Scout found gem in 41st-round pick Rearick
Rays' Hill discovered left-hander at small Georgia school
SAN DIEGO -- Milt Hill wasn't an easy guy to get in touch with Friday. For starters, his cell-phone battery died.
That was a small price to pay for Hill, an area scout for the Rays, who fielded plenty of calls -- and, to be sure, missed a few -- after the Padres promoted left-handed pitcher Chris Rearick from Triple-A El Paso.
Hill recommended and signed Rearick in 2010 out of a Division II school, North Georgia College and State University in Dahlonega. Rearick, 27, was the 1,241th overall selection that year.
"Everyone was blowing me up," said Hill, who covers Georgia, Alabama and north Florida for the Rays. "I think everyone who scouts around here [called]; they knew I drafted Chris in the late rounds."
Hill, a former Major League pitcher with the Reds, Braves and Mariners, said selecting Rearick so late in the Draft "wasn't great scouting." However, it might have been a good lesson in perseverance.
Rearick pitched the first three seasons at Berry College, an NAIA school in Mount Berry, Ga. But just before his senior year, Berry College dropped down to NCAA Division III and eliminated scholarships. The players were allowed to transfer by the coach.
Rearick ended up at North Georgia College and State University, he said, because it was close to home and his girlfriend, now wife, Courtney. Hill said there wasn't a lot of heavy interest in him.
"It was kind of the perfect storm. He transferred schools and [scouts] lost track of him. We had a really, really wet spring [in 2010] and I tried to see him a few times and he was rained out. Then, all your Friday-night starters are going the same night and most of the scouts went to the big schools."
A couple of years after he drafted Rearick, someone in the Rays' organization told him that if Rearick had pitched for a higher-profile school, like a Division I school, he likely would have been selected in the fourth or fifth round.
"Again, it wasn't great scouting," Hill insisted.
To be sure, there was a lot to like about Rearick, who was traded to the Padres on Dec. 13, 2012, for outfielder Vince Belnome.
"He's a 6-foot-3 lefty who throws a lot of low strikes," Hill said. "I think his velocity was more 88-90 [mph] when we got him. He was starting then. He's moved to the bullpen and I think his velocity has picked up. But Chris could pitch with his fastball, inside and out."
Hill said University of Alabama-Birmingham pitching coach Josh Hopper gets credit for insisting Hill see Rearick. Hopper was Rearick's pitching coach at Berry College.
"He's the one who hit me up with this guy, saying that I had to come see him," Hill said.
Hill was confident Rearick would be available at some point late in the 2010 Draft. In the end, he nearly got him at the end, for a signing bonus of $1,500.
"I remember checking around and not many people I knew had seen him," Hill said. "I'm amazed a left-hander with his ability lasted until the 41st round."