01/27/12 10:56 AM EST
Behind the scenes, scouts star for Angels
Corrigan and Schmidt trusted by Dipoto in crucial role for club
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
ANAHEIM -- Rental cars, continental breakfasts, carry-on luggage, mini shampoo bottles and miles -- many, many miles. That's the life of baseball's talent evaluators, and that's the life Larry Corrigan and Tim Schmidt -- the Angels' new special-assignment scouts -- have lived for the last four decades.
"The United States," Corrigan said, "is my home."
And frankly, Corrigan and Schmidt wouldn't have it any other way.
They hardly get noticed, but Corrigan and Schmidt are the ones who do the dirty work to build a winning organization from top to bottom.
When new general manager Jerry Dipoto was constructing his baseball-operations staff this offseason, he handpicked Corrigan and Schmidt as his two most trusted scouts, because of their track record and Dipoto's admiration for them.
Corrigan, who was hired from the Pirates and spent two decades elevating the Twins, will be primarily responsible for scouting all levels of the Pirates, Brewers and Cubs. Schmidt, who spent the last five years working under Dipoto in Arizona, will focus on the D-backs, Padres and Dodgers.
But each will gladly be on call for anything Dipoto needs, whether it's going to the Dominican Republic to watch a 16-year-old take batting practice, heading to Omaha, Neb., to scout a promising college pitcher or showing up at high school showcases across the country.
"I'll go wherever they want, I'll do whatever they want," Corrigan said. "I've done almost everything. I've been in the amateur market, I've been in the field, I've been in the pro leagues. They want help, I'll try to help."
"I'm not married, I don't have a lot of responsibilities, so the road doesn't bother me and the ballpark certainly doesn't bother me," Schmidt added. "And the workload? Well, it's hard to call it work."
Schmidt has been at this since he helped the Yankees in the 1989 First-Year Player Draft. Born and raised in San Bernardino, Calif., he attended Santa Clara University, spent three years playing baseball in Europe during the mid-80s, coached at UC Riverside for five years, then began the life of a scout. Schmidt worked with the Yankees for three years, then was with the Marlins through the first 10 years of their existence, jumped over to Seattle for five seasons and spent the last five years in Arizona, where Dipoto initially hired him as a pro scout.
Schmidt doesn't feel he's worked a day in his life, though.
"If I can do this for 15 more years," he said, "I can beat the curve and go through life without working."
Dipoto found out he got the job as Angels GM during the tail end of the World Series, and one of the first things he did was call Schmidt. The two were supposed to meet up to watch an Arizona Fall League game, but instead, Dipoto was talking to Schmidt from the airport to let him know he was flying to Anaheim to start a new journey.
A couple days later, D-backs GM Kevin Towers notified Schmidt that Dipoto wanted to talk to him about a job. The next day, Schmidt was on board.
Ask Dipoto what stands out most about Schmidt, and he'll answer quickly: "Absolute passion for the game."
"He's this generation's equivalent of a 300-inning starter," Dipoto said. "He'll be the first to tell you he's a 365-day-a-year scout, and I can honestly say having been with him so long, I've seen Schmidty submit an expense report where he's driving to go see somebody take BP on Christmas. He is very committed to what he's doing. We've been together a long time. I think he understands my way of thinking, I understand his, and we're in sync with one another, and I think that's an important thing when you're going to rely on somebody to be your eyes and ears as you evaluate players to bring on board."
Dipoto can recall a conversation he had with Corrigan at the Winter Meetings about 10 years ago. Corrigan, never afraid to speak his mind, challenged Dipoto to tell him what the average on-base percentage in the American League was the previous season. Dipoto assumed it was between .336 and .338.
"And he looked at me with these mystified eyes and said, 'You're guessing,'" Dipoto said. "'Yeah, it was .338, but you're guessing. You gotta know.' ... I never forgot that, and in the years since, I've made it a habit to go into the room knowing, so that when the information is asked, when the information is pivotal to a decision, that you either know the answer or you know where to look."
Corrigan grew up in Illinois, attended Iowa State University during its best baseball era, played in the Dodgers' organization at almost the same time as Mike Scioscia, then coached at Iowa State and Cal State Fullerton after his playing career ended in 1978.
After about a year as a scout for the Athletics, Twins GM Terry Ryan -- the scouting director at the time -- brought Corrigan to Minnesota in 1987. For 20 years, Corrigan was one of the key evaluators who helped turn that mid-market franchise into a sustained winner in the 2000s.
Two players he watched grow up there were current Angels LaTroy Hawkins and Torii Hunter.
"They're two of my favorite human beings of all time," said Corrigan, who spent his last four years as a special assistant in Pittsburgh.
Hawkins will tell you a big reason why he signed with the Angels in December stemmed from Corrigan's presence on the team. And Hunter credits Corrigan -- the man who signed him out of Pine Bluff High School in Arkansas in 1993 -- for the successful career he's had.
"He's a guy that taught me to throw; taught me in batting practice to hit no foul balls down the left-field line, the right-field line, just keep all of your balls in play," Hunter said. "He's done a lot of things that when you're young, you're like, 'What is he doing?' But when you get older, you need it, and you're like, 'Man, I know why this guy always had me throwing and holding my position after the throw, so I can keep my balance after the throw and keep my accuracy.' And I never knew that when I was 17 and 18, but now I realize this man has actually developed me."
That's the job -- lots of work, little glory, but in the end, crucial.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.