Alex Agostino was always a hockey guy.
Before he got into baseball full-time and began the career that now sees him in his 26th year of working in the game -- currently a regional crosschecker with the Phillies -- he was running hockey schools and camps, working at a local rink in Quebec, and had an offer to be a player-coach in France that he turned down because he was three months into a marriage that has since added three decades to its tenure.
Agostino first delved into scouting with the Expos as a part-timer in January 1995. His home province’s team then sent him to the Major League Scouting Bureau’s scout school in Lakeland, Fla., and he moved into a full-time position covering Canada at the end of the '95 season. He joined the Marlins six seasons later and remained with the club for four years until his position was cut.
The Canadian evaluator joined the Phillies in ’06 and covered his home country part-time for four years before the Blue Jays asked Philadelphia if it might be willing to part with him. The Phillies matched Toronto’s full-time offer and Agostino stayed put, and he is currently in his 15th season with the organization, 26 years after leaving the hockey world behind.
“I still love watching talented players no matter what sport -- hockey, football, basketball, whatever it is,” Agostino said. “I don’t watch as a fan anymore, I watch it because I’m impressed by what these young guys can do.”
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Best Draft pick
“I have to give two names,” Agostino said. “My best Draft pick is Russell Martin but we didn’t sign him ... Both came out of the 2000 Draft. I was with the Expos and we took Russell Martin in the 35th round. He was 17 years old at the time, a Team Canada guy, and he loved the Expos. He lived in [Notre-Dame-de-Grace], close to Montreal, and we took his best friend, Ivan Naccarata in the 40th round. We let them both go to Chipola [College in Marianna, Fla.] and our guys who worked down there didn’t want to sign them. Good on the Dodgers and Clarence Johns, who was the scout out there for them, who signed him two years later [after taking him in the 17th round of the 2002 Draft].
“But the guy we signed was Shawn Hill from Georgetown, Ontario. We took him in the sixth round in that same Draft. He’s just an unbelievable, phenomenal human being, a guy we took in the sixth round who, if not for injuries, might have had a 12-year career as a starter. He did get 44 big league starts, played for 17 years professionally, he’s a pro scout with the Yankees, he’s a great guy. I love him. There was no agent, sixth round, $110,000 plus school, and he went out and performed. Unfortunately he got hurt, but he stuck around.”
“In Canada, it has to be Adam Loewen,” Agostino said. “If not for injuries, he had All-Star potential. You don’t want to say Hall of Fame because he was young, but in his Draft year, you just didn’t see what he had. He was a two-way player, a guy who threw 95, he could pitch, he had the physical attributes, had good makeup, and he was definitely the guy, on the West Coast side.
“On the East Coast side, it’s Phillippe Aumont, same thing. Size, arm strength, arm speed, ball moving, dominant. They were just different breeds compared to the other players. … You walked in and just said, ‘Oh my God, these are first rounders. This is what they look like in the States.’”
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“Joey Votto. I made him as a big leaguer, but nowhere near what he became. I tried to always talk to the players on my list who I liked the day before the Draft or that morning, to wish them good luck, say that I’m only from one of 30 teams and hopefully everything works out for them. I’m talking to Joey and Joey’s trying to ask me, ‘What do you think about the Draft? What round? Do you think I’ll be drafted in the Top 10 rounds?’ And I said, ‘Joey, all I can tell you is that it’s going to work out for you.’
“When I look back at my amateur report on him, even though it’s a big league report, he’s far exceeded everything, and I’m sure for most people he has, if they’re honest. Except the Reds, because they took him in the second round and gave him good money. They knew they had something and they believed in him, and more power to them. But he’s definitely the one in Canada who exceeded my expectations. … I remember my report, because he was catching. If I’m not mistaken I liked his bat, thought he was a platoon guy, maybe a bat off the bench with power. But he wasn’t an All-Star everyday first baseman. That’s a different type of player.”
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“Fordham University,” Agostino said. “Beautiful field, it’s always sunny when I go there, and it’s on the Italian side of the Bronx and I had family when I was a kid there, and it’s just feels right for me. The park is amazing. I just love that place. And in Hanover, New Hampshire, the beautiful little town which is where Dartmouth University is, I love to go watch a game there on the weekend, when the place is packed, the locals are in there, the weather is nice, everybody’s in a good mood, people are nice and they’re watching their Ivy League game. Those are the two towns that I really enjoy. I just love being in new places. That’s what I love about this game -- meeting new people, being in new cities.”
Advice to industry hopefuls
“Buckle up, it’s not easy. It’s not the easiest life if you’re young and if you’re going to want a family and all that. Be ready to be flexible, be ready to accept all changes and understand that you’re important, but at the same time you’re at the bottom of that totem pole where you’re doing it for the love of the game. Scouting can’t be about you -- always make sure it’s about the player. … Make sure you’re accurate, make sure you’re in it for the right reasons, and be ready to work your tail off.”
Alexis Brudnicki is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter @baseballexis.