Mayo: Goodbye to a scouting legend
Over the years and too many conversations, texts and emails to count, that’s how Mike Radcliff typically would end any communication with me. It didn’t matter if I was heading anywhere in the immediate future, nor was it the point. It was really his way, I thought, of telling me to take care of myself, wherever I might be.
Hearing the news that he had died on Friday was like a gut punch to everyone in baseball who had come in contact with him. And given that he’d spent more than 35 years working for the Twins, that’s a lot of people. My colleague Jim Callis had it right when he said that he didn’t know of a scout who was more liked AND respected than Mike Radcliff. That’s a combination that’s hard to pull off.
Battling pancreatic cancer for the past several years didn’t keep him from his work, even if he had to learn new ways to do it based on how he was doing. In an ideal world, he’d be out on the road leading up to each Draft trying to help the Twins, the organization he called home for decades, make the best decisions possible. One of my last exchanges with him about that very subject came in 2021, when he told me he was “grinding chemo” and filing video reports on college pitchers. (Not coincidentally, I’m sure, the Twins took three college arms in the top five rounds in that year’s Draft.)
Any chance to see Mike at an event, to run a Draft prospect or Twins top 30 list by him, to pick his brain, was a win. His breadth of knowledge, his uncanny recall of what seemed like every player he had ever seen or heard about, his generosity in sharing that encyclopedic wisdom, his complete lack of ego without sacrificing any conviction in his own beliefs … all of it was present any time you interacted with him. He had such respect for the game and the people who worked to better it and I don’t know if I’ve come across anyone more genuine, sincere, hard-working and real.
We would share a laugh at several Winter Meetings, often at the Scout of the Year Reception, because it took me a few years to recognize him without a visor or bucket hat on his head, one of the trademark tools of his trade.
To say he will be sorely missed is a gross understatement. The impact he had on the Twins, on the scouting industry and on the game he loved so much, can’t be overstated. As current Twins scouting director Sean Johnson told our Twins beat writer, Do-Hyoung Park, “He was the gold standard for literally everybody.”
As I told my son, a senior in college who wants to pursue work in baseball, Mike Radcliff is the model you should follow. Honestly, that would be true even if he wanted to find a career elsewhere. The gold standard for literally everybody should extend beyond the baseball world.
Scouts live behind the scenes. It’s a thankless and tireless job with as many misses (maybe more) than hits. They are the backbone of the game and never get enough public credit for making sure baseball continues to thrive.
It’s regrettable that we can only pay homage to Mike after he’s left us, but I sincerely hope he will continue to be that model of how we all should make our way through this world. I think then, wherever we are, we can be assured of “safe travels.”