Meet the pioneering video scout in her 22nd season

March 30th, 2022
Courtesy of Christie Wood

There is a women’s boom occurring in baseball these days. Women are making an unprecedented impact across the industry, ascending the sport’s coaching, executive and broadcasting ranks like never before. But long before many of them broke through in their respective fields, Christie Wood was already blazing a trail in scouting.

“I was always so proud to say, ‘This is my job,’” said Wood, who is in her 22nd season video scouting for MLB’s Draft Operations. “I look at an empty field, and it looks just like an empty field with grass. But it’s amazing how it comes alive for a game. People start coming in, players start coming in. Here comes all this excitement.”

Now, as Women’s History Month draws to a close, many in the game feel it’s long overdue to pay respect to Wood’s contributions to scouting over the past two-plus decades.

“I'm super glad that someone is finally putting a spotlight on her, because she was one of the first pioneers of women working in baseball, especially in the scouting world,” said Diego Delgado, senior coordinator with MLB Draft Operations and Wood’s direct supervisor. “She is essentially MLB’s ambassador for us in the office, on the field. The way she goes about her business is very professional, and at the same time, it’s very relaxed and respectful.”

Hired by what was then known as the MLB Scouting Bureau in 2000, Wood became the first woman to hold an on-field scouting position with the organization. The Bureau focused on highly touted amateur players, serving as a centralized resource in the pre-Internet era for teams seeking prospect information prior to the Draft. MLB consolidated the Bureau in 2018; it now serves a similar function under the department title Draft Operations.

A self-described field rat, Wood began shooting video as an undergraduate at North Carolina State, finding her niche with the baseball team. Video scouting wasn’t nearly as pervasive as it is today, and NC State players grew so dependent on Wood’s work they invited her to the Cape Cod League. Surveying the nation’s top collegiate summer circuit brought exposure and connections, including a meeting with former longtime Scouting Bureau director Frank Marcos. Wood spent the next 18 months bouncing between internships (she says she completed eight or nine total), soaking up as much experience as she could. Marcos called in early 2000, in search of a roving video technician.

“I thought, that’s right up my alley,” Wood said. “I love the atmosphere and I love that baseball is played at a slower, but an exciting, pace. Anything can happen at any moment. I love that about it.”

In the role, Wood zigzags up and down the East Coast between colleges, summer leagues and showcases, spending as many as six nights per week on the road searching for premier amateur players. Some grow into stars, and hers are often some of the first pair of eyes on them. Wood’s film archives include tape on Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, David Wright, B.J. and Justin Upton and Ryan Zimmerman as high schoolers, Justin Verlander and Jacob deGrom as college players, and many, many others.

Courtesy of Christie Wood

“When I film somebody, I’m telling you I think he’s got something,” Wood said. “The film tells the story. The tape doesn’t lie.”

Wood was among the first scouts to film deGrom pitch for Stetson College in Florida, where the two-time Cy Young winner began as a little-known shortstop (“We saw him so early we thought we were sneaking around,” Mets scout Steve Barningham said. “I don’t know what she did with the video, but I was pleading with her not to post it.”) She returned to the Virginia suburbs on her own time for additional looks at a teenaged Wright, after initial reports graded him, in her opinion, suspiciously low.

Wood recalls witnessing B.J. Upton -- a natural righty who played 12 big league seasons exclusively as a right-handed hitter -- switch-hitting on a whim during his high school days, just for kicks. These are just a few stories in the treasure trove Wood accumulated over the years.

“She can pick out a player,” Barningham said. "She has a real good feel for what a player is.”

Wood said she’s received little pushback over the years due to her gender, especially from the scouting community. Revealing she is one of the few women scouts routinely surprises in off-the-field conversation, though. She’s grown accustomed to raising eyebrows, describing the interest as coming from a place of genuine curiosity rather than skepticism or judgment.

“After they ask me what I do, they always say: ‘How’d you get into that?’ That’s always the next question,” Wood said. “I definitely get noticed doing what I do. There is definitely a bit of a spotlight, and that’s OK. I enjoy being an ambassador.”

She has, occasionally, had to fight perception battles. Wood still recalls an incident from her first year on the job, when working an event with several other scouts, she noticed a ballpark usher paying close attention to her presence. Eventually, the usher approached, erroneously telling Wood she needed to leave. Instantly, the male scouts in attendance -- including Frank Mattox, the late scouting director for the Mariners -- rose to her defense.

"Frank stood up and said: 'Don't you know who she is?'" Wood recalled. "'She’s a scout with MLB. She belongs here.' Before I had to defend myself. That always meant a lot."

“The area scouts, crosschecks, even scouting directors -- they’ve always included me,” Wood said. “Scouts have always been great to me, and I mean that with every bit of my being. Some ushers at some parks would think I’m not a baseball scout or not there working, and some administrators with some schools doubted a little bit, but that has been on the rarer side.”

Twenty-two years in, Wood remains a pioneer as the game’s demographic changes become plain to see. She said she’s seen more women hired as area scouts in recent years, and is often asked to speak at colleges to a new generation of women eager to make careers in baseball. Barningham called her “an inspiration to little girls everywhere.”

“First, you never saw video -- and you never saw women scouting. In the beginning, that combination was unique,” Barningham said. “You see it everywhere now. Even in my own house, my daughter was immediately curious. When she was 8 or 9, she asked me: ‘How did she get that job? How can I do something like that?’”

Said Wood: “There has been a boom, and it’s great to see. I get females asking for advice and I tell them: ‘Intern, intern, intern.’ There is no one way. I’ve always tried to be an ambassador for the sport and for what I do.”