Get to know Bill Schmidt, Rockies' scouting-expert GM

February 17th, 2023

Bill Schmidt spent more than two decades leading the Rockies’ scouting department, playing an integral role in the selection of players ranging from to  to .

When Colorado parted ways with general manager Jeff Bridich in May 2021, Schmidt was given the job on an interim basis, though he would be named as the fourth GM in club history later that year.’s Mark Feinsand sat down with Schmidt to discuss his beginnings in coaching, the art of scouting, his current role and much more in the latest edition of Executive Access.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. You graduated from Cal State Long Beach and got your master’s degree at Azusa Pacific; was a career in baseball always the goal?

Schmidt: It was. It was a hobby at that point, but it was more to be a high school coach. Then I started coaching at the junior college level, so that’s why I went after the master’s [in education]. The goal was probably more to be a college coach at that point in time. Your first job out of college was as the head baseball coach at your alma mater, Magnolia High School.

Schmidt: I was there for a year, then I moved on to Santa Ana Junior College for three years. I was helping scouts out, I was running scout teams; I was doing anything. I was in my early-20s, so I was coaching three different teams during the summer. I always loved baseball. I was given the opportunity to go to Arizona State, but I was also running scout teams for the Reds. I was around a lot of veteran scouts who took a liking to me. Were you thinking you were going to coach for your entire career?

Schmidt: Coaching was the path I was going to go. I started to scout because I thought it would make me a better coach. You began your scouting career with the Reds, then scouted for the Yankees and worked for the Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau. What attracted you to scouting?

Schmidt: To be honest, at the time, it paid more than coaching. I got around a lot of veteran scouts who were good baseball guys, and they started teaching me a lot. I got hired by Brian Sabean at the Yankees; Bill Livesey was a great mentor to me and taught me a lot about the game. I got to coach in the summer and scout, so I was getting the best of both worlds. Is there a specific skill set that makes for a better scout, or is it something you can learn if you put in enough time?

Schmidt: You get experience. You have to have a work ethic and a love for the game. There's a lot of long days at the ballpark, so there has to be a love for the game. I tell our young scouts all the time: prospects don't walk across your living-room floor. You have to go find them. You have to get out to the ballparks. You joined the Rockies as director of scouting after the 1999 season. How did that move come about?

Schmidt: Dan O’Dowd was assistant GM during my time with the Indians and we developed a relationship. As he interviewed for some jobs, he said he would like me to be his scouting director wherever he ended up. He interviewed in Baltimore, then Milwaukee, Seattle and Colorado. He said, "If I get one of these jobs, I want you to come with me." So I did. What are the biggest challenges of scouting domestic amateurs vs. international players?

Schmidt: It's kind of the Wild West like people say when it comes to international. If you like somebody at that point in time, you could go sign them. You don't always have all the answers right away. Who is this person? How old is he? Back in the early 2000s, you were trying to answer a lot of questions. There were a lot of things that went on back in the early 2000s that Major League Baseball has cleaned up for the best. The timetables are different. We're looking at kids at 17 or 18 years old, where internationally you’re looking at them at 14 or 15. You oversaw the Draft for the Rockies for more than two decades. The Draft is an inexact science; aside from the obvious talent, what do you look for most in a player?

Schmidt: I think it evolved over the years. The more I did, the more I realized you need to find out what really makes them go. How were they born and raised? How did they get to what they are? I really try to get to know the person. It's a game played by humans, young kids; how are they going to handle all of a sudden getting a lot of money? They're going to hit adversity, so how are they going to handle things? Over time, the mental part for me became more important. We’re not going to miss the tools, whether they can run or throw. Where you miss at times is what makes a person tick. When a star player leaves one team for another, fans will often continue rooting for them -- unless they depart for their rival club. Is it the same for amateur scouting guys? Do you keep tabs on players you selected even if they wind up with other franchises?

Schmidt: You want them to do a good job, because if you’ve done a good job, you've really developed a relationship with the player. Maybe you started scouting him in his sophomore year in high school or his junior year when he was 16 or 17 years old; now, he might be in his mid-20s and you've been around for maybe seven to 10 years. You care about people. What is a Draft room like? Chaos? Nervous energy? Laser focus?

Schmidt: Excitement. It’s almost like you're taking your final. You've put in a lot of work; you’ve been scouting these guys for the last 11 or 12 months, and in some cases, multiple years for the kid that you saw in high school who went to college. You don't really know what's going to happen, so you have be lucky, but you have to be prepared for what might come your way. Amateur scouting seems like an impossible task. How do you keep track of so many amateurs and make sure you aren’t missing anyone?

Schmidt: You can't see everybody. There were points where I tried to see everybody, but you can't do it. You have to trust the people around you; that's where it comes back to the process. The running joke is you can't dabble with it. It's become a 12-month job, because it's every event during the summer. Sometimes the best competition we're going to see -- especially a kid from the northern part of the country -- is going to be in the summer. You're trying to see as many at-bats because I can see them in April or May in upper Michigan or upstate New York or New England and I don't know what I'm going to get. You try to do that during the summer. From 1981-2010, only 17 percent of players drafted made it to the Majors. Less than three out of four first-rounders got to the big leagues, and only half of second-rounders. How much pride do you feel when a player you drafted makes it to the Majors?

Schmidt: No doubt. That’s a tough journey; you don’t get to graduate with your class. To get there, there's a sense of pride. Dave Garcia gave me a great line -- he was a coach here with Buddy Bell -- he said, "It’s not hard to get to the big leagues because people put you in the big leagues. It’s hard to stay in the big leagues." Guys can get here, but the percentage of guys that can stay here for longer than three years becomes real small. You drafted in the 11th round; he had a nice run with the Rockies, including an All-Star appearance. You also selected in the 14th round, and he had a terrific career. When you hit in round like that, is it luck, great scouting or some combination of both?

Schmidt: It’s a combination of both. They all have a story. Dexter would have been higher; he was going to the University of Miami and he wanted $1 million. If he didn’t get it, he was going to school. A lot of guys had questions about the bat. We traded Larry Walker at the Trade Deadline, freed up money so we signed Dexter. We didn’t give him a million -- we gave him $925,000 -- but we were able to sign him. Any time a kid makes it, you're happy. You're happy for area scout, you acknowledge player development’s role. It’s tough to get guys to the big leagues. You have said you learned a lot about the job by watching Dan O’Dowd. What was your biggest takeaway from your time with Dan?

Schmidt: Great passion. I learned a ton of things from Dan; we worked together for over 20 years. Very sharp mind, the way he looked at things. He helped me grow as a person and as a leader. You once said that when considering a pitcher, you need to question how he would “handle the beast of Coors Field.” How much of a challenge is it to have such a unique home field?

Schmidt: You better be mentally tough. If you're not mentally tough here, if you can’t handle it, this place will spit you out. It's a unique environment that we have to deal with. What did it mean to you to be named the full-time GM after spending much of the 2021 season in an interim role?

Schmidt: It meant a lot that [Rockies owner] Dick [Monfort] and [chief operating officer] Greg [Feasel] had confidence in me to fill the role. I felt good for the people around me because, again, it's not all about me. It's about a group of people, and they trust that we can get the thing going in the right direction. The Rockies have never won a World Series. What would it mean to the city for the team to win it all?

Schmidt: I would love to be able to do that. There's a lot of things I would like to accomplish for the fan base, and that is at the top of the list. There are a lot of good people in this organization I would feel very happy for -- and not only on the baseball side. For the fans, for those people here, I think it would be quite an accomplishment.