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The guy who "discovered" Derek Jeter

Sep 9, 2009, 8:20 AM EDT

A story in the Daily News this morning reminds me of a “Seinfeld” scene:

George:   Magellan? You like Magellan?
Jerry:   Oh yeah, my favorite explorer. Around the
world, come on. Who do you like?
George:  I like DeSoto.
Jerry:  DeSoto? What did he do?
George:  Discovered the
JerryOh, like they wouldn’t have
found that anyway

In a freezing, wet Michigan spring, [Dick] Groch watched Jeter from the
stands, from behind the backstop, from down the foul lines while
sitting in his car. The shortstop’s joy in playing “emanated from him,”
Groch says. “I made the comment once that he started playing baseball
at a family picnic and he’s been playing ever since.”

Groch saw power potential, strong hands, athleticism. He saw that
Jeter easily handled the failure that’s part of baseball. “It was only
a temporary inconvenience to him,” Groch says.

Scouting is no easy job, and the guys who do it are dedicated, hard working people who rarely receive the kind of credit for their work that they deserve.

Still, is finding Derek Jeter — a guy the whole world knew would be a really good one — the best hook on which to hang an appreciation of Dick Groch? If I didn’t know better I’d say that this was really just another appreciation of Derek Jeter leading up to his breaking of Gehrig’s Yankees hits record and maybe serving as a subtle MVP campaign for the guy.

Interesting, sure, But I’ll bet Dick Groch has found all kinds of good players over the years who weren’t drawing the kind of heat Jeter was.  Those are the scouting stories I’d like to hear, not yet another Jeter love-fest, of which we’ve had plenty in the past week.

  1. Travis M. Nelson - Sep 9, 2009 at 9:45 AM

    I’m reading Posnanski’s book on the Big Red machine and he describes Johnny Bench as the kind of kid who was always great at baseball and who always wanted to be and expected to be a star, like Jeter. It made me think how many kids there are just like that who end up in the major leagues.
    I mean, how many times do you hear story about someone who just stumbled upon a major league career? Most of the guys in the majors had been planning to be there their whole lives. Recognizing the players who have both the talent and the demeanor to succeed, not just the plan, is the trick, I suppose.

  2. Will - Sep 9, 2009 at 10:11 AM

    Since Jeter was a first rounder, it does seem like other people besides Dick Groch was onto him (if not, why not take Jeter later in the draft?)
    On the other end, Albert Pujols was drafted in the 13th round. The scout who found and convinced the Cardinals to draft him does deserve some credit.

  3. Church of the Perpetually Outraged - Sep 9, 2009 at 12:35 PM

    IIRC a Houston scout was really high on Jeter and did everything possible to get the ‘Stros to draft him that year, thinking that Jeter would be one of the greatest players ever*. When the Astros decided against drafting him, the scout decided to quit since he figured if he couldn’t convince them to draft this future HoFer than what good is he.
    * – from Olney’s book, The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty

  4. Craig Calcaterra - Sep 9, 2009 at 1:16 PM

    You’re right, Church. In fact, the scout was actually Hall of Fame pitcher Hal Newhouser. When the Astros wouldn’t listen to him about Jeter, he quit.

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