This blog post is about Leon de Winter who is working for the MLB scouting bureau. It is quite a unique feat that a Dutch guy, a former Dutch hoofdklasse player, is working for MLB. This blog post describes the way he got into (minor league) baseball and worked his way up to what he is doing now.
Leon de Winter was three and a half years old when he first lay hands on a baseball. His parents were looking for a sport for him and his brother. One of the employees at the day care center he stayed at, told his parents about her brother in law who was coaching a peanut (tee ball) team. So he ended up with Neptunus from Rotterdam. But at the time, youth baseball was a neglected part of Neptunus and that made him move to the baseball branch of Feyenoord. Around the age of 16 he played in the overgangsklasse (one level below the Duch hoofdklasse) for the merger club Sparta/Feyenoord. Later he would even play in the hoofdklasse. At one point he moved to Orioles in Bergschenhoek and thanks to the American coach they had there, Leon went to a Junior College in the USA where he would spend two years. He only played one year thanks to a fractured bone. But he managed to get his bachelor as he went to the University of Nebraska at Kearny.
In 2009, Leon had a traineeship with the Hagerstown Suns (Washington Nationals). As a trainee he did every possible job: selling tickets, helping to prepare the field, helping in the clubhouse and he even served as a bullpen catcher.
During the 2010 Spring Training he worked for the sales department of the Washington Nationals and during the regular season, he had a job as visiting clubhouse manager with the Brevard County Manatees (now Florida Fire Frogs). The Manatees were an A-Advanced affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers in those days. In the next two seasons, he would have the same job with the Dunedin Blue Jays and the Arkansas Travelers (back then the AA farm team of the Angels).
Eventually, Leon ended up with the Seattle Mariners. After he finished his education, Leon sent his resume to every club, hoping for a job at some baseball operations or player development department. At the annual winter meetings he had several interviews but as there was a lot of competition, he just fell short. But then in 2013, he spoke to the Seattle Mariners for the second year in a row and this time he was hired as a trainee at their player development department. His job was to tape players and to help their A Full Season team in Clinton Iowa with their training sessions.
Leon was quite lucky to end up with MLB. Several contacts in the Mariners’ organization knew about his past and told him MLB was looking for people to help them with the preparation of the World Baseball Classic. Leon sent his resume and three months later he was approached by the MLB Scouting Bureau. After several talks over the phone, he was offered his current job at the MLB Scouting Bureau. In his current position, Leon travels a LOT. Leon has been appointed several regions where he has to film talented high school and (junior) college players. One would think that scouting is the responsibility of MLB clubs. But to save costs, the clubs are putting money into a collective investment scheme that covers the cost of the Scouting Bureau so the latter can do the preparation. The Scouting Bureau collects as many information as possible; medical records, game schedules, pitching rotations, etc. After they scouted and taped the players, the information will be sent to all MLB clubs who then will send their scouts to check on the players.
But with the ever-increasing number of school showcases, more attention for college baseball on TV, and the internet, there is not much need for the information provided by the Scouting Bureau. After several head counts, the Bureau has announced that the last real baseball scouts will be released after this season. The few things MLB clubs still value are the videotaping that Leon is doing, the collection of medical records and drug tests.
At the question of how Leon is experiencing the MLB draft, he gave a very extensive answer: “After a very busy spring with almost no spare time I am at home during the MLB draft, sitting on the couch and watching MLB Network. A week before the draft, teams have their draft meetings. We (the MLB Scouting Bureau) are working until the weekend before those draft meetings. Most of the time these are the weekends of the Conference Tournaments (the NCAA regional finals for a spot at the College World Series in Omaha).” This year, Leon attended such a conference tournament in Phoenix. “Afterwards, I headed home to Seattle to spend time with my girlfriend.” As he was 120 days on the road this year, that was his first priority. But during the draft, Leon is following the draft picks. Of the 1214 draft picks, many were from Leon’s region. As he saw about 200 players and taped them as well he is checking his list every time a pick is made to see if it is one of the players he taped. “This year the first player from my region (the thirteen states in the West of the US and the Northwest region of Canada) that I didn’t tape was picked in the seventh round. This means we did a pretty good job. As the scouting community is rather close, I keep an eye on which teams are picking the better players from my region. Quite often I send a text message or an e-mail to the scout to congratulate him. For those scouts, it is a big deal and a token of appreciation when teams pick the players they have adorned. I also send an e-mail to the agents of the draft picks. Afterward, we analyze the draft and check our work to see how we can improve it. Now our work for 2018 has been done, we are looking ahead already. A few colleagues of mine attended a showcase for the 2019 draft already and I will go to the USA Baseball Complex in Cary, North Carolina for their U18 National Team Trials. Around 80 2019 draft-eligible players will participate in those trials.”
We hope this blog post gave you an idea of how intense Leon’s job is. He spends a lot of time on the road, something his partner/girlfriend has to deal with as well.
We’d like to thank Leon for the time he took to answer our questions. We wish him lots of luck and wisdom for the upcoming time until the 2019 draft.