Lindbergh: Dispatches from Baseball Scout School in Arizona

From SABR member Ben Lindbergh at on October 7, 2013:

I’m never going to be an experienced scout, but I do write about baseball, and it bothers me that there’s so much I’m missing. So I’m doing something about it: I’m going to Scout School.

Known more formally as the Scout Development Program, Scout School is a 12-day course designed to teach the basics of baseball scouting. It takes place in Phoenix each fall, and it’s run by the Major League Scouting Bureau, an organization (now under the domain of Major League Baseball) that has supplemented the scouting efforts of MLB clubs since 1974. More than 1,200 people have participated in the first 28 sessions of Scout School, and many of them have gone on to hold high positions with teams, including some general managers whose names you know.

Aspiring scouts and player development personnel make up most of the graduates, but in recent years other front-office members have begun flocking to Phoenix to be exposed to the scouting perspective. Progressive organizations have increasingly sought to combine statistics and scouting information in their efforts to evaluate players. As then–Baseball Prospectus columnist Dayn Perry once put it, asking whether a team should be run with scouts or statistics is like asking someone to choose between beer or tacos. The best answer is “Both, you fool.”

To be invited to Scout School, you have to be sponsored by a major league team, which means that most attendees have already broken into baseball. And it’s serious business for those who hope to pursue scouting as a career, since their future employment could depend on getting a good grade. Last Sunday, I arrived in Arizona with 65 fellow members of Scout School’s 29th class, many of whom once played professionally and were scouted themselves. Some, like me, have no scouting experience; others have already been hired as scouts but are still seeking the bureau’s seal of approval, which can come only from the 14 instructors whose task it is to condense a combined 325 years of experience into a 12-day program designed to create scouts from scratch. As I progress through that program, I’ll be studying the bureau’s scouting manual, putting my new knowledge to use on Phoenix’s blistering fields, and writing reports on players. And I’ll also attempt to pass on some of the insights I’ve gained.

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Originally published: October 10, 2013. Last Updated: October 10, 2013.