UPDATE (2/10/14): The school in question sent out a follow-up memo to scouts. No scout will be denied access to any game. There will now be 16 seats behind home plate reserved for scouts, as well as room for more in a standing area. Cameras and backpacks will also be allowed.
Yesterday, a scout e-mailed me a list of restrictions that was sent by a college to all scouts in the area. The school is apparently cracking down this year . . . but why? And at what cost? I’m not going to publicize which school sent this out—not because I don’t think it’s atrocious, but because I think it’s probably a bigger issue than just one school. Singling this school out would be unfair, because I’m sure other schools are (or are considering) doing something similar.
It doesn’t need to be this way, and the best examples on both sides work hard to create solid working relationships, but there can be bad blood between scouts and college baseball programs. Some college coaches think scouts steal their players. Scouts believe some college programs abuse their pitchers. There are disagreements about the value of a scholarship offered by a college program compared to what MLB teams offer through their college scholarship plan. Most of those arguments are for another day. For now, let’s look at the e-mail that was sent out, with the restrictions in bold and my thoughts below each one . . .
1. Scouts have to purchase tickets — they will only have a select number of scout tickets available, so you have to arrive early.
I don’t have a problem with college teams making scouts buy tickets. Want to make a few extra bucks because you have prospects on your team? Go ahead. But what is the point of limiting the number of scout tickets—especially (as you’ll see below) when those tickets don’t really get you anything?
2. The school will only sell one ticket per scout, so arriving early to buy multiple tickets for everyone else is not allowed.
This seems like it’s just making it extra difficult for scouts to do their job. Do you allow families to buy tickets for people who aren’t present? Seriously, what is the difference? Perhaps the craziest thing about all of this is that the college team in question has a former scout on their payroll!
3. Once the school has sold all scout tickets, no more will be issued.
I don’t know how many tickets constitutes a “select number,” but here’s a novel idea—be accommodating to scouts. Treating them like an inconvenience is just plain wrong. Schools should feel fortunate that scouts want to come see their players. If a school is concerned that scouts somehow interfere with fans’ enjoyment of the game, the school should consider this: Fans want the players to be drafted as highly as possible. Plus, it’s good for the long-term success of the team to have the players drafted as highly as possible. Being seen is kind of a key component to that. Pissing scouts off just isn’t in the best interest of a university. The next time a scout in the area sees a player who isn’t ready for pro baseball but would be a good college player, he probably isn’t going to tip off the school who went out of their way to make his job as difficult as possible.
4. No seats will be available behind home plate. There is a thin row up top, between the press box and the back row of seats, that is standing room only.
Scouts need to have access behind home plate to see the movement on pitches. They need certain angles and viewpoints to do their job correctly. On the other hand, fans don’t need to sit anywhere special. I get wanting to give your fans great access, but what is the problem with setting aside two or three rows behind home plate for scouts, especially when you’re already making them buy tickets? Set aside a few rows for scouts and if they aren’t sold 30 minutes before game time, open them up to the public. Also, this wasn’t an issue that snuck up on this particular university. They have known that this year was going to be big and could have built more bleachers if they were so worried about scouts taking the place of fans. South Carolina—a school with a lot more history and draft success than the school in question, I might add—did it the right way. There is a designated area for scouts at Carolina Stadium, right behind home plate.
5. No video cameras allowed.
This is just absurd! What’s next? No stopwatches because the beeping annoys the fans? No pens and paper? No sunscreen? I’ll stop there. I don’t want to give the school any ideas. Good luck enforcing this one!
6. No backpacks.
OK, now this is starting to feel more like an article from The Onion, rather than actual rules college teams are going to try and impose on professional scouts. That’s right . . . no backpacks at the game on the UNIVERSITY CAMPUS. Good rules make sense because the reason behind them is obvious. This isn’t a good rule. It’s just another petty way for the school to flex their muscle and make things more difficult. Concerned about security? Check bags at the gate. Concerned about space? For what, the seats the scouts aren’t allowed to use? What’s the difference between a backpack and a shoulder bag, or a woman’s purse?
7. All scouts must exit the ballpark 15 minutes prior to the game and get back in line to have their ticket scanned.
Again, another petty example of needless enforcement. If you’re going to make scouts buy tickets and you’re going to let them in early, why can’t you just scan their tickets when you let them in?
Edit: The other part, that I didn’t even think of when I initially posted this, is the players’ point of view. If you’re a current player, a recruit, a parent of a player or a recruit, or an adviser—you hate this. You want to be seen as much as possible. Maybe this doesn’t affect the top players, but it will certainly have a negative impact on players lower down the pecking order. It’s bad for the scouts, it’s bad for the players, it’s bad for the college program as a whole. Nobody wins.
It’s astounding that a college baseball program would have the arrogance and short-sightedness to get all heavy-handed like this with scouts. And for what . . . 20-50 seats per game? Is that worth the potential long-term ramifications of scouts in the area turning on you? No chance.
If you’re a scout reading this: I’m sorry you have to deal with things like this. Your job is difficult enough already without this sort of nonsense.
If you’re involved with a college program and you’re reading this: Consider this Example A of “What Not To Do.”