I’m meeting a Major League Baseball scout for batting practice at White Sox park this afternoon.
Okay, okay, enough with the jokes. Sure, the White Sox are having a bad year, but no, they are not so desperate they want me to play for them. The guy I’m meeting on the field really and truly is a baseball scout, though. The Sox are playing Houston, Kevin Goldstein is Director of Pro Scouting for the Astros, and he’s an old friend of ours. I got to know Kevin back in the 1990s, when he was working with my husband Mike at a start-up company called Spyglass. Kevin is smart, and he’s computer savvy, too, but so were most of the people I met at Spyglass. Kevin stood out, though:
- He didn’t have a college degree (I think he was the youngest person working there, and Mike says he was one of the smartest).
- He shaved his head long before it was popular (and he let me feel his scalp).
- He listened to The Pixies and They Might be Giants (long before Indy rock was a category on You Tube).
- He paid attention to new-age baseball stats, otherwise known as sabermetrics (long before the book Moneyball was published).
- He knew about minor league prospects (long before anyone else did).
I worked in the ticket office at the minor league A team called the Kane County Cougars when Kevin and Mike worked at Spyglass. We enjoyed many a game there together, and when I went with Mike on a business trip once, we joined Kevin for a game during something called the “Arizona Fall League.” Today, the Arizona Fall League is a renowned showcase for up-and-coming minor leaguers. Kevin knew that a hot pitching prospect with the Cleveland organization named Jaret Wright was scheduled to pitch. Who knew there was such a thing as an Arizona Fall League back then, and if there was, what day Jaret Wright would be starting? Kevin did. When Mike left Spyglass, we moved to North Carolina. When Kevin left Spyglass, he moved to baseball. This story on the Astros web site explains:
It wasn’t until Goldstein, who dabbled in the interactive industry and worked in consulting and marketing, started writing for Baseball America and developing his email prospect newsletter did he one day envision working for a Major League club. “It was something fun that I had a passion for,” he said. “I started Prospect Report, and it started growing on a strange level and some teams were interested in the information I was putting out there.
Mike subscribed to Baseball Prospect Report, and we were all excited when Kevin and that newsletter were mentioned in an ESPN article by Peter Gammons. Tens of thousands subscribed to Kevin’s newsletter after that, Baseball Prospectus (BP) hired him to write for them, and Kevin’s reputation grew as the analytical mind to go to when it came to scouting reports. He eventually took over at BP for Nate Silver — yes, Nate Silver of 538 fame. Mike and I started getting used to turning on the radio or TV and, ho-hum, there was Kevin again, being interviewed on sports shows about prospects. Major League Baseball teams started noticing Kevin, too. Last year while the Houston Astros were in town to play the Cubs, their general manager Jeff Luhnow contacted Kevin for an interview. They talked for about three hours, and Kevin told Mike afterwards that he thought it went well. Jeff Luhnow must have thought it went well, too: last December he hired Kevin to oversee the Astros’ pro scouting efforts. That includes comprehensive scouting of both Minor League and Major League players across the 30 teams, plus independent and foreign professional leagues, too. We are thrilled for Kevin, of course, and especially thrilled he took the time to contact us and invite us to today’s game. Batting practice, too! (I’ve never been on the field during batting practice, and I’m eager to eavesdrop on the players and coaches while they warm up). It’s hot and humid in Chicago this week. I don’t know exactly where we’ll be sitting during the game, but in any case, Whitney is staying home. I’m just not sure how White Sox superstar groundskeeper Roger Bossard might feel about having a dog with me out on the grass, if you know what I mean…!