Royals scout shares journey, stories from road

May 27th, 2020
Photo: Minda Haas Kuhlmann

While we wait for the baseball season to get underway and for scouts to get back out on the road for their respective organizations, MLB Pipeline will shine a spotlight on these hard-working evaluators who are typically behind the scenes. We’ll talk to scouts across the game about their best Draft picks, biggest misses, best stories, go-to road food and more.

Making the transition from the field to the stands to enter the world of scouting was never really an option that crossed Cody Clark’s mind.

But as someone who has spent a lifetime in the game -- with 11 years playing professionally, followed by three more as Kansas City’s big league bullpen catcher, and is now in his fourth season as an advance scout with the Royals -- Clark couldn’t be happier with where his winding path has led him.

“After I got done playing, Scott Sharp -- Royals assistant GM -- called me and asked if I wanted to get into coaching,” Clark said. “I said, ‘Sure,’ and they hired me in 2014 as a coach working in player development.”

With big league Spring Training underway and Minor Leaguers yet to report, Clark was still at home in Arkansas when he got another call. This one was an inquiry into whether he might be interested in exploring a different potential career path, following the announcement that the upcoming season would be the first to explore expanded replay.

“They said, ‘We’d like to bring you out and train you to do replay, and either you or Billy Duplissea -- our bullpen catcher at the time -- will do instant replay and the other will catch in the bullpen,'" Clark recalled. “So I said, ‘Sure, I’ll do that,’ and at the end of Spring Training they told Billy he would be doing instant replay and told me I would catch in the bullpen.

“I hadn’t spent a whole lot of time in the big leagues as a player, and I got to spend three years doing that and seeing the best players in the world. It was an amazing time for the Royals obviously, going to two World Series. So that was cool, but totally unexpected. They knew me six years as a player in their system and my baseball career was over, and they just wanted to get me in the organization to coach or possibly manage down the line, and then it took a different turn.”

After the ’16 season, with Clark committed to return to the Kansas City bullpen the following year, he delved into another discussion with Sharp about the future. When Sharp mentioned to the former backstop that the organization was looking to add an advance scout and was wondering if he was interested, he said, “’Absolutely,’ and I jumped all over it.”

Best story
Though Clark would never admit it, the 38-year-old’s best story is likely to be his very own. After six seasons of playing in the Royals organization -- at least parts of all of them at Triple-A -- and a decade in the Minors, he spent his 11th year with the Astros in 2013. 

A lifelong dream was realized in August, when the Minor League veteran was called up to the Majors at 31 years old. But another aspiration took a little bit longer, as almost three weeks, appearances in 10 games, and 25 at-bats passed Clark by without a hit. 

The day before his 32nd birthday, the catcher took his 0-for-25 career start to the plate to lead off the fifth inning against the Angels at Minute Maid Park. When Clark sent his first base knock into left-center field, not only did his teammates celebrate as though he had just walked off a win, but it sparked a six-run inning in an eventual 9-7 victory that caused then Astros manager Bo Porter to exclaim, “I think that was one of the happiest moments of the season.”

Biggest standout
Selected in the 11th round by Texas out of Wichita State University in 2003, Clark spent three years in the Rangers organization followed by stints with the Braves and in the independent Golden Baseball League before joining the Royals in 2007. After a year with the Astros on the field before venturing into the bullpen and then scouting, the players who have stood out the most to Clark are the ones he saw as he was climbing the Minor League ranks.

“My last year playing I was with Houston and halfway through the year they called George Springer up to Triple-A from Double-A. He was just head and shoulders above everybody else. You could see it right away. He’s the five-tool player who everyone always talks about. He’s one of the best position players I’ve ever played with, and he’s the one player I saw right away and knew that he was on a different level -- big league superstar level.”

Biggest miss
Though there hasn’t been enough time for Clark to see his reports and thoughts completely pan out on the field, there is one player he admittedly underestimated after they were both selected out of their respective colleges in the 2003 Draft.

“Ian Kinsler -- I don’t know if anyone saw it coming right away. We were signed the same year and he came in as just sort of an ordinary guy. He was a 17th-round pick and a regular guy. Then he comes back the next year and he hit .402 [at Class A Advanced Clinton]. He was hitting everything. And now he’s got 14 years in the big leagues. He definitely exceeded expectations, and he’s had a great career.”

In-car entertainment of choice
“I listen to podcasts and try to catch up on phone calls; sometimes I’ll listen to audio books. When I’m with my wife [Jordan], we listen to true crime podcasts, which are really interesting but can be a little troubling. And a podcast I recently started listening to is called Pints with Aquinas.”

Go-to road food
“I’m a sugar addict and I spend a lot of time on my computer, so whenever I’m doing computer work, I tend to eat Twizzlers and things like that. It’s something I very seldom eat at home, so that would be my go-to road food.”

Favorite town or ballpark
“I love going to Seattle, that’s a favorite -- the ballpark’s great, the food is great, and the city is really cool to walk around in. Toronto’s another really cool city. And last year I went to Washington, and I really liked the ballpark a lot. That was pretty cool.”

Advice to industry hopefuls
“Just be open-minded,” Clark said. “The baseball industry has changed a lot in the past five or 10 years. It helps now to have a knowledge of analytics, and to be open-minded because there are a lot of changes that go on all the time, and to have an open perspective and different ideas, that’s important right now.”