I recently posted some Tweets about assisting people with learning to scout. One of the responses I've gotten is, "What qualifies you to teach people about scouting?" Let's jump into it:
I began trying to understand baseball from a scout's point of view in 2006. A college baseball player (he pitched in Double-A last season) handed me a radar gun and asked me to help him chart a game.
As I recorded pitch velocities for the first time, my mind began racing. I found looking at the game through a scout's lens to be stimulating and challenging. I still do.
That season, I got to see Evan Longoria, Brian Matusz and other future big leaguers. More a writer than scout, I saw scouting as a sacred art that only a select few could understand. A 2007 internship with Baseball America helped me further my knowledge.
Moving across the country to North Carolina, where I had more free time than friends, I decided to attend amateur baseball games regularly. I acquired an old radar gun from a former Baseball America editor and current professional scout, and I was off. I scouted Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, Dustin Ackley, Matt Wieters and others.
I didn't know a single scout or much about what I was doing, but I knew I could learn something every day. I interviewed coaches and players, and welcomed any knowledge they offered. I attended games religiously, taking notes all the while.
(I respected scouts too much to dare interrupt them. I feared I'd embarrass myself and waste their time.)
Then another co-worker (he's also a pro scout now) said something that inspired me. He was watching a game with a friend and sharing his thoughts on one of the players. A scout behind him spoke up to tell him that he was just thinking the exact same thing.
I wondered what I could do to someday think on a frequency anywhere near the range of a scout. My eyes were untrained and I didn't know who to ask for help, so I bought a video camera.
Games, games and more games
Taking video would give me material to review, archive and study later. I could slow the game down (literally) and reflect on it. I went to the Arizona Fall League, minor league spring training and college games. I watched MLB games with a different kind of focus. I kept my radar gun charged and my video camera rolling.
Writing about my experiences and observations and continuing to immerse myself in baseball, I started thinking about questions that only scouting minds had answers to. A few reached out to me and I reached out to others. That's when the real learning began.
Scouts are a unique breed. Much sharper than a recent Hollywood portrayal makes them out to be, they are extremely hard workers and tomes of knowledge.
It's not a dream job. It's a passion.
It's rough on families. It's rough on relationships in general. It's isolation. It's a floating orb of wisdom that observes more than it speaks. It's fueling dreams and ending others. It's a fountain of youth. It's continuity. It's strategy. It's devotion.
I've learned from scouts to listen quietly and soak in the moment, like a form of meditation. Think critically. Think deeply. Challenge yourself. Don't turn to others for answers, seek them out yourself. Utilize your strengths. Learn.
My biggest strengths are passion, creativity, ambition and confidence.
When I was in San Diego for a friend's wedding, I convinced my wife that it would be a good idea to drive 300 miles to see Tyson Gillies and Alex Liddi (High Desert Mavericks) play against James Darnell (Lake Elsinore Storm). When I had a short gap between jobs three years ago, I decided that driving from Northern California to Arizona to see minor league games for a week was a wise way to wait on pending applications. It's a curse and a blessing, but I'm always thirsty for more.
In 2009, I gathered a team of writers, videographers and investors to put together a Digital Prospect Guide. It included detailed scouting notes on 300 minor leaguers along with video, photographs and statistics. It was and continues to be well received.
Those of you who follow me on Twitter (@AdamWFoster) have been witness to my strong opinions. I also haven't been shy about getting involved in message board exchanges.
The Internet is always available to offer doses of humility. It can be blunt. It can be rude. It can be relentless. It can be informed. It can be brilliant. It can be trying. It can be challenging.
My biggest weaknesses are passion, creativity, ambition and confidence.
I've interacted with Internet personalities who have discounted my work, questioned my intelligence and even threatened to harm me. Exuding confidence, especially when your opinions don't always align with mainstream views, can be interpreted as taunting the Internet. Different to be different, I've been called.
While I've continued to chart my own course, I've met people in the game who have respected my efforts. I had a lengthy conversation with a MLB pitching coach this spring who said he enjoyed my questions and was impressed by my thinking. When I was giving someone an introduction to scouting last week, a scout, who I had never met, told the person I was teaching that she was learning from someone who knew his stuff.
There really aren't many people who write about prospects, and even fewer who share first-hand opinions. I watch prospects and share opinions. Any scout will tell you that he isn't always right. It's part of being human. When you publish an opinion that contrasts with common thinking and you are wrong, the Internet can be unforgiving.
I've chosen to intertwine scouting with social media. The benefits and challenges of such an approach go hand-in-hand. I don't know everything, but I do know that emanating modesty in 140 characters can be difficult.
I also know that social media and online media are a prime medium for inspiring questions and learning. It's a path that has given birth to front office members. It's enriching. It's pretty amazing.
The hardest part of scouting is putting yourself in a position to gain knowledge. If you can wrestle with that, you can learn.
But even once you find a setting to view professional-caliber talent, making sense of everything that's going on in front of you isn't easy. It's a skill that takes plenty of experience and seasoning.
This year, I have decided to offer to teach people who are interested in scouting about what I've learned over the last six years. (To really understand something, you must be able to teach it.)
It's not my intention to present myself as a know-it-all or superscout. I'm a passionate fan of baseball who, hopefully, has just begun his quest to understand the game to its fullest. And I'm grateful to have you along for the ride.
I'm always happy to talk baseball and scouting at email@example.com.