Brewers director of scouting Seid passes at 53
Longtime member of organization took post in 2008, helped shape club
MILWAUKEE -- Brewers general manager Doug Melvin's last text from Bruce Seid was, naturally, about a ballplayer. Seid, Melvin's amateur scouting director, was in Nashville, Tenn., watching a Triple-A player under consideration for a September callup.
"Jason Rogers crushing the ball," Seid's message read.
Rogers got his callup Tuesday, the same day Melvin was stunned to learn that Seid, 53, had passed away suddenly during a visit with family in Las Vegas.
Later that night, Rogers doubled in his first Major League plate appearance.
"I pulled Jason aside and showed him that message," Melvin said. "Then I sent an email to all the crosscheckers and to [special assistants] Dick Groch and Dan O'Brien, and Reid [Nichols, the farm director] and everybody that said, 'This is really coming from Bruce, because if he was here, you would all be receiving an email that Jason Rogers got his first big league hit.'"
Seid, a 17-year veteran of the Brewers' front office, was remembered fondly around baseball Wednesday for a tireless work ethic and a fierce dedication to his players, many of whom took to Twitter to express their regret.
"My heart hurts today [because] the world lost another great man," said Josh Prince, Milwaukee's third-round pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, Seid's first as scouting director. "A man of dignity, respect, honor and loyalty. Bruce Seid thank you for everything."
My heart hurts today, bc the world lost another great man. A man of dignity, respect, honor, and loyalty.Bruce Seid thank you for everything- Josh Prince (@JoshPrince17) September 3, 2014
"RIP Bruce Seid," wrote 2013 second-rounder Tucker Neuhaus. "I wouldn't be where I am today without this man believing in me."
Seid was a former fourth-round Draft pick of the Cubs who never made it to the Majors as a player but nonetheless impacted the league, and will continue to do so as his picks advance.
After stints as an area scout with the Padres and Pirates, Seid spent nine seasons in the same capacity for the Brewers from 1998-2006. Among the players whom he drafted and signed as an area scout were former top prospects Nick Neugebauer (second round, 1998) and Rickie Weeks (first round, 2003). Seid was promoted to West Coast crosschecker for two seasons, then to the team's top amateur scouting post after the Mariners hired Jack Zduriencik to be their GM.
"When I got the word yesterday, it was a real shocker," Zduriencik said Wednesday in Oakland. "I was with him for nine years, and he made my job just a lot of fun. ... A very moral person who carried himself with high standards. He was a hard worker. A lot of fun -- a lot of fun. Easy to laugh. Some of us were talking this morning about a lot of funny moments with Bruce. Just a really good human being.
"No matter what you say, the words can't describe it when you lose a friend, and he was a friend."
Seid directed Milwaukee's past six Drafts, which have netted five players currently on the active roster: Khris Davis, Scooter Gennett and Mike Fiers from 2009, and Jimmy Nelson and Rogers from 2010. Seid also played a significant role as West Coast crosschecker in drafting Logan Schafer in '08.
Melvin gathered those six players outside the Brewers' clubhouse Tuesday night to share the news of Seid's passing.
Seid is survived by his wife, Erika. Memorial arrangements are pending.
"He loved baseball," Melvin said. "He didn't have kids, and whenever I would talk about [my son] Cory, Bruce would always say, 'Well, my kids are playing in the Minor Leagues.' He was so proud of the guys."
That pride, Melvin and others said, is why Seid reacted so strongly to outside criticism of Milwaukee's modestly ranked farm system. He could be just as adamant internally, calling pro scouting director Zack Minasian just a few weeks ago to discuss a report filed by one of the Brewers' scouts.
MLB.com Draft and Minor League guru Jonathan Mayo received similar calls over the years.
"Being a scout is hard work, and there is no one who worked harder than Bruce did," Mayo said. "Bruce fiercely defended his organization's players, clearly taking great pride in the work that his entire staff did in scouting and drafting many of the players who make up the Brewers' big league roster today.
"We didn't always see eye to eye about his system, but I'd like to think we saw each other as friendly adversaries. I will truly miss the battles we had over players in the Brewers' organization."
Seid was visiting his 81-year-old mother and other family members in Las Vegas at the time of his passing. Several days ago, he emailed Melvin asking to extend the visit.
"I told him, 'Bruce, you need to take time off and get away from the game once in a while,'" Melvin said. "He was always a guy who wanted to be at ballgames -- couldn't wait to get to the next game or the next tournament. I'll miss our conversations. Last week, we were on the phone for over an hour talking about players. He was always rooting for his players. The guy never stopped."
Condolences flooded Melvin's inbox and cell phone on Wednesday as news of Seid's passing spread. The messages came from rival GMs and scouts, officials from the Commissioner's Office and a number of agents.
Agent Andrew Lowenthal knew Seid personally before getting to know him better professionally in 2011, when Milwaukee drafted right-hander David Goforth in the seventh round.
"Any time I went to an event or a showcase, he was the one guy I looked forward to seeing the most," Lowenthal said. "I knew we'd have a laugh. I knew we'd have a great conversation, even if it was for five minutes. At the Winter Meetings, he was the guy you'd see across the lobby and walk toward."
Joshua Kusnick, who has negotiated numerous contracts with Seid over the years, enjoyed a similarly friendly relationship. He gave Seid a hard time at a Division II college tournament in 2009, when Seid expressed interest in a soft-tossing right-hander who was drawing little or no interest from other clubs.
Kusnick was stunned when Seid drafted the player -- Fiers -- in the 22nd round. Two years later, Fiers was in the big leagues. He will take the mound Friday night against the Cardinals with a 1.93 ERA.
"Never was I happier to have been proven wrong," Kusnick said while relaying the story to his Twitter followers on Wednesday. "When I apologized [Seid] laughed."
Lowenthal gained a respect for the way in which Seid followed players as they progressed through the Minor Leagues, as opposed to moving onto the next Draft and leaving them to the player development people.
For that habit, Seid was famous.
"If you ever had a chance to sit with Bruce during a game," said Minasian, "not only was he locked into the Brewers, but he was locked into every Minor League game. To say he cared would be an understatement. If guys struggled, it was tough for him."
The Eric Arnett situation hurt the most. Arnett, a big, hard-throwing right-hander from Indiana University, was Seid's first selection as scouting director. Because of the Brewers' breakthrough in 2008, when they won the National League Wild Card to end a 26-year postseason drought, the organization did not pick until 26th overall in the 2009 Draft.
Arnett's velocity plummeted in the pro ranks and he never panned out, even after a briefly promising move to relief in 2012. He missed much of '13 following knee surgery, and Milwaukee released him before the start of this season.
Although six players from lower in the 2009 Draft made it to the Major Leagues with the Brewers, Seid always batted away blame about Arnett.
"He took the criticism hard. He took it personal," Melvin said. "I always had to talk him off the ledge. But at the same time, he was always positive."
"You could see he wore his emotions on his sleeve," Minasian said. "His passion was probably unmatched as far as anyone I've been around. He always felt like if we weren't winning, we were going to win. If things were bad, they were going to get better. If there was a player he liked in the Minor Leagues, he was going to be a good big leaguer. I think it's safe to say he believed in a lot of these players before anybody."
Although Seid has departed, his players will keep coming.
"It's these guys' dreams to get to the big leagues, and Bruce helped them come true," Minasian said. "Any scouting director, their work goes on for years and years. Brewers fans will see players that Bruce selected making their debuts five years from now, and they may still be with the organization 10 years from then.
"There's always going to be some of his footprints, I think, around Miller Park."