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01/15/12 11:51 AM EST

Foundation dinner lends hand to scouts in need

LOS ANGELES -- In general, serving as a baseball scout is a dedicated "labor of love." For some scouts, however, life sometimes throws them a bit of a wicked curveball late in their career.

A group of unselfish, caring, and dedicated colleagues have taken steps to minimize the damage when veteran scouts fall on hard times.

Baseball industry icons Dennis Gilbert, Roland Hemond, Dave Yoakum and Harry Minor wanted to offer assistance to scouts in need of help. Nine years ago, they created the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation.

The group's vision, compassion and their commitment to the profession of scouting as a lifeline of baseball have resulted in a viable, highly respected and tremendously necessary safety net for numerous individuals. Scouts who have fallen on difficult times due to job loss, illness, retirement or other financial setbacks are being helped because of the thoughtful and deeply involved efforts of the Foundation and its founders and benefactors.

For some scouts, their professional life consists of long drives along lonely highways and back roads, night after night in modest motel rooms and three meals a day in restaurants eating food that is anything but healthy. Years of dedicated service as a scout can take a toll.

The life of a baseball scout includes chasing down a top prospect only to find the game called because of rain -- just as the scout pulls into the stadium's parking lot, or the scout learns the player he came to see is home in bed with the flu.

Trip wasted. The clock has ticked. The time is gone forever.

In some cases, a scout may get one quick look in which to form an opinion. Of course, the scout qualifies and quantifies the evaluation, but an opinion must be provided. That's why scouts arrive in time to watch batting practice. That's why scouts watch pitchers warm up in the bullpen or on the side. Scouts want to have as much exposure to the player as possible. There is pressure to be correct. Days are long.

As with members of any profession, there are scouts who fall on hard times. Thankfully, the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation exists to help those who need it.

"In The Spirit of The Game" is an annual fundraising and awards banquet held in Los Angeles that benefits the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation. The evening is a celebration of baseball in general and scouting in particular. The event is a tribute to the individuals who have given their professional life to finding and recommending baseball players. It is a night to say "thank you" to scouts that have given decades of time writing opinions of players.

The dinner places a welcome spotlight on experienced scouts who've served as mentors for those who are new to the scouting profession. The banquet congratulates and shares appreciation for the seasoned veterans who have passed along tips for success and pointed out pitfalls that could lead to failure. The celebration recognizes some wonderful, life-long baseball scouts.

"In The Spirit Of The Game" is a time of tribute. It is a time for giving thanks and saying thanks. It is a night to remember the many baseball scouts responsible for finding and recommending the men who play the game.

Held Saturday night, The 9th Annual Awards Dinner began with the biggest, most comprehensive silent auction of sports and entertainment memorabilia imaginable. Covering several rooms, the memorabilia brought back memories for many and served as a shopping center for the countless collectors looking for special treasures. Proceeds from the auction went to the Foundation.

The dinner was of particular importance and significance for those (like this writer) who have attended the Major League Scouting Bureau's Scout School. One of the school's most prominent instructors -- Donald Pries -- was awarded the "Lifetime Achievement Award." Pries served as a professional baseball scout most of his adult life. His dedicated and skillful teachings have been instrumental in the growth and development of countless scouts who are now working in organizations throughout the industry.

Along with Mr. Pries, Bill Livesey -- who for years a scouting and front-office professional with the New York Yankees -- was a co-recipient of the "Lifetime Achievement Award." Mr. Livesey, among others in the Yankees organization, was responsible for the discovery and signing of such stars as Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera. He will forever be associated with those superstars.

Not every award during the evening was dedicated solely to the scouting profession. Personnel in several phases of baseball were honored as well.

For example, 85 year-old Dr. Frank Jobe revolutionized sports medicine and forever changed the game of baseball. Jobe first performed surgery on left-hander Tommy John in 1974. At the time, magnetic resonance imagery (MRI) was not available. Diagnosis of elbow injuries was difficult and treatment options were not available. But Jobe had developed a new concept. John agreed to the procedure as opposed to seeing his career end with an injured elbow.

Jobe removed a tendon from John's non-pitching arm and transplanted it to John's injured elbow. The rest is history.

More than 1800 athletes have benefited from the brilliant discovery by Jobe. He is an example of a "behind-the-scenes" superstar who has enriched the game of baseball.

John went on to win 164 of his 288 victories following the courageous and career-saving surgery. The recipient of a medical procedure bearing his name, a humble and thankful John introduced Jobe to the award dinner's audience. Then, to a standing ovation, Hall of Famer Dave Winfield presented Jobe with the Dave Winfield Humanitarian Award.

"In The Spirit Of The Game" was an electric night. It was an evening when baseball lovers like television host Larry King, movie producer/actor Rob Reiner, actress Bo Derek, actor Joe Mantegna and other such luminaries introduced the giants of the game to an appreciative baseball "family." It was a time when friends sat together at tables and reminisced, told stories that have probably been embellished over time and stories that have been told, retold and told again.

While the food was wonderful, the story telling magnificent, and the yarns spun by baseball greats like Tommy Lasorda, Tom Seaver and others memorable, it was the purpose of the evening that will linger in the minds of those who attended.

The night was about coping with the "high hard ones" life can sometimes throw. The night was about people caring enough to help friends carry on.

When the evening was over and the stories were put away for another year, the problems of some veteran scouts remained. But thanks to the thoughtful actions of men like Gilbert, Hemond, Yaokum and Minor, and all the folks donating to the Foundation, baseball scouts in need will approach their next challenge with more dignity and a greater ability to cope.

There is so much more to baseball than the game on the field. Hats off to the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation for stepping up when a little help from unselfish friends keeps some needy scouts in the game.

Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.