Lost after career change, scout returned to Rangers, played vital role in Joey Gallo’s trade
NEW YORK – There is a lot of money in sales of surgical supplies. Operating room drainage mat. Hip and knee joint prostheses. Equipment. You name it, the market is booming. There is competition, a lot of money, job stability, and you can come home at night with your wife and kids.
It is much more ideal than another night at the Fairfield Inn in Scranton.
At least in theory.
If that had been the case in real life for Jonathan George, maybe the Rangers scout didn’t see Yankees infielder Josh Smith showing so much commotion that he found himself in the stands afterwards. a pop fly during the first intra-team match of spring training. Perhaps the hope for infielder Ezequiel Duran is a little less nuanced, Glenn Otto’s conviction a little less pronounced. Maybe the Rangers don’t think enough about Trevor Hauver’s bat. Maybe the package the Rangers end up getting for Joey Gallo is completely different. Or maybe there isn’t one at all. And maybe George celebrates as the head of the surgical staple sales division.
Instead, this is what happened. Two months after a career change based on fear of the future, George, sitting in his car, still in observation day gear, was trying to tap into the files in his mind for his old friend Mike Grouse, who had taken over his Rangers responsibilities of discussing a potential minor league target with the Pittsburgh organization. George, 37, lives outside of Pittsburgh and covered the Pirates’ organization (along with the Yankees and Boston) for his five seasons on the pro scout pace.
âThe business is competitive and I thought that would satisfy my competitive edge,â said George. âAnd I learned a ton of things that I didn’t know, like injuries and healing. But I was lost then. My whole life was focused on baseball.
After hanging up, he drove home, released for dinner with his wife Amanda, their daughter Oliva, 12, and their son Benjamin, 2. It was one of the perks of the new job, after all.
He was setting there. Silently.
âShe finally asked me if I was going to speak tonight,â he said. âI told him I felt lost. She said she knew. She could tell. The few conversations I had had with guys about baseball, it got me adrenaline pumping. It was the happiest I had been in months. I realized it. Everything had accumulated and I told him what I had lived. That’s what I’ve built my whole life around: trying to make an impact on a major league club. That’s what I do.
If you are George, Scouting is a family affair. His father, Rowland, played in the Baltimore system for a year in 1977, then entered scouting. His uncle, Will, was Rowland’s teammate for a year, stuck around the miners for half a dozen seasons and has been a scout ever since, most recently for the Rockies.
It was a call, at the start of the pandemic, when baseball was shut down, that sent shivers down Jon’s spine. Will was 60 at the time. He faced the possibility of being seen as redundant at a time when analytics had become king and the Scout population was being wiped out.
While George lives in Pittsburgh, the fear was especially real to many Boy Scouts who had chosen North Texas as their home for its cost of living and relatively easy travel. By the end of the season, veteran scouts from Boston, Chicago Cubs, Detroit Tigers and San Francisco Giants who called the area home had been fired. The guys who survived all had big pay cuts. And there was a potential work stoppage after 2021 looming.
âI could hear the fear in his voice,â George said of a conversation with his uncle. âThere were a lot of people who felt really vulnerable. This can be withdrawn at any time. It made me think, “What other skills do I have? “
Which led to a conversation with a surgeon friend, leading the sales job, and a tough call to Ross Fenstermaker, now assistant general manager, then head of pro scouts, and another to the president of Rangers baseball operations, Jon Daniels, in the 2020 season ended. Fenstermaker described his initial reaction as “immediate devastation”.
âIn this business, you hope to empathize with your guys,â Fenstermaker said. âThey were confined to their homes in front of the television. The job had changed. A lot of guys weren’t happy. And I could totally understand.
What he expected even less: Another call 10 weeks later.
The time spent with the family had been more quantitative than qualitative. There was no time for walks with Oliva or to play with Benjamin. Work was just work. Meanwhile, the Rangers had only started interviewing. Sheepishly, George “begged” to get his job back.
âHe had tried American companies and it didn’t work for him,â Fenstermaker said. âHis mental state was suffering. His family recognized him. He was almost embarrassed to call. He walked away for all the right reasons and it just didn’t work out. I knew how good he was and it comes down to us prioritizing the organization. “
Daniels said: âIt’s not hard for any of us to imagine being in the same position. I want these guys to make the best decisions possible for their families. And I want to understand this.
That’s not to say that George, who looks remarkably like Ben Roethlisberger and sometimes received a free lunch because of it, was responsible for the deal with the Yankees. It is simply the base layer for information. Other scouts will also see potential targets. The Rangers, for example, had a total of 38 reports on the four Yankees prospects acquired under the Gallo deal. Other scouts were sitting on other potential business targets such as Tampa Bay and Toronto.
Like the deal the Rangers made in 2018 to send Keone Kela to the Pirates for Taylor Hearn and Sherten Apostel, George’s responsibility is to write reports and gather information that goes beyond analysis. Then he crosses the line.
His story is just one of many as the Rangers juggled an unprecedented year of scouting challenges that led to a relentless effort on deck, 24 hours a day. It all started with the The team’s highest draft pick in 30 years, a compressed schedule that left just two weeks between the draft and the trading deadline and with the need to maximize the only real trading chip the team held. Oh, yeah … and the pandemic.
“There was a lot of stuff on those guy’s plates,” said Fenstermaker, who was himself confined in July because his wife was eight months pregnant and actually gave birth to their first child, a girl, the traditional deadline day of July 31st. âThere were other stresses and a relentless schedule. They all handled it admirably. I didn’t hear any guys complaining.
Certainly not Jonathan George. He had already tried something else.
He knew exactly what was missing. And he wanted to go home.
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