Makeup is the Great Divide for Young Players and Scouts

Written by Anup Sinha on .

Here is an article written by a friend and colleague of mine, Anup Sinha.  Anup has scouted (Cardinals/Padres) in California and Florida.  He worked for Team One Baseball as their main scout, prior to my stint with Team One.  He now is doing work for a start-up independent company called  I also am doing work for PW and will make them the official scouting partner for Bay Area World Series.

This is a good article for all players to read and to consider.  Coincidentally, I had the make-up conversation with an agent friend of mine today.  It is THE separator and THE hardest thing to figure out in a young player, Anup is absolutely correct.  You can click on the linked title to go to the PW website.

Makeup is the Great Divide for Young Players and Scouts

Jupiter, FL - Over my years in Baseball, I’ve learned that there’s one thing that separates great scouts from the rest.  There are a lot of scouts who can evaluate talent, but it’s the ones who can see what’s inside a player who have the most success.

Year after year after year, this has never changed.  It’s called “makeup”.

Not by coincidence, makeup is also what usually separates great ballplayers from the rest.  It separates major leaguers from minor leaguers and college players from just preps.

The three greatest scouts and baseball men I’ve ever met are Pat Gillick, Joe McIlvaine, and the late Bill Lajoie.

Among their numerous career highlights, Gillick is best known for building the powerhouse Toronto Blue Jays of the 1980s and 1990s, McIlvaine the Mets of the 1980s, and Lajoie the 1980s Detroit Tigers.  Before becoming general managers, all were area scouts and scouting directors and all three of them would tell you they put a premium on makeup.  The ability to evaluate makeup was crucial to their success.

I was particularly close with Lajoie, having grown up watching his Tigers teams only to become friends with him as an adult and write a book together that we published in January of 2010.  Having spent time with Lajoie, I was certain he could walk into a McDonald’s, order a burger, and walk out the restaurant knowing which kid behind the counter was going to be a doctor, which was going to jail, and which was going to still be working there ten years later.

That’s the kind of ability he had to see inside young people and that even more than great scouting is what made him what he was.

When you talk to scouts today, many of them will say a kid has good makeup if he says “yes sir, no sir”, looks him in the eye, or just stays out of trouble.

Those are admirable qualities for sure and I certainly encourage young players to do all of the above.  But it doesn’t get to what’s inside a player, what kind of motivation he has to be successful.

What kids don’t understand is that baseball is fun in little league and high school, there’s really no pressure and being a stud player gets you a lot of attention.

It becomes altogether different in the minors.

If you sign out of high school, you’re going to the Gulf Coast League in Florida or the Arizona League.

In the Arizona League, you play games at 10 AM when it’s 105 degrees and end about 1 PM when it’s 110.  You play on back fields, not in stadiums.  You keep your own scorebook, chase your own fly balls, operate the scoreboard, and run the radar gun.  You get something like $10 a day for food and $1100 a month salary that doesn’t include housing or taxes.

The Gulf Coast League is a little cooler than Arizona.  They play at 1 PM and it’s 92 degrees but with overwhelming humidity and no shade.

There might be five fans in the stands; four girlfriends and maybe a parent who happens to be on vacation in Arizona or Florida.

I would describe that scenario to high school prospects in southern California and you should have seen the reactions I got!  They didn’t realize that California high school baseball is really a lot more glamorous than pro ball at the rookie league level.  You might not play in nice stadiums and in front of big crowds until AA if you sign pro out of high school.

From rookie ball forward, Baseball becomes a full-time job and a grind.  And that’s when you find out who really has it in him, who really has the desire to become a major league player.  I’ve seen some wonderful talents stall in rookie ball, players who had better tools than major leaguers!  It’s a meat grinder, no doubt about it.

So keep in mind that scouts want to see that kind of toughness, that kind of desire and perseverance.  The good ones can tell what kind of motivation a player has, whether it’s really to play baseball or if it’s just to make money and get attention.  Getting to the big leagues is very hard work, even for the most talented.

If a scout sees you slacking off in a high school game or failing out of school, he has to question your commitment to your career and your life.  Because in high school, baseball is still easy and fun and if you can’t handle it and do what you’re supposed to do, there’s no way you’re going to handle the minors.