True Baseball Love Never Dies (it just evolves)

I debated how to do my inaugural post for The Spitter. Do I just jump right in and start spouting opinions? Do I try to be funny for the sake of funny?

In the end, I decided to be myself and simply tell my story — why I’m here, what I hope to accomplish, and who I’m trying to reach through these pages.

I’m on a journey toward making good on my childhood baseball dream. I think it’s a tale worth telling, and I’ll hope you join me for the ride.

You see, after 20 years in private industry, I recently had an epiphany, realizing I’d rather spend the rest of my life immersed in baseball than waste another moment doing work I don’t love. Putting aside what most would consider “good judgment,” I listened to my heart and invested everything into my passion for baseball.

Back in my youth, the mere thought of being employed as anything other than a ballplayer, scout, personnel director, or agent was terrifying to me. Yet, somewhere along the line, I made peace with becoming the corporate professional I am today.

But “making peace” doesn’t mean happiness. It never has.

So, I decided to initiate a career change because baseball is my true calling, and is imperative to my happiness. Since childhood, I’ve had an uncanny ability to project whether amateur prospects and minor leaguers would someday develop into MLB stars. Only now I’m no longer willing to waste this skill just to “earn a living.”

I was meant to be a baseball scout. And I’m going to become a baseball scout.

This is how my story begins…

Baseball (Not Boy) Scouts of America

Like so many, my childhood is riddled with unhappy memories. But, there are still rare moments when I’m able to smile, such as when I reminisce about my collection of papers containing handwritten names and statistics of college players that I’d identified as future pro stars.

I first fell in love with proper scouting at age 7, when I discovered the joy of collecting baseball cards and developed an addiction to buying rookie cards of prospects before their values skyrocketed in the Beckett Baseball Card Price Guide.

My love for baseball further intensified when I joined Little League soon thereafter and displayed a knack for chasing down fly balls, resulting in several coaches calling me the next Willie Mays.

Their praise suddenly had me dreaming of playing MLB instead of scouting it. My family on the other hand was — ahem —less than convinced that I had the makings of a professional ballplayer.

The Birth of a Player

I started high school a few months after my parents’ marriage ended. In addition to devastating our household finances, the psychological toll of their split resulted in my completely losing motivation in class.

Instead of studying, I was more concerned with reading Paul Zimmerman’s column in Sports Illustrated, compiling subjective lists of pro player rankings, and publishing my own all-star teams that had classmates calling me “our school’s Dr. Z.”

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I also began to treat baseball as an unpaid internship to the full-time job that would someday provide me with a ticket out of poverty and suffering. Scouting was only half of my interest — I needed to show my value on the field, as well.

As a freshman, I batted 1.000 in JV baseball only because a fractured ankle caused me to miss all but one game. While healing, I served as the team statistician and also earned a reputation for being the prospects guru of our clubhouse because I so often successfully identified future MLB stars that my teammates had never heard of.

I had a strong run on the field, and genuinely believed there was a future for me in bigger parks. Along the way, I also met the man that transformed my baseball fandom to a lifelong passion.

A True Mentor, On and Off the Field

Potomac, Maryland is very different from the way it’s been depicted on reality TV in recent months. Amidst the million-dollar homes and luxury cars is a community with a passion for summer league baseball.

During the ’90s, Ed Berger was to baseball in Potomac what Mike Krzyzewski is to college hoops at Duke; a strict disciplinarian loved by his players and boosters, but hated by everyone else for being a winner.

Berger had established a championship tradition in a league vastly superior to that of high school baseball by recruiting the county’s best players to battle teams comprised of the top talent from their respective city.

Berger’s juggernaut had blue chip prospects, Washington Post All-Met selections, and All-County studs. Somehow, I managed to catch Berger’s eye and he recruited me to start in center field while batting leadoff.

