñez earlier this winter. Nuñez is a lithe left-hander who has played sparingly in the big leagues for the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres.
"He's coming off an injury and he's throwing well, so we took a shot with him," Kerfeld says. "Sometimes you can get lucky with a guy like that. He's throwing 92, 93. Lefties like that don't grow on trees."
Although he's away from his family for long stretches of time during the season and offseason, Kerfeld says he wouldn't change his job.
"I just love this game," he says.
"To still be around it every day is a pleasure."
Level playing field? Through nine games Thursday, there had been 27 errors in the Caribbean Series, an average of three per game. Only one game has been played without an error. Before Thursday's nightcap, both managers tried to explain.
Manny Acta, the Dominican team's skipper, said it has to do with the fact that there's no pregame infield practice or batting practice.
"It's never good to see such talented players making errors, but you have to understand the situation," Acta said. "We have no time to prepare on the field, and there really isn't time to take infield practice in the Winter Leagues as a whole."
Buddy Bailey, the manager of the Venezuelan champion Aragua Tigers, said there are unavoidable obstacles involved, too, including the fact that the field in Estadio Quisqueya isn't in the best of shape.
"In afternoon games, you have to battle the sun in left and right field real bad, there's quite a bit of wind, and the infield and outfield are really rough," Bailey said. "There's no irrigation and two teams (the Licey Tigers and Escogido Lions) play here all winter every day."
Bailey said it's easy to know when to be upset about an error and when to just chalk it up to the elements.
"If it comes down to a ball in the sun or a ball on the ground, you can understand," Bailey said. "If a guy is catching it and then throwing it bad, that's something you can control."
Furcal expecting better: Atlanta Braves All-Star shortstop Rafael Furcal had an 0-for-4 night in his Dominican team's dramatic 3-1 win over Mexico on Wednesday night, but he was philosophical about it Thursday.
"It was one of those days where you think everything's perfect and you just try to do more than you can, and it has a negative result," Furcal said. "When you feel like that, then things go bad."
Furcal, who has been playing a lot of third base in the tournament, is 3-for-11 in the Series, a batting average of .273. He said he'd put Wednesday's collar behind him and focus on winning one of the last two games to take the Series title.
"It wasn't my night," he said. "But it happens to every ballplayer."
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.