Scouts are the life blood of Major League Baseball, and merrily go about their business come rain or shine. For nearly two decades, primarily with the Atlanta Braves, Bill Marcot found himself at high school and college games hoping to find someone good enough to draft and then sign.
“Bryce Harper, it’s easy to see he has all the tools,’’ Marcot said over lunch recently. “You have to watch him only once and know he’s going to be picked. The same with [Yasiel] Puig. These guys can show you everything in one game. Then there are guys like Freddy Sanchez that you have to see several times.”
Harper was the first overall pick by the Washington Nationals in 2010, and has made two National League All-Star teams, and is only 20 years old.
Marcot learned at the feet of George Genovese, considered one of the best scouts ever, and was a longtime employee of the San Francisco Giants.
In his time with the Giants, Genovese, now 91, signed more than 50 players who made it to the big leagues like sluggers Bobby Bonds, Jack Clark, George Foster, Matt Williams, Gary Matthews, and Dave Kingman.
“George is the best,’’ said Marcot, who retired in 2007. “He worked under Branch Rickey. He taught me what a good arm looks like. He said look for plusses, and know the family.”
Rickey was the general manager for the St. Louis Cardinals, Brooklyn Dodgers, Pittsburgh Pirates, and thought to be the greatest baseball mind ever.
Rickey developed the farm system, and was instrumental in signing Jackie Robinson, who broke the color line in 1947.
“Of course, you need the physical tools,’’ said Marcot, currently a baseball coach at Taft High. “You also need baseball instincts. Does he run the bases properly? Can he throw from center field and get the runner out at the plate? When looking at pitchers, does he have ball movement? Can he locate pitches?”
Yet, talent alone doesn’t always translate into being able to play in the majors. “The most important thing is mental makeup,’’ Marcot stressed. “Does he want to play? You have to see what’s inside him.”
Some of the players Marcot observed before they became big leaguers included Mark McGwire, Robin Yount, Chase Utley, Jack McDowell, Jeff Suppan, Brad Fullmer, and Bret Saberhagen.
“McGwire was the best power hitter I ever saw,’’ Marcot said of the current Dodgers’ hitting instructor who swatted 583 homers. “He had an easy swing and hit the ball like it was a golf ball.”
Yount, elected into the Hall of Fame, was a two-time Most Valuable Player, and simply incredible. “He was the best overall player I saw,’’ said Marcot.
“I saw Chase only once, and that was enough as far as hitting was concerned,’’ said Marcot. “His bat speed, and how hard he hit the ball was amazing.”
Of Saberhagen, a two-time Cy Young award winner, many scouts thought he didn’t have what it takes. “Bret was physically skinny, and he played basketball, but was mentally tough as nails.”
When asked if he was happy being a scout, Marcot, who holds two degrees from CSUN, said he was. “Coaching was always my first love,’’ he admitted. “But I enjoyed being a scout because I felt that I helped people.”
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, and is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.