How to become a professional baseball scout - Q&A with Houston Astros Scout Spike Lundberg
What does it take to be a professional baseball scout? How does one even get into scouting? How are people such as resident GM Jeff Lunhow & Director of Pro Scouting, Kevin Goldstein (formerly of Baseball Prospectus) changing the game? I was able to sit down (digitally) with Spike and ask these types of questions. Prepare to read about someone who has some serious #want.
David 'Spike' Lundberg is a former pro baseball player, having played for several organizations and reaching as high as AAA with the Las Vegas 51's (at the time, part of the Dodgers organization). Spike also spent time playing in the Mexican & Atlantic leagues, and was the 2006 pitcher of the year for the Southern League Jacksonville Suns. He has been in & around the game his entire life, having touched just about ever aspect you can imagine. After his playing days were over, Spike took a job as an agent with the Boras Corporation, maybe you've heard of them. His aspirations to be on the ball club side of the industry landed him a job as a scout for the Houston Astros. I thought the opportunity to pick Spike's brain would be a great insight to those intersted in working in such a progressive organization, who are doing things a bit differently than others in the game.
Q: What is your name & what organization do you scout for?
A: Spike Lundberg, Houston Astros
Q: How did you get into scouting?
A: I retired in July of 2009 and that was the wrong time to get into a scouting/coaching job, so I went to work as an agent for Scott Boras. I gave that a few years, but knew my best fit was on the club side of things. I started to look for a scouting job after the 2012 season and was very fortunate to find a great fit with the Houston Astros.
Q: Do you feel that you need to have played the game at a serious level to be a scout?
A: Whether you played or not isn't the most important factor in scouting. I think it's more important that coaches have the playing experience. Some of the best talent evaluators I know did not play the game on a professional level. They all spent a ton of time around ballparks and scouts, always eager to learn something new from the ones with the knowledge.
Q: Describe the first time that everything "clicked" for you when evaluating a player.
A: I don't know if everything will ever "click" when evaluating a player. For me, I'm looking for what makes a player and what's going to be the reason he doesn't get there. Some of the best advice I ever got was from Boras Corp agent, Mike Fischlin. Fish said "don't try to make a player." Sometimes you fall in love with a player's game and can be blinded by an obvious hole in that game.
Q: What would be your advice to people looking to get into scouting?
A: Go to the ballpark. Go to spring training, rookie ball, instructs, fall league, anywhere scouts are... Get to know people in the game and learn as much as you can. Like many other professions, it helps to build a strong network.
Q: What are some resources you use to build your scouting skill set?
A: My playing experience helped me without a doubt. I didn't get by on "stuff" as a pitcher, so I had to try to figure out a hitter's weakness and really pay attention to the swing and approach. I also played SS in college and that gave me the opposite view point at a high level... Now, I go to games and just listen. The scouts I'm around at games are smart baseball men and they're willing to share some tips if they know you're trying to learn.
Q: Do you consider yourself more old or new school when it comes to evaluation? Whats your opinion on scouts that take either approach?
A: I like to think I'm a mix of old school and new school. I'm attracted to tools, but there have been plenty of guys who looked the part and never made it out of AA. Every scout is different and it's great for the game. One extreme can't succeed without the other.
Q: Your system is flush with talent, particularly since Jeff took over. Are there any players you can claim to have "found"?
A: On the pro side, "finding" a guy is a team effort for us. We do a good job of getting multiple looks from different scouts to form the team's evaluation.
Q: Can you offer any perspective on Kevin Goldstein's unique path to the front office? What were your original impressions of him and has that changed?
A: Some people may think KG is lucky, but he's the perfect example of "luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity." He put in a lot of time covering the game and evaluating young prospects in the same way scouts do. A lot of the skill set he needed before is what's required on this side. He just can't tweet about it... I first met KG in person during spring training of 2012. We had some good conversations on the likely career paths of various prospects and everything else in baseball.
Special thanks to Spike and the Houston Astros for allowing me to ask these questions. You can interact with Spike on Twitter @sp11ke. Please share this article if you enjoyed it!