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Baseball Scout: John Stokoe MAG
John Stokoe was a scout for the Baltimore Orioles for 29 years. He is now retired and lives in New Hampshire.
How did you become involved with baseball?
At the age of ten, I started playing for the Kiwanis league, a town-sponsored team. I continued with that until I got to high school where I played on the school team and the American Legion team. At Wake Forest, I played all four years of college ball. After that I signed with the Milwaukee Braves, now the Atlanta Braves. I played four more years. The Braves loaned me to the Orioles, where I stopped playing when I reached the double A level.
How did you become a scout?
When I felt I wasn't going to make it in the major leagues and I had a family to support, the manager asked if I would like a part-time scouting job.
Of course, I said yes. Three years later, in 1968, I was offered a full-time job as a scout for the Orioles.
What do you look for in a prospect?
That depends on the player's position. If it is a regular player, such as an outfielder, shortstop or first baseman, I look at five main areas: a player's running speed, his fielding ability, overall batting ability, his stance and distance hitting, and last, the ability to play without making errors. If the player's a pitcher, I look at his throwing speed and his movements on his breaking balls, (which is a slider or a curve ball). I also look at a pitcher's control. Lastly, I consider his psychology on the mound, or how he remains calm.
What player are you most proud of scouting?
I scouted Mike Flanagan, a left-handed pitcher who played 16 years in Major League Baseball. He played 14 years with the Orioles and two with the Blue Jays. He won the 1979 Cy Young award as the outstanding American League Pitcher. Mike still works with the Oriole's franchise as a broadcaster.
Do you miss being a scout?
I miss the overall job, but I don't miss the travel, stress or work. Of course, I do miss being able to see all the ball games, and the friends I've gathered over my career.
I'm glad I left the sport before September 11. I wouldn't like to spend all that time having my equipment checked. Much of my equipment would have to be checked repeatedly.
What is your advice to a teenager who wants to be a pro ball player?
Hustle, play hard, don't lose your confidence, listen to your coaches and your parents. Always do well in school as well as on the field.
What is the most fun you ever had with baseball?
When I was a sophomore at Wake Forest, I played on the mos twonderful baseball team. Our team won the NCAA championship. The whole experience was fun.
What is the hardest decision you made in baseball?
In 1965 I was faced with the decision to retire from baseball and find another job, or continue and try for the major leagues. I didn't think I was going to make it to the majors, and I had a family to support. I chose to retire. I was 26 years old.
Did you always want to become a professional ball player?
When I was in high school I started wanting to play for the major leagues, and as I grew older I wanted it even more.
How did being a scout change over the nearly 30 years you were involved?
The game became very technical. When I started scouting, instead of radar guns, we estimated the ball's speed. With radar we're able to make better scouting reports. When laptops came along, we were able type reports and email them immediately. Then when cell phones came along we were able to instantly share our thoughts with the management at home.