By Bill Francis
---- — Hall of Fame executive Branch Rickey once described the role of a scout as having the ability to “assay the gold content in a handful of ore.” Today, the long and storied history of those same miners, always on the lookout for the next diamond in the rough, is told at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
Last weekend, the home of baseball opened its new Diamond Mines exhibit dedicated to the scouting profession. With close to 100 members of this profession, representing 20 big league clubs, in attendance for the festivities, visitors on Saturday morning also had the rare opportunity to hear firsthand from some of those veterans who have searched far and wide for the game’s next star.
Hall of Famer and three-time World Series-winning general manager Pat Gillick, 2011 Buck O’Neil Award winner and longtime baseball executive Roland Hemond, Texas Rangers scout and senior special advisor Don Welke and Miami Marlins Vice President of Player Personnel Dan Jennings, as well as Roberta Mazur, director of the Scout of the Year Program which funded Diamond Mines for its initial two-year run at the Hall of Fame, participated in a Voices of the Game roundtable discussion in the Grandstand Theater on Saturday.
“There’s absolutely no way that a general manager can get out and see every professional and every amateur player, so he has to have scouts that he can trust, that he has confidence in,” Gillick said. “They are vital to an organization because they are a lifeline that feeds the talent from the high school level or the collegiate level to the major leagues.
“You go and see a play on Broadway and you see the entertainment that is provided and never see the people that really are behind the scenes, the producers, the directors and the people that make these things happen. And that’s the same thing with the scouts. The scouts are the behind-the-scenes guys, sometimes they are the forgotten people.”
According to Hemond, he would not have had a more than 60-year career in baseball without the scouts’ successful ability.
“I think one of my best assets is that I listened very attentively to what they had to say and then I would take action accordingly, having faith in their judgment, and then jubilation when the player would finally makes his first appearance in the major leagues,” Hemond said. “I reflect upon the infancy days when he joined baseball and I get goose bumps every time when that player is introduced in his major league debut. And when you see them advance to All-Stars, MVPs, Hall of Famers, it reflects on the ability the scout had to project what this player would become.”
Diamond Mines features three-dimensional artifacts such as radar guns and stopwatches that have served as scouts’ tools of the trade for decades. The exhibit will provide an insider’s view of the essential link between the amateur game and professional baseball and will also recognize Scout of the Year Award winners, an honor given by the Scout of the Year Program since 1984.
The exhibit also features a searchable database of scouting reports at scouts.baseballhall.org.
For Mazur, a driving force behind the exhibit’s existence, the weekend has truly been a dream come true.
“I am thrilled and elated to see all of the scouts that are here. I can’t tell you how long this has taken and how thrilled I am to be here sitting in front of all of you today,” Mazur said. “I believe that the presence of Diamond Mines will add to the scouting profession in a very positive way, where they now have their place in the history of baseball.”
Jennings called Diamond Mines “great recognition that lends credence and certainly professionalism to really the most loyal, passionate soldiers in this game. We’ve been told forever that we are the backbone of the organization, we’re the lifeblood, and now with the exhibit here at the Hall of Fame it gives credence and a true thank you to what these men have done and accomplished over their time.”
For Gillick, who served as a scout and farm director before eventually becoming one of the most successful GMs in the history of the game, scouts are the people that have a pride and passion and love for this game.
“They don’t do this for monetary reasons. It’s not that well-paying a job,” Gillick said. “They do it for the love of the game, they do it for the love of the players. They do it for the pride they have when they see one of their players advance to the major league club. They are absolutely vital. The three championships we were fortunate enough to win, it couldn’t have happened without good scouting and good grassroots evaluations.
“There’s always been kind of a mystique about scouting, exactly what scouts do, and I think this exhibit at the Hall of Fame is going to be very interesting for a lot of fans that visit,” he continued. “There were so many wonderful people that came before us and it’s really an honor for them and for everyone here and for the future.”
Hemond echoed those sentiments, adding, “There have been so many people that have supported scouts in various ways, but now this is the culmination of it all.”
Bill Francis is a Library Associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.