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Longtime scout Balderson retires

ATLANTA -- Longtime Braves talent evaluator Dick Balderson has opted to end a distinguished front office career that dates back to when he began working for Braves president John Schuerholz in Kansas City nearly 40 years ago.

Balderson, 67, has announced his retirement after spending the past 11 seasons serving as a special assistant to the general manager and Major League scout for the Braves. He joined Atlanta's organization in 1997 as a Major League scout and two years later became the club's director of player development, a position he would hold for four seasons.

While serving as the Braves general manager, Schuerholz took advantage of the chance to bring Balderson to Atlanta. Their relationship had developed while they worked in the Royals organization together during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

"Dick and I have known each other for a long time," Schuerholz said. "When I asked him to join our staff in Kansas City, it was a reflection of my respect for his knowledge of the game, his leadership skills and his judgment. I have high regard for Dick as a person and as a baseball executive, and we all wish him nothing but the best in his retirement."

After ending his playing career as a Double-A pitcher in Kansas City's organization, Balderson became the Royals assistant farm director in 1976. The position had formerly been held by Schuerholz, who by that time had been promoted to the club's director of player procurement and development.

After the Royals won the 1985 World Series during his fifth season as the club's director of scouting and player development, Balderson moved to Seattle to spend three seasons as the Mariners' general manager. During this span, he drafted Ken Griffey Jr. and acquired Jay Buhner from the Yankees in exchange for Ken Phelps.

Less than a week after fleecing the Yankees with this trade that was comically ridiculed during a Seinfeld episode, Balderson was fired by Seattle owner George Argyros, who had objected to parting ways with Phelps.

After leaving Seattle, Balderson spent three season overseeing the Cubs' scouting department. He then helped build the Rockies organization while serving as the director of player development (1992-94) and vice president of player personnel ('95-97).

"Dick has been a big part of our baseball operations staff for 16 years, including our Major League scouting staff since 2004," Braves general manager Frank Wren said. "We want to congratulate him on a great career that covered nearly 40 years as a professional baseball executive."

Wren has hired Jeff Schugel to fill Balderson's role as a special assistant and Major League scout. Schugel has spent 27 years as a scout, including the past nine seasons as a Major League scout for the Angels.

Before joining the Angels, Schugel worked as a scout for the Twins (1987-1991), Rockies ('93-2000), and Dodgers ('00-04).

"We are excited to hire Jeff Schugel as a special assistant and Major League scout," Wren said. "Jeff will primarily cover the Major League teams in the western divisions and special assignments. He comes to us with a wealth of experience in both professional and amateur scouting."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for

Atlanta Braves