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03/30/09 6:54 PM ET

Scouts to get much-deserved honors

Twelve to be recognized for their work in Scouts Hall of Fame

This is decision time for Major League Baseball teams, as they make their final cuts and prepare their rosters for Opening Day.

A great deal of focus will be on the thoughts and quotes of the general managers and managers during the week leading up to the season openers, as the teams take their final shape.

Overlooked by most fans will be the opinions that will be given by a group of men behind closed doors and during conference calls.

Those opinions will be offered by one of the most important and vital parts of a Major League team -- the members of the scouting department.

The late Gabe Paul, a longtime Major League executive, put it best on the role of the scouts when he wrote an article for the New York Times 20 years ago: "Constantly check with your scouts. Good scouts can make a genius of you; bad scouts can make a bum of you. Good scouts help you make good judgments; bad scouts help you make bad ones."

Paul knew what he was writing about. He spent nearly 60 years of his life as a baseball executive and was well-respected by everyone in the game.

The player moves and free-agent signings that were made this offseason were made with input from the scouts, and the ultimate decisions will go a long way in determining the fate of the teams.

When Opening Day arrives, you will find the scouts behind home plate in the stadiums across the country ready for another season of action.

You wouldn't recognize most of the names because by the very nature of their jobs the scouts operate behind a radar gun and under the radar itself.

It's a story as old as baseball -- players gain fame and fortune, and the men who first saw the talent of the individual continue to operate in near obscurity.

It's for this reason that I was pleased to see 12 veteran scouts have been selected for the Professional Baseball Scouts Hall of Fame of 2009 induction.

The selections were announced by the sponsoring Goldklang Group, an operator of six Minor League teams. The Goldklang Group activated a campaign last year to spotlight the dedication of the scouts who qualify for selection with a minimum of 20 years of professional experience.

The scouts being honored this year, with the ceremonies to be held at the six ballparks operated by Goldklang, are Marti Wolever (Philadelphia), Joe McIlvaine (Minnesota), Joe Rigoli (St. Louis), Rene Mons (Milwaukee), Roland Johnson (New York Mets), longtime scout Al Goldis, John Barr (San Francisco), Bob Fontaine (Toronto), Gary Hughes (Chicago Cubs), Tom Burns (Toronto), Howard McCullough (Arizona) and late New York Yankees scout Tom Greenwade.

I reached out to a number of the scouts being honored to get their thoughts on the best advice they could offer to young scouts and their greatest satisfaction during their careers.

The answers that came back had nothing to do with the signing of players or trades where they had played a role, and that was not a surprise in view of the character of the men being honored.

The responses had more to do with the love of a profession that typically demands long hours, difficult travel and pays at the bottom of the baseball scale.

Here's a sampling:

Wolever: "I owe a great deal to many of those who came before me and helped me to get where I am today. I would advise young scouts to work hard, work smart, listen more than you talk, ask questions, be strong in your beliefs, have fun and be patient."

McIlvaine: "My best advice to young scouts is 'Watch the game,' resist the temptation to write while the player is on the field. You're there to read his tools, yes, but more importantly you're there to try and discover what inner factors motivate this young prospect."

Johnson: "You are being paid for your opinion and your opinion only. Don't be afraid to make a mistake. Even if you are the only one who likes or doesn't like a player, stick to your guns. My greatest satisfaction is having the opportunity to work at a job that I sincerely enjoy. I have looked forward to going to work every day for the last 37 years."

Fontaine: "My best advice to a young scout is to follow your instincts and stay with your convictions even if you hear people say things different from your point of view. Also, never take for granted the opportunity to be in the game that you love."

Hughes: "The best advice I ever received was from a great scout, Eddie Brockman, years ago, and I will pass it on: 'Find a ballpark and get in it.' The best experience I've had in the game is seeing young scouts I've worked with go on to have successful careers in the game."

Burns: "The best advice I can give a young scout is to make every day in the spring count. There are a limited number of days in the spring to prepare for the June Draft. Make the day count, whether it be in attending a game, doing signability work or tending to administrative duties, such as gathering medical reports on prospects."

McCullough: "The most important thing I can say to a young scout is be a professional. You are a representative of a Major League team, and your dress, conduct, language and manner are noticed by parents, fans and your peers. Always keep that in mind. You need to be prepared and to be at the ballpark early and see how players are preparing themselves."

On a personal note, one of my greatest joys as a general manager for the Los Angeles Dodgers was the opportunity to sit behind home plate with the scouts.

I always realized I was in the best of company during that time.

Fred Claire was a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1969-98, serving the team as executive vice president and general manager. His book "Fred Claire: My 30 Years in Dodger Blue" was published by SportsPublishing LLC. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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