Under his expert tutelage, I was taught a more cerebral, disciplined brand of baseball where expectations were high and those falling short lost their job. Not only did I learn to play better, but I learned the science behind the histrionics. I learned the true beauty of the game, further solidifying my scouting acumen.

But, most importantly of all, Berger treated me like a son, and never stopped telling me that I’ve got what it takes to be an MLB professional, in front of the crowds, or behind the scenes.

Cowhide vs. Sheepskin

At the risk of sounding arrogant, I was a pretty damn good player, both in the field and at the plate. And I had more than one coach push me toward a pro career.

Regrettably, my family responded by telling me how good I wasn’t.

(Yes, it still stings to type it.)

They stated unequivocally that skipping college wasn’t an option because too many black Americans died for our right to obtain the education Jim Crow had denied us. Though I’m sure that my parents felt an obligation to ensure that I got a bachelor’s degree, much of their sentiment was actually rooted in my mom’s fear of disappointing her oppressive parents.

You see, my mother’s family is the epitome of what we black people refer to as “bourgeois.” They’re wealthy, controlling, well-connected, rooted in old money, and preach that only “dumb jocks seek careers in sports.”

They envisioned my profession being either medicine, law, meteorology, or aerospace engineering. They felt that I was destined to become the next Charles Drew.

The only numbers I wanted to crunch were OPS and signing bonuses.

To boot, my uncle consistently reiterated that I was too small in stature to even consider becoming an MLB player. Based on their assessment of my baseball skills, I would only be a Maury Wills clone — not the kind of player you’d see at Camden Yards in the late 1990s.

The Aftermath

I entered my final high school season with confidence. Thanks to Coach Berger (and despite my family), I never doubted that an MLB scout would notice me. I had decided to attend North Carolina A&T University, where I’d play baseball while majoring in engineering.

Unfortunately, shortly after making this decision, my mother called A&T’s coach and sabotaged my plans by telling him to cease contacting me because I “would not be attending college there.”

I didn’t find out about this malicious act until after the damage was already done.

I finished my senior year with a lackluster .300/.404/.500 slash line. But, I’d somehow attracted the attention of an MLB scout who approached me in the very last game and communicated his team’s desire to select me in the upcoming draft.

However, the thrill was short-lived because my mother once again interjected by instructing the MLB scout not to draft me. Her reason? Because I would be attending college, and she will not authorize my going pro out of high school. The scout tried to persuade my mom by telling her about the MLB College Scholarship Program, but it was to no avail.

One week later, the draft took place and I was heartbroken. Rather than beginning my pro career in Single-A rookie ball, I was forced to play another year in summer league. I couldn’t enjoy my success because it was overshadowed by the sadness of losing my MLB dream.

It was incredibly depressing to know that my mom had sabotaged my dream amidst our struggle.

Twice.

Soon, I learned that she had chosen to sacrifice my baseball career in order to earn her parents’ favor. Whatever I wanted for my life meant nothing to them and they felt that I’d simply comply with their wishes rather than risk being disowned by choosing my own destiny.

The Birth of a Scout

Baseball scouting had always been my first love, but I wasn’t sure how to develop or cultivate this skill at all. So, I contacted a popular ESPN analyst who, surprisingly, responded by providing me with valuable advice.

This rekindled my lifelong love of talent evaluation. I’m ready to pickup where I left off in this relationship. It has been a roller coaster experience up until now, and since I’ve made this life-changing decision, the ups and downs have only just begun.

The Spitter presents a golden opportunity for me to showcase my passion and instincts for scouting, while pursuing the business management degree necessary for entering the business of baseball.

My goal is to encompass the applied science of talent evaluation and provide fantasy insight to baseball fans, in addition to highlighting baseball’s aesthetic beauty. In the end, I want to be known as insightful and dependable, and maybe — just maybe — ahead of the curve on player potential.

I want to hear from readers about their own player insights, and perhaps even their own journeys within the game we love. But most importantly, I want to have a little fun along the way.

Again, I hope you’ll take this ride with me.

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