Improving gender diversity among baseball scouts is goal of recent Women’s Sports School event

PEORIA – With a goal to improve gender diversity in the world of baseball scouting, the Women’s Sports School held a five-day event that included the opportunity to learn from several baseball professionals.

Twelve women took part in the inaugural Scouting Baseball! program in mid-October. Jennifer Blatt, founder of the school, had the idea after attending Major League Baseball’s Take the Field program a few years ago.

“It’s empowering for them,” Blatt said, “to just be in the room with so many like-minded women.”

MLB recently received a grade of C for gender diversity, lower than several other pro leagues, by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida. Its annual race and gender report grading professional sports leagues gave the NBA, for example, a B.

Despite Take the Field and similar initiatives, Diversity Fellowship Program and the Diversity Pipeline the number of women in MLB’s central office and professional positions has declined since last year’s report.

Women make up 30.8% of MLB’s Central Office professional staff, down from 31.8% the previous year. And there’s only one full-time female scout, the Seattle Mariners’ Amanda Hopkins, who spoke at Scouting Baseball!

The program was designed to help strengthen knowledge of scouting and to increase understanding of women working in baseball operations. It’s part of a larger goal to get more women into baseball. Participants included college students, baseball interns and part-time baseball writers. Several were sponsored by the Arizona Diamondbacks. The cost was about $1,300 for instruction, materials and meals.

Boston Red Sox intern Julia Hernandez came to the event to further her understanding of scouting. Her love for scouting is tied to the uncertainty of the process.

“It’s not like the NBA Draft and the NFL Draft where it’s like, you know, who’s going to go one … one in every single draft,” Hernandez said. “In baseball, things can go wrong. You can find something out about a guy the night before the draft and it completely throws a wrench into the entire process.”

Twelve woman attended the inaugural Scouting Baseball! program, which was organized by the Women’s Sports School and led by former MLB scout Don Mitchell. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Blatt)

Position players are graded on five tools: hitting, power, running speed, arm strength and fielding. Some tools are harder to predict than others.

“By far, the hitting tool and the power (tool) are the two most difficult,” former MLB Scout Don Mitchell said. “Cody Bellinger hit one home run in high school.”

The other three tools are easier to measure, he said.

Bellinger, who played for Hamilton High School in Chandler before becoming a star for the Los Angeles Dodgers, recently won the 2019 NL MVP award after a breakout year in which he hit 47 home runs and won Silver Slugger and Gold Glove awards.

Predicting hitting and power can be difficult because it’s hard to foresee how players will grow and how their bodies will develop, Mitchell said. Initial scouting reports cited strength as one of Bellinger’s major weaknesses.

At the end of each day, Scouting Baseball! participants practiced the scouting techniques they learned in the classroom by evaluating players during Arizona Fall League games. The students used radar guns and stopwatches to track the velocity of pitches and the speed of each pitcher’s delivery. During the first few days, Mitchell assigned each of the students specific players to observe during the games. During the last two days, the students were allowed to choose who they wished to scout.

Hopkins spoke to the scouts about her experience working in baseball. Many listening to Hopkins talk about her journey to the big leagues found her words reassuring.

“Her insight was incredible,” participant Sara Thibaut said. “Especially being the only major league woman scout, and just her advice, of staying the course.”

Hopkins, who has been a member of the Mariners staff for almost four years, is the only full-time female MLB scout.

Mitchell, the former scout, said he’s confident of the future.

“I’m really hopeful that through seminars like these that women, in particular, can gain a lot more working knowledge and therefore put them in a position to be strongly and seriously considered for jobs in baseball,” he said.