ATLANTA -- Since assuming the role of the Braves' scouting director two years ago, Brian Bridges has experienced some less glamorous aspects of the job. There was that 30-plus-hours of no sleep in 2015, when he watched a high school game in California before embarking on a red-eye flight in
ATLANTA -- Since assuming the role of the Braves' scouting director two years ago, Brian Bridges has experienced some less glamorous aspects of the job. There was that 30-plus-hours of no sleep in 2015, when he watched a high school game in California before embarking on a red-eye flight in order to catch a game at the University of South Carolina the following afternoon.
Then there was that Saturday afternoon he found himself in Fort Worth, Texas, to evaluate Texas Christian University closer Riley Ferrell. Once TCU jumped out to an 8-0 lead and it was unlikely Ferrell was going to pitch, Bridges rushed to the airport to catch a flight that allowed him to be at the University of Houston for a game that evening.
During that particular trip, Bridges didn't see Patrick Weigel -- the right-handed prospect who has escalated through the Braves' system since being drafted in the seventh round of the 2015 Draft. But his evaluation of Weigel had occurred that same year, on a day in which he caught a high school game in Houston and then raced across town in time to see the collegiate hurler toe the rubber.
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"It's a very humbling job," Bridges said. "It's a grind. It's a kick in the teeth. It's a lot of time away from home. But it's also a very rewarding job when you see the guys you drafted make it and make your organization better. When you meet somebody at the park and they find out you're a scout, they say, 'That's great, you get to go watch games.' Well, that's the fun part of the job."
As the Braves prepare to make three of the first 80 selections (No. 5, 41 and 80) in the 2017 Draft, which will unfold June 12-14, Bridges and his staff have already planned for the next few months. The collegiate and high school seasons will kick into full gear during the middle of February.
"You try to maximize your time as best as you can," Bridges said. "Sometimes that means two flights a day, or possibly a third flight in order to get in position to watch a game the next day. There's a lot of flying, there's a lot of hotels and there's a lot of rental cars in my near future here."
Bridges' responsibilities as the scouting director require him to constantly communicate with both his cross-checkers (national and regional) and area scouts in an effort to ensure they will have the right eyes on the right players at the right time. Weather, sickness, injuries and other unforeseen events will inevitably alter the schedules that will be devised every week. Thus, it is imperative to make the most out of any and every opportunity to see a potential prospect in this four-month stretch that some scouts refer to as "the 120-day sprint."
A suburban Atlanta home puts Bridges in close proximity to the high school and collegiate talent in the fertile Southeast. But he still estimates he will spend at least 100 days on the road as he evaluates the prospects his staff has targeted leading up to this year's Draft.
"You try to get home Sundays and at least see your family as much as you possibly can," Bridges said. "But my responsibility is to get out there, see the best players as much as possible and get ready for [the Draft]. The more volume of information you have, the better decisions we can make as a group."
Bridges feels fortunate to have the resources that have been allotted by Braves president of baseball operations John Hart and general manager John Coppolella. Once the high school and collegiate seasons begin, the Braves will have approximately 30 scouts watching games throughout the United States on a daily basis.
As Bridges directs his staff, he's aware of how fortunate he was to learn the art of scouting from the likes of Paul Snyder (a member of the Braves' Hall of Fame), Stan Meek (the Marlins' vice president of scouting), Russ Bove (a special assignment scout for the Blue Jays) and Roy Clark, the former Atlanta scouting director who now serves as one of Coppolella's special assistants.
Bridges spent countless hours traveling through portions of the Southeast with the retired Snyder, whose patient and arduous approach to scouting often led him to say, "The players will tell you what they are, you just have to let them tell you."
Meanwhile, Bove's simple advice -- "Never forget where you came from" -- reminds Bridges that though he has made the ascension from area scout to scouting director, his primary assignment has remained the same as he scours the country like every other scout, attempting to identify potential Major Leaguers.
"That's what drives me every day to be the best, because I don't look at myself as a scouting director, I look at myself as a scout," Bridges said. "I never want to look back and have regrets that leads you to say, 'I should have done that,' or, 'I should have worked a little harder.' When that time comes for me to pass the torch to somebody else, I don't want them kicking me out the door."
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.