Originally posted on BaseballJourneyman.com
I am interested in all aspects of the baseball world. One that brings more interest than most is the world of scouting. After meeting the Chicago Cubs scout for Korea, Aaron Tassano, I was introduced to another scout living and working in Taiwan. Cary Broder is the scout for the Minnesota Twins scouting in Asia. Cary took the time to answer some questions for me about scouting. Here is that interview:
Before you started scouting, what was your baseball background?
Just loving the game and being passionate about it, taking in every game I could. I was into Strat-o-Matic, roto, reading what I could get my hands on, memorizing stats, baseball cards, all that stuff. Watching games in the dome as a kid with half empty stands and then seeing the Twins evolve and win the series in ’87 and ’91 was a big influence on me. I used to watch Cubs games on WGN after school when the Braves and Cubs were the only teams on cable the 80’s. So the game has been a part of my every day life in some form. Later on, Aaron Tassano (a close friend of mine who scouts for the Cubs) and I co-founded East Windup Chronicle, which opened up some doors for us as well.
What originally brought you to Taiwan?
A combination of things. I met my wife in the states (she’s Taiwanese) and when she returned to Taiwan I wanted to be with her. Plus I got a master’s degree in Asian politics and economics and spoke Chinese and Japanese, so it made sense to relocate here. I figured it would be the most sensible place to try to break into baseball given my background. I turned out to be right! Or lucky. Plus, Asia is an exciting place to live in itself.
Did you do any formal training in the States prior to working in Asia?
I built up the base of qualifications I needed by learning the basics of Chinese and keeping my Japanese up to speed. Language skills and an understanding of the culture here are just as important as being able to evaluate talent, so that put me in a position to get a job with a team. Once I got to Taiwan, I found the people involved in MLB out here and made the connections I needed to get foot in the door. I received solid training from a Pac Rim director based here, and once I was hired by the Twins I was fortunate enough to have an outstanding mentors in our International Director Howard Norsetter and Pac Rim scout David Kim.
Most people in the States have never seen or know little about professional baseball in Taiwan, how would you compare it to say the minors back home?
It’s tough to draw a straight line comparison. Every player is unique and the range of talent is broad. There are guys that could compete at higher levels or maybe even MLB in some capacity and there’s guys that wouldn’t get out of the low minors. It depends on the career trajectory that brought them there in the first place.
The players that sign out of Taiwan, do they come mostly from high school, college, or the professional ranks?
Almost all of them come from High School and College. Only one player has come out of the CPBL, Ni Fu Te who is in the Tigers system.
Do you cover any other areas of Asia other than Taiwan? If yes, how often do you travel to cover them?
I’m constantly traveling. I cover Japan, and I’ve covered Australia and the US as well. Next year there’s probably more territory on the horizon. There’s no set itinerary, it depends on what the organizational needs are from year to year and where the action is.
What is the off-season like for a scout?
What off season?
Are there many other American scouts roaming around Taiwan that you see often?
Not just Americans but scouts from all over the world–Canada, Australia, Japan, Taiwan, Korea among others. Some teams have guys on the ground here (some are locals, some are foreigners) but almost every team is checking in at some point. But yeah, there’s a regular cast of characters you see around. It kind of reminds me of Cheers or the bowling league scenes in the Big Lebowski at times.
I am not as familiar with Taiwan as I am Korea, is there a similar mandatory military requirement for every male, and does this effect the signing process?
Yes and yes.
Do you have any recommendations for people like myself who like to see new stadiums on places that need not be missed?
Tien Mu stadium in Taipei has a beautiful view in the outfield, it looks like an old chinese brush and ink painting. Some of my favorite fields are on the east coast of Taiwan–they’re remote and not the easiest to find but they have a kind of storybook quality to them.
I love high school baseball and watch many of the big tournaments in Korea. Are there any high school or college tournaments in Taiwan that would be worth watching for a die hard fan like myself?
There are tourneys year round here.. Baseball is a quasi-religion in Taiwan so there’s always something going on to watch.
I also love to follow minor league teams. Is there a minor league system in Taiwan?
There is. There are only 4 pro teams though, so obviously its not like the U.S. minors.
Do you follow players progress back in the States that you signed? Have you signed anyone that might be fun for fans to follow the progress of?
Of course. It’s not just a matter of following them passively–since it’s our evaluations that bring them to the states as scouts we are accountable for their performances on and off the field. It’s in our interest to make sure they’re progressing. Plus, in the evaluation and signing process you get to know the kids and the families very well and get to know the players as people, not just as players.
Signing a player is a team effort, it’s not just one scout acting on his own. Last year the Twins signed a pitcher named Chen Hung-yi, a right hander out of high school. He’s our second sign out of Taiwan, the first being outfielder Lin Wang-wei. It might be my name on the sign, but the process involved several members of our international department. And of course, the Twins recently added middle infielder Nishioka Tsuyoshi to the big club, and I’m proud to have been actively involved with that process. He was the MVP of the Japanese league last year and It’s exciting to be a part of bringing our first Japanese pro player to the Twins.
I’d like to thank Cary for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions. It’s always interesting to see a different side of the game from what you see on ESPN. And thanks to people like Cary, who take the time to talk to us about what they do, we can see some interesting angles to the game.
I’d also like to point out that the 1991 World Series was a big influence on my life, except my team was on the loosing end. When will I get over Lonnie Smith’s base running error?
Eric Bynum is Managing Editor here at BaseballdeWorld. He spent three years as an ESL teacher in South Korea, and is now working on his master's degree in history with a focus on baseball and WWII. He has played and/or written about baseball for the past 30 years and is an avid Atlanta Braves fan.