While many of his tales are told via anecdotes and by examining baseball cards, here is the first of a few tales from him that he wanted to share with Beckett readers …
Scout tales: Corey Hart, Milwaukee Brewers
As a scout, you try to put together the entire picture of a player. We will go to the ballpark early to watch batting practice, give eye and personality tests and even hold special workouts. The player will be watched from the time he steps off the bus or out of the locker room as we look for little mannerisms that will give an insight to the player. We try to find out what makes the kid special enough to make it to the big leagues.
As an area scout for the Florida Marlins in the 1990s and early 2000s, I had the pleasure of scouting Corey Hart. The future Brewer was a high school senior at Greenwood High School in Bowling Green, Ky., in the spring of 2000.
The gangly youngster was physically weak, but had quickness to his body and was a marvelous athlete standing 6-foot-6. He had a strong arm, could run like the wind (6.60 in the 60 yard dash) and had quickness to his swing. Seeing him swing through some pitches against the lesser competition of Western Kentucky though raised some questions about his bat, but he did show power in workouts when he swung the wood bats.
In scouting circles we referred to Hart as “The Skinny Hitter.”
As my spring was winding down, I remember being at a night game at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfeesboro, Tenn., with plans to head back north to Cincinnati. Given the time-zone change and the lateness of the game, I chose to pull off the road and grab a motel room.
As I exited I-65, I noticed that the ball field lights were glowing at Greenwood High, which was a stone’s throw away. Filled with curiosity, I ventured over to the school, thinking I had missed an opportunity for another game.
I pulled into a parking lot on a ridge that overlooked the ball field, only to see Hart and two friends taking a late-night batting practice.
They had been there a while and continued to hit until shutting it down at 11:30. I just sat in my car and watched “my private hitting session” with Hart from afar as I didn’t want to interrupt Corey and his friends.
Most of all, I was able to watch how much Corey loved baseball and that he would spend the extra time to work on his game. I could tell that there was something special about him.
While I had turned Hart in to the Marlins’ office as a potential draft in the Rounds 8-10, he slid some (as players will do), before being plucked by Milwaukee in the 11th round. He had impressed the Brewers brass in a pre-draft workout at Miller Park just prior to the draft.
Hart signed with the Brew Crew and just five years later made his major-league debut. This season, he was named to the National League All-Star squad.
It wasn’t easy for Hart as he was moved from playing first to third, finally settling in as an outfielder in Triple-A, all while trying learn to hit the curveball. He did it with the same work ethic and a passion for the game that I witnessed on a late May evening in 2000.
With two daughters who play sports, I remind them to practice; that they need to “polish the star, if it is going to shine.” They have heard me tell the Corey Hart story and call me corny, but there is a thread of truth that rings through.
– Brad Del Barba
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