Prep Baseball Scouts Indispensable
They work alone, but are usually found in groups. Under-appreciated, under-paid, and unknown, big-league baseball would be much poorer without them.
They’re scouts, and one of the best is Bill Marcot. An employee of the Parks And Recreation Department, Marcot works part-time for the Atlanta Braves.
These diligent men attend countless high school and college baseball games, hoping to find the next Willie Mays, Sandy Koufax, Derek Jeter, Lance Berkman, or Tim Lincecum.
Then again, this is akin to spotting Marlon Brando, Andrea Bocelli, Picasso, or John Lennon, before their genius was universally recognized.
Players of this ilk don’t grow on trees. In a career, you’re lucky to sign a few good enough to make a major league roster.
So when a young prospect slams a 95-mile-an-hour fastball the opposite way, an outfielder makes an over-the-shoulder catch, a shortstop throws from the hole nailing a speedy base runner, or a pitcher breaks off a nasty curveball when behind in the count, you know this guy is special, and will be spotted by scouts, who carry handy notepads and radar guns seemingly where ever they go.
A true story: When Miguel Cabrera, the first baseman for the Detroit Tigers, was 16 years old, he worked out for the Florida Marlins.
A scout asked him to field a few ground balls. After taking only one ball, the scout said he had seen enough, and signed him on the spot. A four-time All-Star, Cabrera helped lead the Marlins to the 2003 World Series title.
Marcot has watched hundreds of games, and written as many reports, but is most proud of having discovered two eventual major leaguers – retired outfielder Tony Tarasco and current Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Freddy Sanchez.
“Tony’s dad never said a word to me about his son,’” Marcot said of Tarasco, who was drafted in 1988 by the Braves in the 15th round. “He was very quiet, and would never make a big deal about how good his son was. He’d just sit there.
“But I could see how good he was. There were many times when I saw him hit mammoth home runs. I once saw him hit a ball to dead center, probably 400 feet from home plate. It’s not too often you see a 17-year-old kid hit a ball that far.”
Tarasco played for six teams over eight seasons and had a career .240 batting average.
Marcot said Sanchez, who played shortstop for Burbank High, wasn’t tall enough at 5-foot-11, to play the position in the big leagues.
“They’re looking for taller guys, with really strong arms,” said Marcot. “His arm was good, but not to play shortstop. He’d have to change positions, which he did.”
The Boston Red Sox drafted him in the 11th round in 2000, and then traded him to the Pirates, where he won a National League batting title in 2006.
Finding a gem isn’t easy, but it hasn’t deterred Marcot.