Following a 12-year pro career, Gene Schall returned to Villanova University to complete a Bachelor of Science degree in business with a minor in psychology. He needed an internship and there was only one opening ... in the IT department."Not knowing anything about computers, I took it. Got assigned to
Following a 12-year pro career, Gene Schall returned to Villanova University to complete a Bachelor of Science degree in business with a minor in psychology. He needed an internship and there was only one opening ... in the IT department.
"Not knowing anything about computers, I took it. Got assigned to the help desk. You can image how much help I was," he laughed.
Mike Arbuckle, then the Phillies' assistant general manager/scouting and player development, reached out to Schall to see if he was interested in getting back into the game.
"I was, but told Mike I didn't want to be in uniform as I had enough of that and I didn't want an office job," Schall said. "Mike replied, 'That makes you a scout.'"
• Catching up with Phillies alumni
A new career was launched as an area scout for the Phillies in 2008 looking at amateur talent in Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York and South Jersey. The next year, Schall was promoted to regional supervisor. His territory was the eastern part of the country from Florida to Canada. He assumed the title as Mid-Atlantic regional supervisor in 2014. He now oversees three area scouts.
The Major League Baseball season generally begins in April and ends in October. Schall explains: "In the middle of January of 2015, Johnny [Almaraz, director of amateur scouting] had a meeting at Citizens Bank Park. It was the first step in preparing for the Draft. We zeroed in on the top 10-20 players, kids we wanted to follow. Around the third week of January, junior colleges and high schools in Florida, the Southwest and Far West began playing. Division I college programs started in February. It cranked up even more in March."
Airplanes, car rentals, hotels, games and players now consume Schall's schedule.
While the naked eye is still No.1 in judging a player, technology has provided additional tools.
"The information that is available today is mind-boggling, 10 times more than five to seven years ago," Schall said. "The radar gun helps, but Louisville Sluggers let you know how hard the kid is throwing. We have video of almost every player. Colleges and even high schools have multiple video cameras on the fields providing various views. Every high school league and college conference has all kinds of statistics. Through analytics, we can digest all this information and learn that a certain player may not play up to his stats. Analytics helps us paint a total picture."
Technology is a gigantic tool to help scouts and their schedules.
"I don't know how scouts did it 20-30 years ago," Schall said. "One scout told me he'd be heading for a game, would pull off the road when he saw a pay phone, call his voicemail to see if the game for which he's heading is still on or canceled. Today, we have the Internet, smart phones, iPads and GPS. Communication is 24/7, real easy to stay in touch with each other. A text lets me know if the game is still on. My GPS takes me right to the field. No more paper maps."
The MLB Draft last summer began June 8. Commissioner Rob Manfred stepped to the microphone, "With the 10th selection in the Draft, the Phillies select Cornelius Randolph from Griffin High School, Griffin, Ga."
Randolph is from Schall's territory, specifically scout Aaron Jersild, whose area, in addition to Georgia, includes South Carolina, Northern Florida and Latin America.
"Cornelius had been on our radar for two years of high school baseball and summer leagues," Schall said. "Aaron pegged him as a high pick right from the beginning. All of us saw him play multiple times. I probably saw him 25-30 times. We all agreed he was the most comfortable high school hitter in the country. Many high school players are question marks when it comes to hitting, inconsistency. This guy hit everywhere we saw him.
"As Johnny said on Draft day, Cornelius is a ballplayer and he loves to play. We can see talent but we need to learn what makes a kid tick. Getting to know the parents and teammates is extremely important. Aaron spent a lot of time with the family. Some kids view being drafted as sort of a novelty. Others want to play. You need to learn if a kid is willing to spend time developing his skills in the Minor Leagues riding buses and failing. Baseball is a game of failure."
Once the Draft was over, golf, pool time, Cape Cod? Well, somewhat. But more baseball was on Schall's calendar. Throughout the summer various high school showcase events were held across the country. The Phillies scout all the college summer leagues. Schall spent two weeks in Cape Cod ... scouting.
Late August turned into a short down time for Schall and the amateur scouts before college programs re-booted in September. Some high schools have fall ball. According to Schall, late October is the unofficial end of the scouting season.
The greatest joy of his job?
"Finding future Major Leaguers, watching them go through the difficult development process and make it to the top," Schall said.
All the travel doesn't get to him.
"It's much easier than being a player riding buses and then having to play a game," Schall said, before confessing that his travel schedule can be a nightmare. "Sometimes I wake up in a hotel and don't know where I am. I've returned car rentals to the wrong company. Many times I arrive at an airport with tickets for three different destinations. It depends if a certain player is going to play, pitching rotations and weather conditions. The airline people think I'm crazy."
This season, the Phillies have the No. 1 overall selection in the MLB Draft. Two of the often mentioned tops picks are left-handed pitchers from Schall's territory -- 6-foot-7 A.J. Puk from the University of Florida and 17-year-old Jason Groome from Barnegat (N.J.) High School. Schall will be one of many from the Phillies checking out these two young prospects. For Puk's first start in late February, the Phillies had four people on hand, including Pat Gillick.
Schall's baseball career
A first baseman at Villanova University, Schall was selected by the Phillies in the fourth round of the 1991 Draft. He spent 12 seasons, 1991-2002, in the Minors (.285 career batting average) and parts of two seasons, 1995-96, in the Majors with the Phillies (.252 for 52 total games). He was traded to the White Sox for Mike Robertson on Jan. 31, 1997. Schall later returned to the Phillies' organization, ending his playing days with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2002.
Larry Shenk is in charge of alumni relations and is the team historian for the Phillies.