What is a baseball scout? We have all heard about boy scouts and girl scouts, right? If you are a fanatic about world history, you may have read about traditional warfare and how scouts were deployed for reconnaissance. I suppose the most familiar story would be actors, models, and K-pop idols being picked up by a scout. In this sentence, the word scout might even replace the verb. So, what do these three examples have in common? They search for their objective and gather information about it.
This is exactly what scouts do in baseball and in other sports as well. They look for talent. They look for skills. They gather every bit of information possible about the player who possesses them. They will then suggest players who fit their profile. Those who receive these suggestions are usually professional baseball clubs. They can also be American colleges with a baseball program, or even sports agencies.
People often mistake a scout for a sports agent. Usually, this will accompany a comment on how much they enjoyed the 1996 film Jerry Macguire, where Tom Cruise portrays a struggling sports agent trying to make a comeback. A sports agent represents a player in negotiating salary contracts, connecting sponsorship deals, and dealing with risks. In some cases, they act as the so-called road managers we would hear about in K-pop. Scouts are not agents. Scouts do not represent players, nor look after them. Scouts simply watch and evaluate them.
Player evaluation is based on grading the skills of a player. In baseball, these skills are called tools; the tools to succeed at baseball's highest level. "Does the player hit for base hits?", "Does the player hit for power?", "Does the player run fast?", "Does the player field the ball well?", "Does the player throw the ball hard?" These are some of the tools scouts look for. Scouts are also required to predict or project a player's development, and eventually the result of this development. It is the most important part of a player evaluation, and great scouts are able to identify talent and accurately project their future.
Most of the time, scouts will rely on their own eyes, instincts, intuition, and knowledge of baseball to evaluate talent. At times, they will also depend on gadgets such as portable radar guns and stopwatches, because instincts and intuition can sometimes fool the eye. A run or a pitch might look fast, but the measurement may tell you something different. Nowadays, clubs rely heavily on data, statistics, and video. Scouts could be asked to collect these types of information in order for the club to grade a player.
Scouts usually attend games to look for talent. A game is the best environment to evaluate a player. Players eventually will have to play in games and show off their performance. Sometimes, scouts will visit schools to see a player train. It can also serve as an opportunity to ask a player to display a specific skill. For this reason, some organizations will hold showcases, which is an event intended entirely for scouts. These showcases will gather a group of players and have them perform certain skills similar to the annual PAPS (Physical Activity Promotion System) held at schools. Scouts also cover a large area. Some scouts might be asked to cover an area which is 11 times the size of South Korea. Some could be asked to cover an entire country. Therefore, they spend most of the day traveling whether it is by car, train, or airplane.
One might be envious a scout is able to view every baseball game he/she wishes. Watching top level baseball can be fun. However, scouts will usually watch a game with numerous mistakes, and maybe just one kid who might have slight shot at playing professional baseball. It is tedious work. Imagine sitting in an elementary school watching younger students learn basic mathematics only to see them make the most simple mistakes, or waiting for someone arriving at the airport in which the only information you know is just the person's name. Scouts will grind through boredom and hardships to provide the club with building blocks. These blocks will be used by a club for one reason only: to win a championship. It is the most satisfying moment for anyone who works for a sports club. Therefore, scouting is not easy work. Next time you watch a professional baseball game, think about how much scouting work had to be devoted to build all the players on the field. By the way, the more you do what you love, the busier you will become.
Hyunsung Kim is a baseball scout from South Korea. He evaluates amateur and professional baseball talents in South Korea and other Asia-Pacific countries for the Kansas City Royals of Major League Baseball. Kim had attended Hankuk University of Foreign Studies majoring in Scandinavian Languages. Before working in sports, he was an international exchange program coordinator for the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family. He also had been a long-time volunteer for the Korean National Commission for UNESCO.