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Baseball Scout Goes Mobile

The early adopter catches the best prospects.


by Michael A. Prospero, Reviews Editor on March 25, 2008

MLBScout_shA Major League Baseball scout’s life is one spent on the road looking for the next great slugger or ace. Dan Kantrovitz, director of college scouting for the St. Louis Cardinals, walks us through the gadgets he uses in order to stay connected to the home office—and to stay one step ahead of other clubs.

Q: How did you get into scouting?

Dan Kantrovitz: I was drafted by the Cardinals in 2001. My career was cut short due to injury, so I worked in technology venture capital in New York City. Then I partnered with a startup company making baseball software-analysis tools. One team we talked to was the Cardinals, and when the startup’s funds dried up four years ago, the Cardinals hired me as the assistant scouting director. Last year I was asked to head up our college scouting unit, and to use technology as creatively as possible. I manage a group of guys across the country who don’t meet face-to-face all the time. Using technology to keep in touch is really paramount to what we’re doing.

Q: What do you carry with you?

DK: In my bag there’s a radar gun, a stopwatch, and a notepad. But also I have some nontraditional scouting devices: a BlackBerry, a GPS unit, a Toshiba Portégé M200 tablet, a Verizon Wireless AirCard, and a digital video camera.

I consider myself an early adopter. I go on planes more than most scouts, so I did a little research into what computers would be ideal, and bought a tablet. Really I just wanted to try it out. After I bought it, I traveled to a college tournament in Houston, where you have 60 or 70 scouts in attendance. From 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. you’re at the park, but we wanted to find out more information about one of the players, so I whipped out my Tablet PC and AirCard, and Googled the player. I think most of the scouts there were shocked.

Q: How do you use your GPS?

DK: I bought a Garmin StreetPilot 2820 two years ago, when there weren’t that many scouts carrying them around. I went down to southern Alabama to see P.J. Walters, a sort of off-the-radar pitcher from an area that’s not heavily scouted. I got caught in the middle of a torrential downpour. I couldn’t see anything. So I plugged in my Garmin and it got me to the park just in time for his start. We drafted him, and he was recently awarded our Minor League Pitcher of the Year award.

Q: What video camera do you use?

DK: I’ve got this little Sony DCR-SR62 Handycam with a hard disk drive. I use it to analyze players’ pitching and hitting mechanics. I also use it when we go to an event where there’s maybe 50 or 60 players we’re scouting. It helps jog your memory when you go back and write reports on players. 

Q: Do you use your BlackBerry for more than just e-mail?

DK: Sending video over an AirCard connection doesn’t always work, but I use my BlackBerry 8130 to communicate with the office when I’m in some rural town. I can capture video footage and e-mail it to the office, and start talking about a player that way.

The next big breakthrough in what we do is attaching video to our scouting reports. Right now, we write scouting reports using a Web-based tool. You might say, “Why don’t you do that already,” but for people who aren’t quite technology savvy, it’s quite a task.

Q: How do you see technology next being used in baseball?

DK: I think rather than a device, it’s going to be along the lines of social networking sites. A couple of years ago it was text messaging and e-mail. The people we’re scouting are high school and college students, and what are they predominantly using right now? Facebook. We always have to remember that we have to put ourselves in their shoes and what they’re used to, not just what works best for us.

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