As was the case with Allen Levrault, the initial part of the process of getting a prospect all the way to the big leagues begins with the work of a scout.
Note from brewerfan.com staff:
On December 10th, brewerfan.com will be sitting down with Milwaukee Brewer scout (Northeast U.S. and Eastern Canada Regions) Tom Tanous for a Q&A session, which will then be published online here shortly thereafter. You can submit any questions you have for Tom in the thread located on the Minor League Forum within the Fan Forum Message Board here at brewerfan.com.
Tom is very anxious to answer the questions you might submit, and is very enthusiastic about helping educate Brewer fans about the how's and why's of what he does. Tom has worked within both the Sal Bando and Dean Taylor administrations and among current Brewers, Tom was responsible for pushing for the drafting of and working towards the eventual signings of major leaguer Allen Levrault (a 1996 13th round selection), 1999 21st-rounder LHP Ben Wallace, 1999 32nd-rounder LHP Justin Gordon (look for an upcoming piece soon on Justin at brewerfan.com, "Life as a Brewer Minor League Prospect"), 2000 21st-rounder RHP Jeremy Shorey, and Tom's highest draft choice selection to date, 2001 3rd rounder RHP Jon Steitz, out of Yale University. Ever wonder what a cross- checker does? No, not hockey. Tom's willing to provide a nice inside look to the scouting game, and of particular interest to brewerfan.com, the Brewers' very own scouting system.
The following article was written by Tim Geary and appeared in the Fall River, Massachusetts Herald News on July 22, 1999, but is still relevant today, as it provides some insight into the world of perhaps the most underrated part of any professional baseball organization, the scouting department.
Now Tim Geary's article:
Tom Tanous got his current automobile, a Ford Taurus, a year ago February and in that time he's put over 58,000 miles on the odometer. Sometime next month he'll trade in his current model for a new one and he'll run it past the 1,000- mile mark before many of us would empty a single tank of gas.
At the height of his season, Tanous almost never sleeps in the same bed more than three days at a time, seldom awakens knowing immediately what city, or backwater town, he's in.
Tom Tanous is a professional baseball scout.
The Swansea, Massachusetts native and former star at Case High School and American International College, works for the Milwaukee Brewers and spends half his time packing his suitcase and the other half unpacking.
"Yeah, there's a lot of travel involved when you do what I do," he chuckled Tuesday afternoon during one of his rare and precious days at home.
There's nothing glamorous about being a scout.
Tanous' life is spent driving or flying around the country, sitting in sun- baked stands to watch an endless string of baseball games, eating all the wrong kinds of food and wondering if the pimply-faced 17-year-old kid he's going to push to be drafted next spring will suddenly decide to chuck it all and take a job at the local burger joint, hoping to earn enough money for the Trans Am that'll impress Emmy Lou.
In a typical year, Tanous, who is responsible for signing Westport's Allen Levrault and Taunton's Justin Gordon, will spend 100 nights in a hotel. He'll watch between 180 and 200 games and he'll fill enough notebooks to cover the infield of any baseball diamond.
A typical trip might see him drive his own car from Swansea to the Carolinas, take in a few games and then fly to Texas and rent a car for a week to take in some more games.
Then it's back to the airport for a return flight to the Carolinas, pick up his car and head away to take in more games.
"There are the rewards, of course, with the biggest coming when a kid you scouted, drafted and then signed makes it all the way to the Show."
But there are more frustrations and there's tremendous pressure. "When we have our meetings, we have 30 scouts all fighting for their guys to be drafted so you'd better be sure when you push for somebody," he said.
Of course, you can never be sure. That's the catch and your future and your reputation as an evaluator of talent rides on whether or not the 16- and 17-year olds you recommend will evolve into the 23-year-old major leaguer you project them to become.
Frustration? There's a lot of that.
Last year, Tanous jumped in his car and rode five hours non-stop to a small town in upstate New York to watch a phenom whose coach had promised just the night before he would be pitching that day.
Turned out the coach had a change of heart and pulled the kid.
"There was a bunch of us there and he wasn't going to throw in the game so we convinced them to let him throw for us on the side," said Tanous, adding, "but it's never like a game situation".
Then there was the day this spring when Tanous drove up to watch Peabody (Mass.) High's Rick Asadoorian pitch, but the game was called when the pitching rubber broke.
Asadoorian also worked out for the scouts on the side and was later drafted (their first pick) by the Red Sox. Note from brewerfan.com: Asadoorian has struggled mightily as an OF prospect within the Boston system.
Tanous' season is broken down into three time periods.
From February to early June, when the amateur draft is held, he's going to high school and college games, helping the Brewers evaluate the players they'll consider drafting.
After the draft, and hopefully some quick signings, Tanous works the Double A Eastern league, covering the eight teams and filing reports on all the players in the rival organizations, preparing for the Rule V draft, where players can be drafted out of one organization by another.
In September, when all the major league teams call up their promising minor leaguers, Tanous covers the Red Sox and Tigers and then hits the colleges for their fall seasons.
"When you go to a field to see a game about the only thing you're sure of is which teams are playing," he said. "that's why there's a lot of stress, but overall I still love it. It's baseball and I love baseball."
He also loves the fact that he doesn't have to buy or service the cars that he drives into the ground.
The Brewers take care of all of that and they'll continue as long as Tom Tanous keeps finding diamonds in the rough for them to polish.