Hall of Fame scores big with scouts

Jim McIsaac

You might as well give up on that Comeback Player of the Year Award, Clay Buchholz. You too, Mariano Rivera. Along with everybody else. Because Saturday the Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum locked up any and all Comeback Awards.

Let me explain. Thursday, the Hall of Fame unveiled this godawful "study" of the public's perception of steroid use among adolescents. Someday the good people who work at the Hall will be terribly embarrassed by this episode. If they're not already. And yet, just two days later the Hall redeemed itself, at least partially, with the unveiling of the brand-new, long-in-the-making Diamond Mines exhibit:

This weekend, the home of baseball opened its new Diamond Mines exhibit dedicated to the scouting profession. With close to 100 members of this unsung profession – representing 20 big league clubs – in attendance for the festivities, visitors on Saturday morning also had the rare opportunity to hear first-hand from some of those veterans who have searched far and wide for the game’s next star.

--snip--

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.

I've not been to Cooperstown to see the exhibit in the museum. I like the idea of the exhibit. But practically speaking, what's really got me jazzed is that searchable database of scouting reports. Some years ago, there was a player named Nick Capra, whom I followed from season to season for no particular reason. Capra played forever and ever in the minors, but in all those years he got into just 45 games in the majors. Including 14 with the Royals. I was so thrilled! Nick Capra finally was getting his big shot!

He got four hits in 29 at-bats.

Anyway, I happened across Nick Capra's scouting report, filed by Tom Ferrick in 1979, and reading something like this is a special thrill for someone like me:

EXCITING SMALL PLAYER. MAKES THINGS HAPPEN ON FIELD. YOU FORGET HE IS SMALL IN SIZE. HE PLAYS BIG IN SIZE. HAS TOOLS TO BE EVERYDAY 2B IN M.L. LOVES TO PLAY

Perhaps Ferrick was wrong about Capra, who wound up in the outfield and never became an every-day major leaguer. But that's completely beside the point. The point is that these scouting reports are just incredibly fascinating artifacts, and we're incredibly lucky to suddenly have access to thousands and thousands of them. I heartily encourage you to just dive in and splash around for a while.

A couple of quibbles: A fair number of the reports are rudimentary to the point of worthlessness, and the user interface could use a lot of work. But as quibbles go, these are barely worth mentioning. The story's going to be that the Hall of Fame has done a great thing for scouts, and I don't doubt that's true. But from a purely selfish perspective, the Hall of Fame has done something great for me. I'm grateful, and once again I'm pleased to be a dues-paying member in good standing.

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