Monday, January 21, 2008

Scouts hold fifth annual fundraiser

Larry King (left) and Tony Gwynn both received
awards at Saturday's event. (Branimir Kvartuc/AP)

Helps raise money for scouts who are in financial need

By John Klima / Special to
LOS ANGELES -- In an event that has evolved into a successful mixture of show business, star power and scouting, The Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation Fifth Annual "In the Spirit of the Game" dinner and World's Largest Auction of Sports Memorabilia was held Saturday night at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles.

The fundraiser, which has become a winter tradition in the baseball world, raises money to help scouts who have fallen on hard times. Many longtime scouts, especially elderly ones, lack basic needs such as health care and savings, and sometimes get less support from the teams to which they were devoted for several years.

On another level, the Baseball Hall of Fame does not recognize baseball scouts in an official capacity, so the PBSF has honored scouts who the Hall of Fame has not.

The foundation's George Genovese Lifetime Achievement Award in Scouting was given this year to venerable Northern California scout Eddie Bockman and Cuban-born scout Ralph Avila.

Bockman began his playing career in 1939 and lost three years of playing time because of World War II. He found his way to the Major Leagues for 199 games in 1946-49 before embarking on a scouting career with the Philadelphia Phillies. The crowning achievement of Bockman's career was the 1980 Philadelphia World Series championship team, in which Bockman was involved in the signing of seven players on that club -- shortstop Larry Bowa, catcher Bob Boone, right-handed pitchers Dick Ruthven, Bob Walk and Warren Brusstar, left-handed pitcher Randy Lerch, and infielder John Vukovich.

Avila developed the doctrine of the late Dodgers general manager Al Campanis to develop talent in the Dominican Republic. As a result, Campo las Palmas, the Dodgers' academy in the Dominican Republic, produced players such as pitchers Ramon and Pedro Martinez, Raul Mondesi, Jose Offerman and Mariano Duncan.

The Foundation also recognized longtime scouts Joe Lewis, Al LaMacchia, Tom Giordano, Joe DiCarlo and Stan Benjamin with Special Recognition Awards.
Lewis had an eye for pitching, signing Joe Coleman, Ken Hill, Ron Darling, Walt Terrell and others. LaMacchia, a former Major League pitcher with the St. Louis Browns, helped make the 1980s-early 90s Blue Jays a powerhouse with positive recommendations on players such as Dave Stieb, David Wells, Lloyd Moseby, George Bell and Kelly Gruber.

Benjamin, a longtime scout for the Houston Astros, insisted that then-Double-A third baseman Jeff Bagwell was the player his club wanted to ask for from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for veteran right-hander Larry Andersen in an August 1990 trade.

Longtime baseball executive Roland Hemond, currently the special assistant to the president with the Arizona Diamondbacks, is a member of the Foundation's Board of Directors. For years, Hemond has been a champion of scouts. The Foundation began five years ago, when Hemond helped recruit co-founder Dennis Gilbert, and has grown each year.

"This has brought attention to the scouting profession on a global basis," Hemond said. "People are now recognizing and are becoming educated on the value of scouting beyond what I have seen prior to this function. Scouts are being recognized and complimented. The appearance of the Commissioner here means everybody has a greater respect and understanding for what scouting means."

Commissioner Bud Selig was on hand to present the Executive Leadership Award named in his honor to Bill Bartholomay of the Atlanta Braves. Selig said he has fond memories of former scout Dee Fondy.

Newly minted Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn was presented the Player Lifetime Achievement Award by Rod Carew.

Gwynn said scouts are a baseball player's first insight into the reality of playing as a professional.

"Younger guys see the big league life at first, but they don't see the bus rides in the Minor Leagues or getting in the batting cage at 8 a.m. to get ready for a day game," he said. "The scout is the first guy to tell you what's in store."
The "A Scout's Dream" Award was presented to Dave Winfield by the scout who signed him, Donny Williams.

Winfield for years has thanked Williams and did so again Saturday night, calling his influence one of the most important factors in Winfield choosing to play baseball instead of football or basketball.

"You don't know [Williams's name]," Winfield told the audience, "But I wouldn't have anyone else hand me this award."

Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox earned the Tommy Lasorda Managers Award and recalled scout Red Adams, who signed him in 1960, and Yankees executive Lee MacPhail, who offered him his first Minor League managerial job.
The Buddy Bell family was honored with the Ray Boone Family Award. Ray Boone was a longtime scout for the Boston Red Sox after his playing career. In addition, baseball fan and Emmy Award-winning broadcaster Larry King was honored with the In the Spirit of the Game Award.

TV personality Mary Hart and comedian Tim Allen served as co-hosts of the event.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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