Belinsky: The evolution of baseball scouting in Canada

From SABR member Hudson Belinsky at Baseball Prospectus on December 5, 2012:

Tony Lucadello developed a reputation as one of the best scouts in baseball. In his career, Lucadello signed dozens of future big leaguers, most notably Hall of Famers Mike Schmidt and Ferguson Jenkins. As Lucadello pursued young talent, he not only brought talented players into professional baseball, but he also, perhaps by accident, sparked a cultural phenomenon.

“He had an impact on me,” Brewers’ GM Doug Melvin said of Ferguson Jenkins. “Wanting to play the game and recognizing that Canadians [could] play baseball” was huge not only for Melvin, but for Canadians everywhere. Melvin and Jenkins hail from the same hometown of Chatham, Ontario. Canadian baseball has made slow progress over the years, and star players like Jenkins have helped to blaze a trail for other young players. But Jenkins could only do so much; the scouting scene in Canada wasn’t what it is today. When Melvin grew up, he didn’t encounter scouts until he attended a tryout camp in Midland, Michigan as a 13-year-old. “Back then it was tryouts…[it was] an era when if you wanted to play baseball in Canada you almost had to go and seek out the tryouts. [They] were the best way [to be exposed].”

Melvin was followed loosely throughout his high school years before Pirates’ scout Ken Beardslee signed him to a contract with a $1,000 signing bonus. “Yeah, it’s a little different now,” Melvin joked. “At the time you don’t even negotiate; you’re just thankful that you got recognized, and you’re afraid to ask for $5,000…because you understand [that] the opportunity is more important than an extra thousand dollars or so.” Young Canadian players needed to really love playing baseball if they wanted to sign pro contracts in the late 60s and early 70s; the days of million-dollar bonuses were many years away.

Today, things have changed. Every organization now has scouts who cover Canada. Just about every young player, even those with a remote interest in baseball, can find a place to play the game. The talented players are on everyone’s radar. One such player is Cal Quantrill, a projectable Stanford commit who can run his fastball into the low 90s. Cal’s father, Paul, enjoyed over a decade of playing in the big leagues.

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Originally published: December 5, 2012. Last Updated: December 5, 2012.