As you sit back and watch the draft tonight -- or, more realistically, read about it tomorrow -- you'll no doubt look at the list of players your team has taken and wonder "who the hell are these guys?"
And that's the central dynamic of the baseball draft from the average fan's point of view, isn't it? Not knowing the names of the players on whose backs the future of the franchise rides? This isn't like football or basketball which farms their player development and promotion business out to the colleges (many of which are supported by your tax dollars, by the way). For every Stephen Strasburg, there are several hundred Joe Blows even fairly serious baseball fans have never heard of.
But trust that someone has heard of these guys, and that someone is the person who scouted them. You probably have an image in your mind of your typical Major League scout, and that image probably looks something like this. And there are certainly scouts like that. Hopefully a lot of them, because I like to see guys like that at baseball games.
But there's way more to it than wearing sweet hats and chomping on cigars. To find out just how much more to it, you'd do well to read the Cincinnati Enquirer's multi-part-feature on the life of the Major League scout:
Chris Buckley, Reds senior director of scouting, figures he travels between 150 and 200 days a year. Dodgers scout Marty Lamb said he drives an estimated 40,000 miles a year to watch baseball games. Brian Hiler, a Cincinnati-based scout for the Kansas City Royals, said the scouting life is short on glamour and truly a labor of love . . .
. . . Anecdotal evidence, interviews, Internet research and other sources say scouts above the part-time rank can start in at around $20,000 per year and that scouting directors for most teams top $100,000 per year. Area scouts/part timers might not get much more than gas mileage and expenses.
But, boy, I sure can think of a thousand worse jobs to have, can't you?