Scouting the Field

Scouting the Field

Rohit Ramkumar, Staff Writer

Palo Alto High School has seen its fair share of professional athletes. From well known athletes like Jeremy Lin and Joc Pederson are turning heads in their respective league, to lesser known professional athletes like soccer star Teresa Noyola, Paly has been prepping more and more athletes for the college level and for a select few the pros. However, something totally unseen on the Paly campus is taking place near the Churchill Parking Lot at the baseball field.
On February 25, the Campolindo Cougars baseball team visited Paly for a non league showdown with the Vikings. The Cougars would be at this point the best team the Vikings have faced. In the top of the first inning, Paly center fielder Bijon Boyd (‘12), a potential high draft pick in this year’s MLB draft,  stepped into the batter’s box and stared down his opponent. His opponent was James Marvel (‘12), who is also a top prospect in the draft. Boyd’s speed, raw power, and defensive abilities make him an exciting prospect. Not to be outdone, Marvel can throw in the upper 80’s and reach the lower 90’s, and like Boyd is looking to be a very high pick in the draft.
However, the story was not as much the matchup between Boyd and Marvel, but the groups of adults with clipboards scattered around the field. As Boyd entered the batter’s box for his first at-bat, numerous professional scouts stopped whatever they were doing to witness the confrontation. Camera’s flipped open, the red dot of the recorder turned on, notebooks opened, and as the first pitch popped the mitt, pens furiously scribbled notes and other scouts discussed among themselves what they were watching.
These scouts are often area scouts. Every Major League team employs about 30 full time area scouts. These area scouts may have as many as eight states to cover, depending on the region of the United States they are stationed in. The area scout sees a prospect approximately 10-15 times over a 4 year span. Their primary objective is to report on their assigned player’s skills.
A scouting report on individual hitting prospects includes some of the following skills (sometimes known as five tools): arm strength, hitting power, batting average, foot speed, and fielding. According to numerous scouts, Boyd grades out well in foot speed, fielding, and batting average.
Professional baseball scouts are now commonplace at the Paly baseball field. Obviously they come here to see Boyd play, as he hopes to be drafted by a major league team before the 15th round.
For the game against Campolindo, scouts flooded the Paly field as upward of 30 of them came to watch the prospective draft picks compete. Even for regular games one can expect to see four to five scouts.
Paly baseball players are not completely taken aback by the plentifulness of scouts for their games. Joc Pederson (‘10) got his fair share of exposure at Paly. Current Paly starting pitcher Kevin Kannappan (‘12) remembers seeing numerous scouts while watching Pederson play.

“When Joc was playing, we used to get the same amount as we do now, if not more,” Kannappan said.
Pederson was drafted in the 11th round of the 2010 draft. He currently plays for the Great Lakes Loons, a minor league affiliate of the Dodgers.
Paly has had many college coaches come over to watch players play, but the great number of professional scouts that have visited the Paly campus is something that has not been documented before. Only now are people starting to recognize the men that represent big league teams.
Boyd tries to ignore the scouts and play his own game.

“I have to tell myself to slow the game down to my pace,” Boyd said. “I just play the game like I know how and just be myself.”

However Boyd does take something positive out of the scouts that watch his games.

“When scouts watch it is just a boost to do well” Boyd said.

An aspect of major league scouts attending games that is sometimes overlooked is the fact that it may or may not affect team dynamics.
Senior pitcher Ben Sneider dispelled the fact that scouts affect his or any of his teammates play.

“Who’s watching me play does not bother me,” Sneider said. “I go out and do my job and don’t focus on that and I think I can speak for the team on that.”

However, other sports at Paly are seeing their fair share of scouts, whether they are from the professional or college ranks. Girls and Boys Lacrosse, and Track and Field have had college coaches in the stands for events this year.

“I think that just shows how athletic this school really is”, baseball player Ozzie Braff (‘12) said. “We just don’t have a couple athletes that excel, everyone is doing well in many different sports whether they are playing at the pros or in college”, he said.

Braff himself has also attracted some attention from pro scouts. After a practice on April 9, Braff along with Boyd were asked to take extra batting practice in front of a couple of scouts.
Being a scouted athlete at the professional level brings its perks, but also touches on the issues of ethics and morality in the handling of young athletes.
Sports media has been bombarded lately with stories of athletes taking money and help from outside sources at the college level and breaking NCAA regulations as a result. These regulations are that stringent to clamp down on such offenses, whether they are done unknowingly or on purpose. However, professional scouts are not held to such regulations. For Boyd, free gear and bats is commonplace. Not to mention the signing bonuses that players recieve when drafted. Signing Bonuses are usually determined by the round that the player was drafted in. Players drafted in the first couple of rounds usually recieve signing bonuses of a couple million of dollars. As the rounds become higher, the amount of the signing bonus goes down.

Leaving all else aside, it is an experience that Boyd will probably never forget. Only about 5% of players drafted actually make it to the big leagues. Boyd will have a tough road ahead of him, but you might be surprised to see him on your television in the near future.