Oldis keeps mining for talent

General : : Professional
Jeff Dahn        
Published: Monday, March 07, 2011

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Bob Oldis leaned forward and rested the weight of his upper body on his knees. It was a somewhat futile effort on Oldis’ part to get comfortable while seated on a small bench behind one of the full-size batting and pitching cages at Perfect Game USA headquarters.

He watched, he chatted and he scribbled down notes on the tall, strongly built right-hander who was throwing 86 mph fastballs off the mound a few feet in front of him. He made wisecracks and, as always, laughed easily.

It was mid-February, the second and final day of the Perfect Game Pitcher/Catcher Indoor Showcase, and Oldis was sitting among several of his cronies, watching many of the Midwest’s top high school players – and a handful of junior college players – perform in front of a gathering of 20 or so professional scouts.

Oldis, who turned 83 in January, fit right in. A former Major League backup catcher, he has been an MLB scout for just more than 40 years, most recently on a part-time basis with the Florida Marlins. He has been with the Marlins since 2002 after beginning his scouting career with the Montreal Expos.

Oldis calls Iowa City, Iowa, home and has mostly been a regional scout throughout his career. That hasn’t kept him from traveling all across the country, however; in the old days he spent a lot of time at high school baseball fields, college stadiums and minor league parks, but now finds it advantageous to settle in at Perfect Game events where the talent is concentrated.

“You get all these guys in one spot instead of traveling to Norway (Iowa) and seeing nothing,” Oldis said at the February PG event. “(Perfect Game president) Jerry Ford has done a heck of a job here. He put this together and it saves scouts and college coaches a lot of time and trips.

“I’m for this,” he said. “It’s great for professional baseball and college coaches.”

Oldis cut back his scouting responsibilities to a part-time level three years ago but still gets out on the road frequently, especially this time of year with the high school and college seasons getting underway and the MLB June Amateur Draft just months away.

Born in Preston, Iowa, in 1928, Oldis has been involved in professional baseball since 1949. His involvement with baseball has now touched parts of eight decades.

He played four years in the Class C Florida State League – “It was as low as you could get,” he said – but made his big-league debut as a catcher with the Washington Senators in 1953.

In the Major Leagues, he played three seasons with the Senators (1953-55), two with the Pittsburgh Pirates (1960-61) and two with the Philadelphia Phillies (1962-63).

He played with and against all the legends of that era – guys like Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle – and was a member of the 1960 World Series Champion Pirates team along with Roberto Clemente and Bill Mazeroski.

After retiring as a player, Oldis spent several seasons as a coach with the Phillies, Minnesota Twins and Expos, and got into scouting in 1970.

In all, Oldis has been around professional baseball for just more than 60 years and still enjoys identifying the top young prospects that may someday become the hottest young Major League stars. Expect to see him play to the crowd at many more Perfect Game events in the seasons to come; he has no plans of retiring anytime soon.

“I was lucky to stay in baseball all of my life and it’s a wonderful life,” he said. “I’ve been luckier than heck. The game has been good to us, I’ve met a lot of good people, and I’ve seen the country, I guess you could say.”
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