Bureau offers valuable assistance
Centralized scouting organization also keeps costs down
ONTARIO, Calif. -- Their offices are located on what once was turn four of the old Ontario Motor Speedway, but inside is a vast collection of talent more than 30 years in the making.
The Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau was created in 1974 as a way for baseball ownership to have access to an independent, centralized scouting organization which would help keep costs down for smaller market clubs. Eleven years later, Commissioner Peter Ueberroth brought the bureau under the umbrella of the Commissioner's Office.
"Basically, we do everything the scouting department of a Major League club would do except sign players," said bureau director Frank Marcos. "We have 25 amateur scouts throughout the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. We also have a staff of pro scouts that do nothing but big league Spring Training and Minor League coverage, international coverage and Arizona Fall League. We have three video techs as well that go around filming the top amateur players and the top pro players.
"We provide the basic foundation for finding the players, bringing that to every club's attention so that no player goes unnoticed. From that, the clubs will develop their own preferential list."
In addition to compiling detailed scouting reports on hundreds of players eligible for the draft, Marcos and his staff also videotapes more than 1,000 amateur and professional players each year. The amateur scouting video provided by the bureau is its signature contribution to the First-Year Player Draft in June. The often exclusive footage of college and high school players is not only seen by club scouting departments, but also by baseball fans as part of MLB.com's popular Draft Tracker search tool.
"Every year we're turning out 1,000 players on video," said Marcos. "We get them when they're in high school, college, or a youth program in the summer, such as the showcase events that go on. We get them when they're playing against quality competition instead of just a high school type of game. We want to make sure we give the clubs the best information possible to make the best decisions."
According to Marcos, the bureau's work far exceeds his scouts attending games and just sizing up talent on the field.
"Every organization uses something that we produce," said Marcos. "We provide written reports on every player, breaking down the skills, how good he is, how well he throws, how well he hits. We do signability interviews. We sit down and talk to the player, talk to the parents and we find out 'Do you want to sign? Do you want to go to college? What's it going to take to get you into pro ball?'
"We also do psychological assessments and we even do an eye assessment. We provide to the clubs the information in a computerized format that can be accessed instantly. If our scout in Canada is doing a workout today, he's going to see players, he's going to write them up, they will be in our hands by the next morning, and by noon we will have them in the clubs' hands."
The bureau has been videotaping players since 1985. Some of the rare footage in the archives includes a young Alex Rodriguez hitting in a Florida batting cage in 1992, Barry Zito snapping a wicked curve for USC in 1999, Frank Thomas working on defensive drills for Auburn in 1989 and a skinny Derek Jeter turning a double play for Kalamazoo Central High School in 1992.
The technology the bureau uses to provide the information to the clubs has also evolved over the years from videotape, to CD/DVD's to small, portable computer storage devices called a "pokey" drive that stores in-depth video and analysis of hundreds of players eligible for the draft, in a unit that's slightly bigger than a wallet. Marcos is very proud that his bureau has stayed on the cutting edge of information technology.
"This little device, and the program developed for it, allows the clubs that are in their draft meetings to point and click at the video of a player," said Marcos. "They can break it down into slow motion, look at arm angle, look at the bat and look at the swing.
"This little tool has revolutionized the way that we provide film to the clubs."
The Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau has helped revolutionize the way baseball discovers its stars of tomorrow.
Ben Platt is a national correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.