Hammond native Benny Latino embraces change as longtime MLB scout – Crescent City Sports

Benny Latino

Benny Latino is aware of baseball expertise. In truth, he is aware of a lot that main league groups have used his skill as a scout to determine and consider newbie baseball gamers for greater than 25 years. And it’s his skill to adapt to alter that has stored him a beneficial asset within the baseball trade.

Latino, a local of Hammond, Louisiana, stated he was attending an area highschool sport in 1995 when he made some feedback to baseball scouts, who had been in attendance, about two gamers he thought had been higher than the scouts. got here to see. Scouts took Latini’s suggestion to watch these different gamers and determined he was right in his evaluation.

The Rangers ended up providing him a part-time job scouting gamers in Southeast Louisiana. He has labored with scouts Invoice Schmidt and Doug Gassaway, whom the Latino credit with educating him the ropes of baseball scouts. When Gassaway transferred to the Tampa Bay Rays, he took a Latino with him.

Latino is at present a scout for the Los Angeles Dodgers, with duties for evaluating newbie gamers in Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Alabama. Previous to taking the Dodgers job in 2021, he had scouted for the New York Mets and Florida Marlins, in addition to the Rangers and Rays. He has additionally held duties as an expert scout, evaluating gamers already within the execs, and as a global scout searching for prospects within the Dominican Republic.

Baseball has seen many adjustments lately, and Scouting has needed to change with it. Latino stated, “The Nice Scout workforce’s instruments had been a stopwatch, a radar gun, and a notepad.” He added, “These days, instruments embrace using refined video presentation capabilities, net conferencing, social media, and a laptop computer.”

Latino defined that the toughest a part of his job was gathering info on the gamers. He stated, “Typically it is overwhelming.” Regardless of probably the most superior know-how accessible right now, Latino asserted, “You continue to cannot decide a participant’s work ethic with out watching and speaking to the participant.”

Over the previous two years, Main League Baseball has lowered the variety of recruiting innings for newbie gamers to twenty innings, from 40 or extra innings beforehand. A part of the reason being that MLB compelled minor league affiliate groups to 25 p.c fewer gamers two years in the past, requiring fewer gamers. Latino believes this has led to a scenario the place some newbie gamers miss out on an expert profession. He famous, “Take a look at what number of gamers previously had been drafted within the twenty first spherical or larger and superior to the majors.” A notable instance is Corridor of Fame catcher Mike Piazza, who was a 62nd spherical draft choose in 1988.

Latino stated that a lot of right now’s prime newbie gamers don’t go to highschool. That is very true in Florida, Georgia, Texas and California. As an alternative, they enroll in baseball academies, the place they will concentrate on bettering their baseball abilities for an opportunity to play professionally. They attend lessons a number of hours a day on the academies, or be taught at dwelling, after which spend the remainder of their day working towards.

Latino stated “pick-up” or “journey” groups are nice for the game as a result of they supply a excessive degree of competitors for aspiring gamers. However it has diminished the pool of potential school and professional gamers, particularly amongst African Individuals. Faculties provide a better proportion {of professional} gamers, whereas excessive faculties see cuts.

Modifications in chance sources affected some facets of how Latini did his work. He had beforehand spent extra time on the grassroots degree, making connections with coaches and watching the gamers in individual. The know-how used to seize details about prospects additionally had an affect.

The supply of know-how and the scenario with fewer minor league groups has led some main league golf equipment to cut back their scouting workers. Latino says the Dodgers have adopted a balanced method as a substitute. They’ve mixed the effectivity and objectivity of a data-driven method with complementary private assessments by their current cadre of scouts.

Latino stated baseball gamers between the ages of 12 and 13 are tracked down by main league scouts.

Latino has caught between 280 and 300 potential probabilities throughout his profession. 29 of them made it to the majors. They embrace a number of the acquainted names of New Orleans and Southeast Louisiana.

Dubbed “The Final Warrior” by a Latino, Chad Gauden warmed up at Crescent Metropolis Baptist in New Orleans and performed in 11 main league seasons by means of 2003 and 2013. He was a thirty sixth spherical choose by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2001.

Joey Gathright, additionally drafted by the Rays in 2001, groomed Bonnabel. Latino stated Gathright was one of many quickest gamers on the town. He performed in seven seasons within the main leagues from 2004 and 2011.

Reid Brignac was an excellent prep participant at St. Louis. Amant Excessive Faculty. He was a second spherical choose of the Rays in 2004. He performed in 9 main league seasons from 2008 to 2016. Brignac is at present a supervisor within the New York Mets group.

Tulane product Drew Avans was chosen by the Los Angeles Dodgers within the thirty third spherical in 2018. He had a stellar season at Triple-A in 2022, at one level with a 43-game profitable streak on base.

One of many strangest discoveries of a Latino got here to nationwide consideration in 2001. Greg Nash was a uncooked expertise from Gonzales, Louisiana, who was found by Latino in 2000 enjoying in an area sugar cane league with youngsters from 30 to 40 years previous. Nicknamed “Toe” due to his shoe measurement 18, Nash was six-foot-six with a weight of 215 kilos. Latino by no means forgot that he noticed an enormous child play within the space six years in the past as a junior. It turned out that this baby was Nash.

An 18-year-old, Nash was a swap hitter who may hit bombs 400 ft from each side, and a pitcher he may throw within the 90s. Since he hadn’t been to highschool since seventh or eighth grade, he flew underneath the radar as a baseball participant. In line with Peter Gammons’ article for ESPN.com in 2001, Latino stated, “I could not imagine what I noticed—it was The Pure.”

Latino Nash signed a contract with Tampa Bay for $30,000. As a result of he had by no means obtained any formal coaching, Nash was despatched to the Rays’ instructional league in Tampa to assist hone his abilities. He performed within the outfield alongside MLB All-Stars Josh Hamilton and Carl Crawford, in response to Gammons’ article.

Nash performed properly within the 2001 Appalachian League (rookie) season for the Princeton affiliate of Tampa Bay. However after one season, he give up baseball resulting from private points.

Latino lately stated, “Nash had probably the most God-given expertise of any participant I’ve ever seen. He had the Dave Winfield physique kind, however he was powerful.” Added Latino, “Keep in mind, Nash did not play organized baseball from ages 13 to 18, however he was there, having a reputable first skilled season.”

Latino says the perfect a part of his profession are the relationships he is constructed with gamers, coaches, and different scouts through the years. He stated, “I have been in a position to journey everywhere in the nation. I have been to in all probability each little ballpark. Alongside the way in which, I’ve met a number of the finest individuals within the sport.”

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