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Art fanned his 11th of 12 batters in the fourth inning, and I could see his father clapping politely as he left the mound. Paul Florence continued talking.
"You didn't romance the kid just to get at him, either, you know. The thing was, the more time you spent with him the more you learned what he had inside. What made him tick. You couldn't measure that just by watching him pitch. You had to know the boy for that. Now, with the draft, you seldom get to know any of the boys you scout. They're just names." He stopped for a minute and then added, "It's all so depersonalized. There's no excitement, enthusiasm in it anymore. No life—you know what I mean?" He looked at me, a little confused, as if even he were not so sure he knew what he was trying to say. "You know what I mean?" he asked again.
The innings drifted by and as the seventh was about to begin, Paul stood up. "There's no sense staying any longer," he said. He shook my hand, said goodby and then added, "It's a shame, a real shame."
"It isn't only baseball, you know. Everything's depersonalized. No one cares about the people they deal with anymore, not the waiters or department store clerks or anybody. Did you ever see those smiles you get from the stewardesses on an airplane? It scares me to death, the way when they turn around those smiles disappear. It's like they had to be taught how to smile because they didn't really know."
Paul Florence left and so did most of the scouts. One who remained was Bob Clements, a tanned man in his mid-50s. Clements was formerly a Pittsburgh scout but is now the assistant director of the Major League Scouting Bureau. The bureau, organized in 1968 and run by Vedie Himsl, a former Cub executive, offers free-lance scouting services for a fee to all the major league clubs. Although not all clubs have availed themselves of its services, it seems just a matter of time.
"We owe our existence to the free-agent draft," Clements said. "Before the draft, clubs spent a fortune scouting a kid. One year Kansas City spent over $600,000 in bonuses, and that's not even including what it cost to keep 30 to 40 scouts on the payroll. If a club liked a kid enough they'd move a scout right into his town for a few years so the scout would get in the kid's good graces. And then they had to spend $100,000 to sign him anyway. I wouldn't give an 18-year-old kid $100,000 if he could self-levitate."
Clements turned to a scout next to him and asked how DeFilippis got that last out. The scout said "Strikeout," and Clements marked it in his notebook.
"Now things have calmed down a lot," he continued. "The draft has eliminated all the special treatment the big prospects used to get. Now they're all the same to us. There's no distinction. And because it's no longer necessary for a scout to get personally involved with a boy, you don't need as many scouts. That's where we come in. We offer to scout kids and turn in reports on them to all the clubs. It beats duplication of effort. Then all the clubs have to do is send a scout to see the kid in his senior year and they make up their mind how high they want to draft him. They can cut a lot of deadwood off their payrolls that way. Instead of 30 to 40 scouts they'll need only six or eight."
I asked him if eliminating scouts wasn't just another step toward depersonalization of baseball.