Friday, July 8, 2011

What Makes the Game of Baseball Great

Two players from the 2011 Hudson Valley Renegades and their manager.

What makes the game of baseball great?  The players right?  A formula of correct players, with just the right amount of talent on the right team in the right city at the right time makes the game exciting.  That’s why MLB has an All Star Game – a combination of the best players in each league playing a game against each other is something that fans clamor to see.

But how do the best players make their way onto your favorite teams?  Yes, hard work and practice – but many players that work hard and practice don’t make it to the big leagues.  Why do we see the players we see on the major league level? 

A hardly recognized component in the process is the scout.  Sure, there are major league scouts – the kind that big summer movies are made of.  But there are scouts that go to the game at the beginning of the filtering process, that is, high school and college games.  I had the distinct pleasure of meeting one of them last week at the Professional Scout Hall of Fame induction at Dutchess Stadium in the Hudson Valley, NY.

Jim Howard (far left) watches the unveiling of his Professional Scout Hall of Fame plaque with representatives from the Goldklang group.

Jim Howard has been a scout for 22 years.  22 years!!  He spent his first 19 years in and out of various high school and college games, and his last 3 on the pro circuit.  Talk about hanging in there and paying your dues!  In speaking with him, what struck me most were the sacrifices he made and how generous his family is with their support.

Scouts spend the majority of their time on the road.  With expansive territories and multiple high schools, community colleges and colleges, scouts rack up tens of thousands of travel miles per year, often at the expense of spending time with their families. 

His high school sweetheart and current wife, Colleen, has supported Jim’s endeavors throughout.  She watched him in his four years as a minor leaguer and then transition from player to assessor.  The time on the road was not easy on Jim, Colleen or their two children, but he figured out how to strike a balance between the two. 

Jim described any location he had to scout as “local” if it fell within about 300 miles of his Albany, NY area home.  This meant that for any player he was scouting from Boston to New Jersey, Jim would make the drive home late that evening so that he could make sure to spend a few minutes with his family in the mornings, often seeing the kids off to school. 

It was really sweet to see Jim’s whole extended family at his induction to the Professional Scout Hall of Fame, including his wife, his two children, his brother, his mom and several other extended family members.  After the ceremony, we all attended the Hudson Valley Renegades game.

Jim's family checking out his plaque.

I sat with Jim in the stands and watched him as he watched the Renegades pummel the Aberdeen Ironbirds 8-0 with a beer in hand.  He looked at me, grinned and said, “This is the first game I have ever watched while drinking a beer.”  Cheers to you Jim Howard!

(The Professional Scouts Hall of Fame is brought to you by the Goldklang Group, a sports entertainment management and consulting firm. They own four professional baseball teams throughout the US.  You can see Jim Howard's entire induction ceremony here: