Amanda Hopkins smiles at the memory of those afternoons when she was 5 years old, sitting in a ballpark with her father, who was scouting a high school baseball game.
"I would go to games with my dad, traveling in the summer to see players in the Cape Cod League, Alaskan League, the East Coast Showcase," she said. "People would see me and would ask, 'What do you want to do when you grow up?' I'd tell them I want to be a baseball scout, and they'd be like, 'Oh, that's cute.' I'm sure they thought I'd grow out of it."
Nineteen years later, and the dream has come true. Hopkins is back on the road, starting her third year as a scout for the Seattle Mariners, keeping track on players from the Four Corners area, which consists of the states of Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico, along with a tip of Texas that includes El Paso.
"When I got into my teen years and was in college, I knew I really wanted to do this, and decided I'd go for it," Hopkins said. "I never imagined that I would have the chance at 22, when I was hired, but I'm thankful for it."
Historically, scouting predominantly has been a male profession, though the A's recently hired 24-year-old Haley Alvarez as scouting coordinator. Coincidentally, Alvarez and Hopkins were scout school roommates. Edith Houghton was baseball's first full-time female scout, working for the Phillies from 1946-52.
The world of scouting has been everything Hopkins imagined back in those days when her father, Ron, now a special assistant to the general manager with the Pirates, was a scout with the Mariners in 1988 and a scouting director for the Rangers and Bucs.
"Part of the reason I love this job, specifically working for the Mariners, is the team aspect," said Hopkins. "I played college softball on a close-knit team, and I feel that way with the Mariners. I think knowing each day that you're doing a small part to help you team is rewarding."
Hopkins has played her part so far. Two years on the job, and she has seen the Mariners draft and sign three players she evaluated, and sign a fourth player who went undrafted.
"I would say a surreal moment was when we drafted David Greer," Hopkins said of the Mariners' 10th-round Draft pick out of Arizona State in 2016. "Just hearing his name called, listening to the Draft. ... I was like, 'Whoa, I got a Draft pick now.'"
Greer, a third baseman, was selected after his junior year at ASU, where he earned All-Pac 12 and a third-team All-America honors. He hit .274 at Class A Short-Season Everett in 2016, but he was sidelined by injuries last year.
Right-hander Nathan Bannister was a 28th-round Draft selection in 2016 as a senior out of the University of Arizona. He debuted last year for Class A Advanced Modesto and went 8-7 with a 4.33 ERA. Bannister also made three starts for Triple-A Tacoma, and he tossed seven scoreless innings in a win in August.
Shortstop Louis Boyd was a 24th-round pick out of the University of Arizona as a senior in 2017. He suffered a torn UCL in his left elbow last spring, and not only returned to play wearing a brace, but he hit a combined .293 with 17 doubles, a triple, six home runs, 32 RBIs with nine bases in 12 attempts in a season that saw him debut in the Rookie-level Arizona League, and also play for Class A Short-Season Everett and Class A Clinton.
And then there is AJ Franks, an undrafted senior from Grand Canyon University, who debuted as a reliever for the Mariners' Arizona League squad in 2017. He allowed one earned run in 12 2/3 innings of work in seven appearances.
The bonus is that once the Draft is over, Hopkins has been given a chance to do some pro work.
"The cool thing is being able to see a player you saw in your area during amateur work, and comparing what you thought from seeing them as an amateur to what you are seeing on the professional field," Hopkins said. "It's part of the learning experience. You go back and dissect how the player developed and what you can learn from that to make you better in evaluations."
And it is a constant learning process.
"The first year went really fast," Hopkins said. "I was moving to a different geographical location [the Phoenix area], trying to getting settled in, learning my way around my [scouting] territory. Looking at players in high school and players in college and then seeing them in the Minor Leagues, looking at the turnaround as they advance to the next level.
"Heading into my third year, by no means do I have all of this figured out," Hopkins said. "That's one of the thing I understand, having my dad, who has been in the game so long, mentor me and knowing that he's still learning when he goes to a park. So by no means do I think I am a veteran, but my third year it does feel different in a good way."
In part because of her father's long history in the game, but just as significantly because of the professional way Hopkins handles her job, the acceptance by other scouts was never a question.
"A few of the veteran guys in the area have known my father, so they were friendly faces, and the younger scouts have been very respectful," said Hopkins. "They treat me like a baseball scout. I think part of it is I'm not looking to be treated any differently."
And Hopkins understands the competitive nature of the game.
Still living at home when the Mariners initially hired her, Hopkins put a sign on her bedroom door as a warning to her father that read, "Stay out, we're opponents."