When I first started scouting in 2001-02, we had a legitimate offseason. You could count on a couple of weeks after the Draft, October, November, December, and part of January. Not anymore. The day after the Draft, we had scouts flying out to look at players.
I immediately started working on my travel plans. I try to make sure I am home to watch my three kids play their games, and I'm there for the first day of school in August. But the reality is the summer is just as important to us as our spring coverage. We'll have seven or eight scouts just covering the Cape Cod League.
It's the first time we get an opportunity to see some of these players using a wooden bat. We're the only sport where when they turn professional, they completely change the tools they've been using. It's important for us to see what players can do with a wood bat.
I'm also busy working with Buddy Bell and Chris Getz, our player development guys, on trying to put together the best plan for our new players. Where are we going to place them? A lot is determined by what level of competition they played as an amateur. If a pitcher already has thrown a lot of innings, we might keep him in a low-level club. Normally, you don't want to start a high school hitter with a full-season club. Better for him to get his feet on the ground in Arizona, where there's no fans. Then nobody's scrutinizing them on blogs or social media.
Ninety percent of these prospects never have gone through an 0-for-21 slump, or been knocked around for two or three starts in a row. You want to make sure they're mentally tough enough to handle those situations in the big spotlight.
It truly is an overnight thing when these Draft picks become professional baseball players. For a lot of them, it's the first time they've had any money in their hands. They have to learn how to cook their meals and wash their clothes. They're responsible for waking up and getting to the ballpark on time. It all falls on you.
We try to get them into the mindset of being a professional baseball player. We try to get them to understand that this is ultimately a job interview for them each and every day they step on to the field. Their next step will be judged by how they produce and by how hard they work. Buddy and Getzy give them all the information they need from Day 1.
Once the players go off to their clubs, I'm hands off. I'm not seeing them play every day. The player development people might come back to me from time to time with questions. Maybe they'll ask, "What did a player do to get out of a slump in college?" I try to help when I can.
I always try to read what people write about our Drafts. It's good from both perspectives. In the years when it's been negative, you try to use it as motivation. I've saved a few stories that have put us down in the past.
When it's positive, it's a good pat on the back. The other day, I sent out an email to our scouts saying, "Hey, we're getting a lot of positive reviews for our Draft." The area scouts and the cross-checkers, they don't get the face time that I do. But they're the guys out there digging for information. It's exciting to see our staff get the recognition because I know how hard they're working.
As told to Ed Sherman.