Jeff Dahn is a staff writer for Perfect Game and can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tom McNamara is a man on the move, and the Seattle Mariners director of amateur scouting has learned to rely on modern technology to help him multi-task.
“Time flies and you’re always on the go, and I’m packing my suitcase while we speak,” McNamara said in a recent telephone conversation with Perfect Game. “But I’ve got my (cell phone) earpiece in. Thank god for the earpiece. The earpiece and the Garmin are two very, very important items for a scout.”
So is an unequaled eye for talent and a passionate knowledge of the game.
McNamara was named the Mariners’ director of amateur scouting in November of 2008, and has overseen the M’s last two MLB First-Year Player Drafts. He previously served as an area scout for the Mariners, an area scout and cross checker for the Milwaukee Brewers and a pro scout for the San Diego Padres.
He was responsible for scouting and signing MLB All-Star slugger Prince Fielder while with the Brewers in 2002.
McNamara is so absorbed with the minor league players in Seattle’s farm system and the scouting end of things within the organization he doesn’t even feel qualified to talk about the Major League team.
“Right now and since late January, I’ve been focused on the draft … so it’s tough for me to talk about the big-league club because I’m not there,” McNamara said. “I went into spring training for four days and I got to stick around a lot of the kids we drafted in the last two years.”
The Mariners were able to sign nine of their top 10 selections last year, including hard-throwing right-hander Taijuan Walker, who they took with 43rd overall pick in the first-round.
Shortstop Marcus Littlewood (second-round, 67th overall), left-hander James Paxton (fourth, 132) and right-hander Stephen Pryor (fifth, 162) also came to terms with the M’s. Only right-hander Ryne Stanek, selected in the third-round with the 99th pick, failed to sign among the Mariners’ top 10 selections.
All of those players were active participants in numerous Perfect Game events while in high school.
“I feel good about them,” McNamara said. “They’re kids, and the highs and lows are something they all got to get use to – that’s what the minor leagues are all about. Sometimes guys will experience failure for the first time, and how they (react to) failure is the key to their success; how they deal with it.”
McNamara’s plan of attack is to have his scouting staff outwork the other MLB organization’s scouting staffs and use the information his staff gathers to make intelligent and well-researched selections in the draft.
The idea is to build the Mariners into a contender on the Major League level by stocking their minor league affiliates with outstanding prospects.
“That’s what we try to do, there’s no question about it, and I think every organization feels the same way. These are the players for tomorrow,” McNamara said. “You want to get as many looks as possible and that’s why I’m not in Seattle looking at our big-league club – I’m out beating the bushes, as they say, with all of my scouts.
“We realize that these guys are the future of this organization and it’s our job to supply our general manager, our front office and our Major League manager with players for the future – and most importantly, our fans.”
That’s where McNamara’s working relationship with Perfect Game really comes into play. Like most scouting directors, he has spent this spring at college, junior college and high school games, searching for prospects. In the summer and fall, McNamara begins working arm-and-arm with Perfect Game.
"I think our relationship is very good,” McNamara said of the Mariners-Perfect Game fit. “We’ve (drafted) players that we first got to lay eyes on at Perfect Game (events), and that’s where it starts. The Perfect Game people have been really helpful to us … and (the PG events) are very valuable.”
This year’s First-Year Player Draft is scheduled for June 4-6, and as soon as the selections are in the books the scouts go right back out on the road.
The summer scouting season will begin with the Perfect Game-East Cobb Invitational at the East Cobb Complex in Marietta, Ga., from June 9-12. That leads directly into the prestigious Perfect Game Junior National Showcase (June 14-15) and the blockbuster Perfect Game National Showcase (June 14-19) at City of Palms Park in Fort Myers, Fla.
“It’s just something we feel very strongly about attending every year. You get to see the majority of the better high school kids for the upcoming year,” McNamara said. “Right after the 2011 draft is over, you’re already looking at 2012 – there’s not much time to take a breather and say ‘OK, let’s take a couple of weeks off.’
“It’s just like the NFL,” he continued. “Right after their season, those guys are at (scouting) combines and all that other stuff, and it’s no different here.”
The Mariners have the No. 2 overall selection in the first round of the 2011 draft, and also pick 62nd, 92rd and 121st, giving them one pick in each of the first two rounds and two in the third round. The entire scouting staff is on the road right now, formulating a plan.
David Rawnsley, Perfect Game’s director of scouting, has assembled a mock draft at www.perfectgame.org and projects the Mariners to take Rice University infielder Anthony Rendon with the No. 2 pick, unless Rendon is taken No. 1 by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Rawnsley has the Pirates taking hard-throwing UCLA right-hander Gerrit Cole with the No. 1 pick.
Most of the Mariners’ preparation and planning will go into their three second and third round selections.
“I’ll head back sometime in late May and we’ll all get together for two weeks, we’ll bring our area scouts in and we’ll talk about all their players,” McNamara said. “And then we’ll sit there and set-up our boards and prepare ourselves for the draft. We rely on a lot of different things, but the most important thing is the scouts’ opinion of the player and what they see.”
The staff will also break down video – a lot of it provided by Skillshow and BaseballWebTV – and analyze statistical and background information and anything else they can get their hands on that might help simplify a decision.
“Information is pretty important in the business world and we try to turn over every rock we can,” McNamara said.