Draft : : Story
Astros Scout Gerry Craft Passes Away
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Baseball lost one of its most colorful and unique scouts yesterday when long-time Houston Astros scout Gerry Craft passed away after suffering a massive stroke.
Craft was a minor league first baseman from 1974 to 1978 but never advanced beyond A ball. He went straight from playing to managing the Boise Buckskins then worked as an area scout for the Milwaukee Brewers from 1980 to 1986. He was then hired as the Houston Astros Northeast Crosschecker and worked in that position for over 20 years. He had been a professional scout in that organization the past two seasons.
But despite Craft's scouting talents, he really set himself apart from his peers with some of his "off the field" pursuits.
After joining the Astros, Craft started what is considered the first "school" to train baseball scouts. The school, held during the off-season in California, was predeccesor to the Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau Scout's School. The Atlanta Braves have also conducted scout schools in the past. Even after closing the school, Craft's ability to teach the profession made him a mentor to numerous scouts across the country over the next two decades.
Craft's real hobby, though, was poker and it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to call him the greatest poker player in the history of baseball. In fact, Gerry once told me that scouting was his real hobby and that it functioned to enable him to play poker, his first love, more often. Craft finished in the money at numerous national level poker tournaments, although he always maintained that the real action (and the real money) was in the side games up in the suites before and after such events.
I once asked Gerry how he managed to keep his baseball money (remember that scouts aren't especially well paid) and his poker money (where money tends to lose its perspective occasionally) from mixing. He simply said, "two separate bank accounts and never the two shall meet."
Craft was also the centerpiece of an hour long documentary released in 2002 called "A Scout's Life". Director Nathan Kaufman spent a month on the road with Craft during the spring detailing what a baseball scout does for a living.