An American (League) success story

August 27, 2013 • Posted in baseball, careers/jobs for people who are blind, Mike Knezovich, Uncategorized, Whitney by

I’m meeting a Major League Baseball scout for batting practice at White Sox park this afternoon.

That's Kevin at home with his favorite pooch Otto.

That’s Kevin at home with his favorite pooch Otto.

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…!

Cheryl On August 27, 2013 at 10:51 am

Great story…..waiting for your next story from the field.

bethfinke On August 28, 2013 at 9:46 am

It was great fun, Kevin introduced us to all sorts of people and I shook hands with the Astros manager and spoke long enough with the Astros play-by-play radio announcer to get some insight on how he manages to watch so much at one time and simultaneously put it into words. I have an app on my talking iPhone now where I can hear baseball announcers from all over the country so I’d actually heard him during the Sox/Astros game the night before.

Anne Hunt On August 27, 2013 at 11:52 am

You certainly have an amazing group of friends! Looks like a beautiful day to be at a ball game! I am stuck at my computer writing an article for my church newsletter!

bethfinke On August 28, 2013 at 9:47 am

It was h-o-t but g-r-e-a-t!

Benita Black On August 27, 2013 at 4:17 pm

Assuming Kevin did not start life as an Astros fan, how hard is it to be a scout for a team that he never rooted for or maybe even actually disliked?
Have a great time! I think I’m a little jealous!

bethfinke On August 28, 2013 at 9:41 am

Oh, Benita, you have good reason to be jealous. You know how you said the other day that I was so curious to know things about you when we were first getting to know each other? You should have heard me with Kevin last night. “Sure you don’t mind me asking all these questions?” I even know now how baseball teams go through security at airports without being mobbed by fans.
I may ask Michael to answer this question about team allegiance for you (as you know, he is an *expert* in that category). I can tell you this much, though: Kevin’s family was from NYC and he grew up a Mets fan because they couldn’t stand to root for the Yankees after the Dodgers left Brooklyn for the West Coast in the 1950s.

Kevin collected baseball cards as a kid, has a savant-like memory for baseball names and numbers, and says his “world changed”
After the Bill James Baseball Abstract publication came out in the 1980s. Working for a major league baseball team was a dream of his ever since.

Mike On August 28, 2013 at 1:47 pm

Hey Benita, Kevin actually mostly grew up in Ohio and his original allegiance was to the Indians. I can’t speak for him, but as he got into the business of baseball, it seemed like his allegiances faded and he just got into baseball period. From what I can tell, he bleeds Astros now–it’s been a tough year and he takes it hard.

Benita Black On August 29, 2013 at 9:18 am

Yeah, no Dodgers fans switched to Yankees post-1955. Most Brooklynites, Queensites and Long Islanders in general (usually, former Brooklynites and Queensites or children of). And lo and behold, they were rewarded with the Mets.

Rough year for the Astros. Wish I cared.

Mondays with Mike: Bucket Lists | Safe & Sound blog On August 25, 2014 at 8:34 am

[…] week. And then I found a remedy in, of all places, a Facebook post by our friend Kevin Goldstein (Beth’s written about Kevin before here–he’s an exec in the Houston Astros’ front office.) Kevin was […]

Mondays with Mike: Vincent Velasquez is a lucky man, and so am I | Safe & Sound blog On June 15, 2015 at 12:10 pm

[…] Beth and I went to a White Sox game last Wednesday courtesy of their opponent that night, the Houston Astros. More specifically, courtesy of the kindness of Kevin Goldstein, and old friend who happens to be a bigwig in the Astros front office. (Beth posted about Kevin’s story a couple years ago.) […]

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