May 3, 2005

A GREAT DAY FOR A SCOUT:

Under the gun: Spend the day with baseball scout Jim Fitzgerald, one of more than 120 members of the Mariners scouting department, as he tries to find the next M's superstar. (Kirby Arnold, 5/01/05, The Herald)

Before Jim Fitzgerald jumped behind the wheel of his rental car, he made sure he had brought all the necessities for a day of work.

Stopwatch.

Pens.

Charts.

Rosters.

Full tank of gas.

Driving directions. Above all, he couldn't forget the driving directions.

"A baseball scout's favorite web site is MapQuest," said Fitzgerald, the Seattle Mariners' assistant to the vice president of scouting.

And, of course, he brought something to eat. On this day, it's a bottle of water and an energy bar. Other days, it's a hotdog and sunflower seeds.

"Scout's dinner," Fitzgerald said. "Sometimes if you're on a tight schedule, you eat in the car and steer with your knees."

Dining choices may seem a little haphazard, but the rest of a baseball scout's work can't be.

The success of a franchise often depends on the work of its scouts, who watch high school, junior college and college baseball not only across the country, but around the world.

Including associate scouts who work on a part-time basis, more than 120 comprise the Mariners' scouting department, ranging from the front-office direction of scouting director Bob Fontaine to part-time associate scouts who cover not only the U.S. but also Australia, Canada, Venezuela, Czechoslovakia, Korea, Curaco, Italy, Panama, Japan, Nicaragua, Spain, South America, Mexico, Taiwan, Holland and Aruba. The core of the amateur scouting staff is a 25-person group that includes full-time area scouts and coordinators.

Fitzgerald, 36, is a 10-year Mariners staffer who began assisting Fontaine last year. He spends much of his time in the office but also a good number of days watching high school and college games. By draft day on June 7, when the Mariners will have the third overall selection, he estimates he'll have seen more than 60 games.

"We have only 123 days to see high school kids, college kids and junior college kids," Fitzgerald said. "The biggest thing we fight is time."

To maximize his time, a scout often will watch several games in a day.

"One day I had a quadruple-header, games at 8 a.m., noon, 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., and not all at the same place," said Fitzgerald, who accomplished it by criss-crossing from Peoria to Phoenix to Scottsdale. "Those are great days for a scout."

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 3, 2005 6:35 AM
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