By: Juliet Schlesinger & Cade Costic
COVID-19 restrictions set in place in April of 2020 had local high school, college, and MLB sports activities on pause. With this, there were no practices, games or any in-person interaction actively taking place.
For professional baseball scouts, livelihoods were jeopardized. Scouts normally would go to baseball games at local high schools, community colleges, and universities. For scouts like Tim Costic, the West Region Supervisor for the Houston Astros, the job description entails traveling to states across western United States to find the best players – in hopes of signing them to the team for which they are employed.
With COVID-19 being prevalent in all states for the duration of 2020, there were little to no practices or games for these scouts to attend. Many Major League Baseball teams then decided to furlough or terminate their employees, as there was no job for them to carry out. Furthermore, there were no funds to pay these employees as the revenue from in-person MLB baseball games is what pays the scouts.
“I was nervous. My fellow colleagues and friends were nervous. The likelihood of us getting furloughed or terminated was high. Many teams like the Angels actually did furlough their scouts and other employees,” Costic said. “The Astros really took care of us and kept us on the payroll with no major changes, but no work for us to really carry out.”
For these employees, it was months of checking phones, news articles, and social media platforms for any word of games possibly being allowed in any of their designated states that they are assigned to.
“It was a waiting game. We went months without stepping foot into a game to watch kids. The more time that went on, the more worried that we really became,” Costic, an SCV resident, added.
As time went on, there were some games that were popping up in other states besides California as early as June 1, but the scouts were still waiting on the go-ahead from their bosses to travel.
After nearly nine months of staying home with little to no work, scouts were given the green light to travel again in January of this year. But, it was a world of difference from what these employees were used to.
Instead of sticking to mainly California, where there still seem to be a lot of guidelines, scouts like Costic find themselves flying multiple times a week to different states in order to be allowed into baseball games – compared to the one or two flights that they used to take per month.
“Myself and the scouts are in charge of the West region, but we’ve found ourselves flying to places such as Oklahoma, and others are flying to Georgia and Florida often, as this is somewhere that scouts are actually allowed into.”
In addition to the new and almost daily travel, the restrictions have made games look abnormal. In California, some schools are still not playing. If they are, capacities and visitors are very limited, and some schools aren’t allowing scouts to even enter the gates. If the school is allowing it, most are requiring that you are added to a list well in advance, so they can limit the amount of scouts and visitors attending these games. Before COVID-19, scouts were allowed to simply show up and show their league-issued pass, allowing them to get into the game without question.
“We need to plan things out a lot more diligently now,” said Costic. “We have to reach out to these schools and see if they’re allowing us in, and if they are, we have to get onto the list before it fills up. We have to make sure that everything lines up. We don’t want to drive or fly out to a school, and end up stranded outside, unable to see the players.”
Even with the current circumstances of scouts having to fly more and be at a higher risk for COVID-19, it seems to be worth it to them as their jobs are more secure.
“I feel comfortable. Cases are down, airlines are doing their part, and we are safe at the games,” Costic said. “As long as we have games to go to and kids to see, it’s all OK.”
As for community colleges in California, they were given the choice of if they wanted to have a season to play or not. College of the Canyons opted out, however, the team does still get to practice on every Monday and Wednesday for only an hour and a half.
It’s unclear how the team will perform next year due to cutting back their playing time so much this current season. However, it seems most are staying vigilant and doing what it takes to keep up their hard work and stay on top of their game.
“A lot of them are playing on the weekends now, though they have to travel to do so,” said COC baseball coach Chris Cota. “The guys who are playing and staying involved are the ones who are going to come back more hungry next season to get games going. There’s also guys who are taking the other route that aren’t going to school or playing, and those are the ones who are going to have a tough time coming back next season,”
While restrictions continue to lift, next season is sought to be as normal as it can get. However, like Cota said, players must keep in mind that success only happens when preparation meets, in this case, limited opportunity.