Mariners scout Engle set to receive honor
Having found many stars, VP of international operations proud
DALLAS -- When Bob Engle is honored as one of Major League Baseball's Scouts of the Year on Wednesday night at the Winter Meetings, he'll actually have to stop moving long enough to be recognized.
"They want me to speak for two minutes," said Engle, sounding like it would be easier to fly around the world.
That's something Engle certainly does with ease. He's on the road in Latin America, Europe and Asia for about 175 days a year as the Mariners' vice president of international operations. He's a heavyweight in the international scouting industry, a man who helped find and sign Felix Hernandez, Michael Pineda, Greg Halman, Carlos Peguero, Jose Lopez, Carlos Triunfel and a host of others.
Before coming to the Mariners in 2000, Engle was director of scouting with the Blue Jays when they drafted Roy Halladay, Chris Carpenter and Pat Hentgen, who like Hernandez all went on to win American League Cy Young Awards.
But most baseball fans would have a hard time picking Engle out of a lineup, given he prefers to work behind the scenes ... and often on different continents and countries.
"I haven't been to one of the Winter Meetings in many years," Engle said on Tuesday in a back lobby at the Hilton Anatole Hotel, where baseball's brass has gathered this week. "It's really an honor to receive the award and the recognition, but it's the result of working with many, many fine people.
"One person gets the award, everyone else has worked hard and I've just been fortunate to get good direction from the office wherever I've been," Engle said. "There is a wonderful group of scouts and player-development people and support people in the background who never get credit for anything."
Engle said he pulls for every prospect that he and his crew uncover. Hernandez and Pineda were signed at age 16. These kids grow up with the Mariners, and while Engle says he tries not to get too close to players because baseball is a business and tough decisions and judgments must be made at times, it's pretty clear he doesn't always follow his own advice on that one.
Asked about Halman, whose funeral he attended last week in Holland, Engle fought back tears and couldn't speak for nearly a minute.
"It's very difficult to talk about, obviously," Engle finally managed. "No words to explain it. A tremendous loss to the family, his friends, the Seattle organization. A great young man. He always tried to disguise himself as a tough guy, but once you peeled back his skin and got to know him, he had a heart of gold. He always had a great smile. Really a good kid, 24 years old. What more can you say?"
Engle believes such personal makeup is critical to scouting. He sees lots of talented prospects. The key is finding ones with the right stuff to survive and thrive in the competitive world of baseball, many of whom will need to learn new languages and cultures along the way.
Engle got into scouting "purely by accident" after seeing his own career as a catcher coming to an end following completion of a three-year stint in the military and then college at Mesa College and the University of Colorado.
Engle landed a scouting job with the Orioles after helping them with John Stearns, a Colorado teammate who wound up being a first-round Draft pick and four-time All-Star catcher. Stearns is now himself a scout for the Mariners.
Those are the kind of baseball people Engle appreciates, knowing what being a scout involves and how important they are in helping uncover young players around the world.
Engle's own world may change a bit in the future with baseball's new Collective Bargaining Agreement, which will limit the amount of money each team can spend on international signings as MLB moves possibly toward an International Draft. He's waiting to see how all of that plays out.
"Certain things have to be done, particularly when you're looking at the Dominican Republic," Engle said. "It has to be regulated. But if you're talking about having an International Draft, there are a lot of things that are impacted. You have the academies in Latin America, international law, different federations.
"There are so many affiliations throughout the world, it will be a difficult process. And I'm not sure you're going to get the cooperation from each country and each federation that they want to have.
"I don't think things will change as far as scouting, per se. I think the strategy of what you do and how you're going to go about doing it and spend your dollars, that's the big question and big concern right now."
But with Engle, the Mariners certainly have a leader in the international scouting world. And that doesn't figure to change.