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Trio of scouts honored at Scout of the Year reception

MLB.com @JimCallisMLB

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Billy Beane's career direction changed in 1988 when a scout saw him playing in Triple-A in the Tigers system.

"Grady Fuson didn't know it then, but he changed my life and my family's life," Beane said. "He turned in a report on an athletic kid, kind of a hot-tempered kid worth taking a chance on. Because of that report, I signed with the Oakland A's and I've been there ever since."

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Billy Beane's career direction changed in 1988 when a scout saw him playing in Triple-A in the Tigers system.

"Grady Fuson didn't know it then, but he changed my life and my family's life," Beane said. "He turned in a report on an athletic kid, kind of a hot-tempered kid worth taking a chance on. Because of that report, I signed with the Oakland A's and I've been there ever since."

Beane finished his playing career in 1989 with the A's before joining their front office, eventually rising to general manager after the 1997 season and executive vice president after the 2015 season. Beane has presided over eight playoff teams, and Fuson has played a role in those as well.

For his contributions, Fuson was the West Coast honoree at Scout of the Year reception Wednesday night. Russ Bove of the Blue Jays (East Coast) and Todd "Tiny" Thomas of the Giants (Midwest) also received awards at the 34th annual event, a highlight of the Winter Meetings.

Fuson, 61, graduated from the University of Puget Sound and played two years in the Minors, then rejoined the Loggers as an assistant coach in 1980 and became the youngest head coach in NCAA Division I (age 24) in 1981. The A's hired him as an area scout and Minor League coach (and later manager) in 1982. He rose to national crosschecker in 1991 and scouting director in 1995.

Fuson said he never considered a career in scouting before Oakland scouting director Dick Wiencek approached him.

"Dick said, 'We want you to be an area scout and a Minor League coach, maybe a manager,'" Fuson said. "I said, 'You've got to be [kidding] me. Scout? Those are old guys and I'm 26.' He said, 'No. You're going to dig it.'"

Fuson did learn to dig scouting and excel at it. As an area scout, he signed seven big leaguers, most notably World Series MVP Scott Brosius. As scouting director, he ran Drafts that included Eric Chavez, Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito, cornerstones of Oakland clubs that earned four straight playoff berths from 2000-03.

Fuson became the Rangers assistant GM in charge of player development and scouting in 2002-04, then jumped to the Padres in 2005 before overseeing their farm and scouting departments for the next four years. He oversaw Drafts that included two huge steals, Ian Kinsler as a 17th-rounder in 2003 and Corey Kluber as a fourth-rounder in 2007. He went back to the A's as a special assistant in 2010.

On Sunday, Minor League Baseball presented Fuson with the Sheldon "Chief" Bender Award for distinguished service in player development. He's the first person ever to receive both that honor and the Scout of the Year Award.

Bove, 66, played collegiately at St. John's and coached there and at New York Tech before beginning his scouting career with the Major League Scouting Bureau in 1983. He joined the Brewers as an area scout in 1993 and rose to regional supervisor and then professional scout before moving to the Expos as an area scout in 2004. He served as Mets scouting director in 2005 before pro scouting for them until heading to the Blue Jays as a big league and special assignment scout in 2011.

Bove signed nine Major Leaguers as an area scout, including All-Stars Ronnie Belliard and Ian Desmond as well as first-rounder Jeff D'Amico. In his lone year as scouting director, the Mets grabbed five big leaguers, highlighted by Mike Pelfrey and Jon Niese.

"I signed Ian Desmond and he's my favorite player ever," said Bove, who landed him in the third round of the 2004 Draft for a $430,000 bonus. "Not just because he had a lot of success, but because there was never any doubt he'd sign. We still talk today."

Thomas, 56, signed with the Giants as a 31st-rounder out of Oregon State in 1983 and played five years in the Minors before the team made him an area scout in 1988. He has stayed in that role ever since, signing 18 Major Leaguers. That group includes 2003 American League batting champion Bill Mueller and All-Star Brandon Belt. Belt and Juan Carlos Perez, another Thomas signee, have won World Series rings with San Francisco.

"This is so cool," Thomas said. "Ever since I started scouting, I thought the Scout of the Year Award was the coolest thing because scouts rarely get recognized. Every time a scout gets recognized, it raises us all within the industry."

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.