The offseason is the time of year when baseball teams add talent to their roster in order to compete for the following season. All of that talent was originally discovered by tireless and insightful baseball scouts. Rick Rowand interviewed Molly Secours about her upcoming film, Scouting For Diamonds, which will detail the impact that scouts have on the game, and the players they evaluate.
You’ve probably seen them at high school, college and minor league games, sitting behind home plate to better see the break on pitches, or off to the side to better see the swing of certain hitters. The stopwatch and the radar gun are the visible tools of their trade. Their eyes, their memories, their overall knowledge of the game and its players are some of their unseen tools, but these are just as important, if not more so than the tools we do see. For these men, and the occasional women, are trying to divine the future – to see what it holds for the young men out on the diamond and for the teams that employ them.
For over 100 years they have lived and worked in the shadows, rarely thought about by the general public. But without them we wouldn’t have been able to root for our heroes. Without them, there wouldn’t have been Mickey Mantle or Ted Williams or Roberto Clemente or Jackie Robinson or Derek Jeter or Wade Boggs…
Nashville-based independent filmmaker Molly Secours is going to change whatever preconceived notions we have about baseball scouts with her feature-length documentary, Scouting For Diamonds, which will be released in 2017. What started off as a proposed legacy film on longtime Boston Red Sox scout George Digby has turned into a love affair between Secours, scouts and baseball.
“I was approached in 2014 by a couple of Little League coaches locally here in Nashville about making a legacy video about George Digby. They were very good friends with him. They started to tell me about who he was. How he’d had a 60-year relationship with the Red Sox. How he’d discovered Wade Boggs and how he’d signed Jody Reed and Mike Greenwell and dozens of others. And he had a very unique relationship with the Red Sox. He was more like a family member, but that was back in the day when teams were more like families. And the more I looked at it I said ‘I’d love to meet with him.’ He was 96 and wasn’t doing well healthwise and they arranged for me to meet with him the next week. That was on a Thursday I believe and unfortunately, he died over the weekend. So I never got to meet him.
“And then I was introduced to Wade Boggs. One of his friends offered to do an email introduction. Within a couple of emails Wade agreed to meet with me and talk about Mr. Digby.
“He was obviously very affected about the loss of Mr. Digby over that previous month. Wade agreed to spend a few minutes with me. So we went down to Florida to interview him and he ended up spending 90 minutes with me. He was very generous. He and Debbie were very welcoming to me and my crew.
“He proceeded to give me one of the most beautifully profound interviews I’ve ever done. And then we went to interview Jody Reed and then Mike Greenwell and then Boo Ferriss. And every interview after that made me realize that the story was probably even larger than just George Digby and Wade Boggs. As beautiful as their story is, I realized that this film had a much wider scope. And as unique as he was, there were more George Digbys out there. And there were more like Wade Boggs that wanted to talk about those scouts who found them and what it meant to have someone who believed in them and breathed life into them. And so that’s how it started.”
According to Secours, everyone she has approached has been very gracious with their time and agreed to speak with her… save one.
“In all of Major League Baseball there’s only one person that has declined to interview with us about their scout–virtually everyone else has welcomed the opportunity with open arms. And of course I won’t tell you who that is–but they will know when they read this.”
Besides the people already mentioned, Willie Mays, Tommy Lasorda, scout Mike Brito, George Brett, Dusty Baker, and Art Stewart will be in the film. There will also be many other scouts and current and former MLB players.
“I met George Brett very briefly at the Annual Scouts Benefit Dinner last year, but it was really Art Stewart. Because I met Art Stewart and after we interviewed him and I knew we wanted to spend more time with him, Art was the one that got George to come do the interview.”
While talking with Ms. Secours I learned that she was from a sports family, was a hockey and baseball fan, and that this film had rekindled her love of the game.
“I grew up in Massena, New York in a hockey house and was a bit of a tomboy. We all played hockey, of course, and baseball/softball and sports was the family glue. If we were going to connect with our father it was going to be through a conversation about ‘the game’.
“Because we lived very close to Montreal, I was a Montreal Expos fan and obsessed with Rusty Staub, and for a few seasons, the Oakland A’s. When I left home, I drifted away from baseball and it wasn’t until a year and a half ago when I started meeting scouts and spending most of my time, either talking with them, reading about them or thinking about them that I realized how much more there was to the game of baseball. And I found myself falling back in love with the sport, with the conversation, the philosophy and at times, the theology. Scouts are almost a different species. Obviously, everyone is unique but there is something deeply soulful about most of the scouts I’ve met (and I’ve met several dozen now).
“Guys like Don Pries, Former Director of MLB Scouting Bureau, Joe McIlvaine (most recently with Mariners), Gary Hughes (Red Sox), Art Stewart (Kansas City Royals) and even some of the younger guys like John Koronka (Cub scout), and I could go on and on…
“You walk away from conversations with the sense that you have been in the presence of someone who is keenly aware of the ‘unseen.’ Joe McIlvaine particularly. One time after interviewing Joe, as the guys and I were packing up to leave, one of them mentioned that we had just been to church–in a good way.”
This will be an independent film and will have a theatrical release. It will also be a film on the history of scouting, from when the scouts signed the players to contracts themselves to how scouting is done presently with showcases. But not all players are discovered at showcases, scouts still have to drive over the back roads to try to discover that diamond in the rough.
“And while I wouldn’t shy away from saying it’s a sports film. It’s really a love story between scouts and the game of baseball. And although this isn’t a Ken Burns documentary, we will take a historical approach to the profession of scouting. People are going to learn, even if they are baseball people, a lot about what they don’t know about scouting and the game.
“Whenever you take money from a studio there’s always a chance that someone would step in and try to influence the story, and we want this to be the scout’s story. A story like this happens organically. The scouts and their stories are guiding the film.
“When you make a documentary film you have to be willing to allow it to tell you ‘what it is,’ and that is scary for some people. In a strange way, scouts by their very nature, have helped me trust the process in this project. It’s hard to explain, but I feel as though hanging around scouts has taught me to watch patiently and wait for the story to unfold. This will probably sound crazy to most people, but it’s true.”
Because this is an independent film, Ms. Secours and her production company, Bottom of the Ninth Films LLC, need your help to finish the film. They have trips scheduled to Florida and Arizona for Spring Training as well as the Dominican Republic and Cuba. Every dollar counts. And this story needs to be told. They are in the midst of a fundraising campaign, which you can learn more about here.
“Not only are the scouts insightful, philosophical and theological, but this film will have a lot of humor. These guys are so great at telling stories. Some of them you don’t even believe happened. People will be entertained, informed, they’re gonna laugh and they’re gonna probably shed a few tears.
“The first few days of the fundraising campaign have been very successful, with most donations coming from the scouts themselves, but what would be great is if now, the heavy hitters stepped up to donate in the name of the scouts who believed in them!”
And just because the name of the production company is, Bottom of the Ninth Films, please don’t wait until the ninth inning to donate!
* Wade Boggs is co-producing this film
**all images are used courtesy of Bottom of the Ninth Films LLC