Svrluga: Scouts always have one more highway, one more flight, one more player to chase

From Barry Svrluga at the Washington Post on June 13, 2014:

The eastbound lanes of Interstate 20 are dominated by 18-wheelers after dark, and Kris Kline deftly feathered his rented Nissan Altima among them as 9 p.m. flew by and 10 p.m. approached, the sun long since set behind him. Three baseball games cluttered his rearview mirror, too, back in the suburb of Hoover, Ala., and as he crossed the Georgia state line, another hotel room, another pre-dawn wakeup call, another flight and three more baseball games awaited him. He was tired.

Kline’s last trip home to the Phoenix suburbs had been . . . well, wait. When was that? “Couple weeks ago, I guess,” he said. Unimportant, really. What mattered was the first baseman from Kentucky and the four at-bats Kline just saw. What mattered was the bed at the Atlanta Airport Marriott Gateway, a 5:15 a.m. alarm, a tram through the darkness to the terminal and Delta 1543 to Greensboro, N.C. What mattered was the next day, the next ballpark, the right-hander from the University of Maryland and the reliever from the University of Virginia that waited there.

“The hardest part of this job is getting to the job,” Kline said. “Once I’m at the ballpark, I’m kind of at peace.”

Kline wore jeans, a Columbia PFG fishing shirt, an Under Armour baseball hat, reading glasses when he made notes, wraparound shades when he didn’t. “Total slob,” he said. Only his title is fancy: Washington Nationals Assistant General Manager and Vice President of Scouting Operations.

Cross all that out. He’s a scout. During this time, in late May, there are no more important people in the Nationals’ organization — not Stephen Strasburg, not Bryce Harper — than Kline and the 17 full-time scouts, plus two part-timers, he oversees. The Nationals played that night in Pittsburgh, earning their millions. The amateur draft was two weeks off, so Kline drove east into the night, searching for more players.

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Originally published: June 17, 2014. Last Updated: June 17, 2014.