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ON THE LOOKOUT FOR A KALINE
Robert Shaplen
May 14, 1956
Al's discoverer, Ed Katalinas, is one of 350-odd big league talent scouts who comb the country year round in search for more young players
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May 14, 1956

On The Lookout For A Kaline

Al's discoverer, Ed Katalinas, is one of 350-odd big league talent scouts who comb the country year round in search for more young players

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Katalinas' large crop of young players is the direct result of a hard work year. After the World Series, he and his wife Mary enjoy a month or so of football, taking in both college and professional games in Pennsylvania. This is the only time of the year when the Katalinas family—which includes Mary, 16, Ann, 14, and Joan, 13—is intact for more than a week at a stretch. The banquet circuit then summons Katalinas, and this gives him an opportunity to meet coaches and players locally. There are also sub-scouts to visit—Katalinas has 15 working for him, mostly recreation workers, school teachers and semipro managers—and, since New England has now been added temporarily to his own territory, he has a lot of ground to cover.

A CLINIC FOR KIDS

Until three years ago Katalinas did quite a bit of basketball refereeing over a 100-mile area, but he found it too strenuous. He still does some substitute teaching in local high schools and helps run a baseball clinic for the Little League and the Babe Ruth League in Shenandoah, where he makes contacts with teen-age stars. "We don't ordinarily scout kids in the 8- to 12-year-old Little League bracket," he says, "but the 13- to 15-year-olds in the Babe Ruth League are always worth watching." Throughout the fall and winter Katalinas does a vast amount of paper work, mostly letters—he mails out 3,000 a year to coaches, sub-scouts, and prospects and their parents—and has been known to send notes of encouragement to 10- and 11-year-old boys.

By the first of the year Katalinas gets ready for the coming scouting season. First he writes away for college schedules and then he works out a tentative schedule for himself. It will be partly predicated on "blind scouting," that is, dropping by a specific college to catch at least one game and make the acquaintance of a new coach, and partly on "recommended scouting," based on tips or personal knowledge about specific players Katalinas wants to see again. A good player at the high school or college level will be watched four or five times a season by a scout and often 20 times over a four-year period.

After he has his schedules prepared, Katalinas takes off for Tigertown, where a rookie instruction school starts as early as mid-February some years. He remains there until the end of March or the first week of April, helping to run the school and the training camps of the various Tiger farm teams that shuttle in and out. At Tigertown, Katalinas and the other scouts, some of whom, like Hudlin and Rowe, are also instructors, get the necessary opportunity to see the boys they have signed in direct competition with one another, on the basis of which they are assigned to minor leagues.

When Katalinas starts heading north in his Pontiac, the scouting season has formally begun. The southern college circuit is covered first. By the end of the short season, a report is sought on every boy who plays college ball. After each game he sees, Katalinas retires to his hotel room to do his homework. First he fills out a general game report, enlarging on the one he has kept during practice and the game, and this represents second thoughts on individual players and includes a summary of the coach's attitude; some coaches are anxious to help scouts and others are either uncooperative or are known to be friendly with opposition scouts. Then Katalinas prepares "Player Information" blanks on boys who have impressed him as being worthwhile spotting. These records will include basic biographical facts plus the scout's early opinion on a prospect's disposition and attitude, if this is as yet discernible (it may be added later). A separate column labeled "Playing Data" will be used to sum up important conclusions on a boy's ability and to note things to be watched next time. Special blanks headed "Blue Chip Prospects" are used for immediately outstanding players. In addition to preparing his own reports, Katalinas regularly goes over all those of his sub-scouts before sending them in to Detroit.

By the first of June, the signing period is at hand, and this is Katalinas' busiest time. He must then rush back over his course to corral those high school and college boys he figures are worth bringing into the Tiger system. Over a period of years, scouts learn to recognize and appraise their competition, and Katalinas knows by now which of the opposition will fight him tooth and nail for a prospect and which will tend to back off. The Tigers, in contrast to some other teams, go in for quality rather than quantity, and they have found their toughest competition coming' from the Yanks, the Dodgers, the Braves and the Phillies. The average signing age today is 17�, in contrast to 22 before the war when young players, in effect, worked their own way up through semipro or industrial league ball until they reached AA or AAA clubs. "Force-feeding" of their farm systems by major league teams out after youth makes the scouting competition that much tougher now, and Katalinas' signing period schedule will partly be based on calculated guesses about which scout is after what boy.

RUSHING ON THE ROAD

Throughout the baseball season, whenever he can, Katalinas takes in minor and major league games to keep his judgment sharp. On every professional game he watches, a report is also made, so that the Tigers will have full player data available in their files for drafting or trading purposes in the years ahead. Often, after scouting an amateur game in the afternoon (besides scouting the American Legion and Babe Ruth Leagues Katalinas takes in the various games and playoffs of the National Amateur Baseball Federation, the All-American Amateur Baseball Association and the American Baseball Congress, as well as Army, Navy and Air Force and Negro professional contests) he rushes off in his car to catch an Eastern or Pony League game at night. He sees 40 minor league and 50 major league games a season, in addition to a hundred or so amateur ones. At least once a summer he drives up to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to canvass two good semipro leagues, scouting New England en route. Katalinas and other Tiger scouts carry telephone credit cards so they can use highway phone booths to check the weather in different cities or to call coaches or prospects on the road; twice weekly, Katalinas is in touch by phone with McHale in Detroit and with his home, to see if anyone has been calling him (he leaves his personal card with his prospects). Air travel cards are further vital equipment when a fast trip is required.

Living out of a suitcase and hotel rooms for half the year or more, Katalinas leads a salesman's existence in more ways than one. "It's a lonely life, all right," he says. "You're mostly alone with your thoughts and your dreams of prospects. You see an awful lot of bad baseball, of course, but when you spot a boy who's got it, and he delivers for you, maybe years later, you forget all about the heartaches and the failures. One Kaline makes up for them all."

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