Several weeks ago, I went up to the Seoul area to check out one of the bigger high school baseball tournaments in the country. The Phoenix Flag Tournament is held every year in Suwon, South Korea. Teams from all over the country come to play and it made for some exciting baseball.
While I was there I ran into the scout for the Chicago Cubs, Aaron Tassano. I chatted him up between games when he wasn’t hard at work, and later he was kind enough to answer some questions. Aaron has written for many publications across the internet, and his own site the East Windup Chronicle. Even though his busy scouting schedule does not allow him to post on his blog as much anymore, there is still some great information here on international baseball. Without further delay…..
What originally brought you to Korea?
I was working on a master’s degree in Educational Training through a University back home. Part of the program included taking some classes abroad.
Before you started scouting, what was your baseball background?
I played up into junior college. After I graduated I worked at a newspaper for five years and did some sports writing, but mostly entertainment. But I’ve come to find that knowing how to write and communicate well is very useful in scouting. Mostly though I come to baseball via simulation games, which I played endlessly as a child, and then fantasy baseball, which I got more into once I moved to Korea. Sounds kind of goofy, but that sort of thing provides a good baseball background…even for scouting.
I have read teams send a lot of their scouts to a yearly scout school in Arizona. Did you have any formal training before starting work?
I’ve gone to the states a couple times, which has been part of my training, and I’ve spent a fair amount of time with my bosses. It’s a constant learning process, so I think I’ll still be training for years down the road.
Do you have any recommendations for people like myself who like to see new stadiums on places that need not be missed?
Hm. Well, the stadium in Incheon is fantastic. I’ve heard it compared to a very good minor league stadium in the states, but I think that sells it short. SK has built a culture around it’s stadium that’s only rivaled (and bettered) by that in Busan. They really know what they’re doing up in Incheon. I also like the stadium in Daejon for some reason. It’s kind of what I imagine some of the old pre-70s multi-purpose stadiums in MLB to be like. I’m talking something like Ebbets Field. Jeju has a couple old stadiums that are almost deserted, but are still used for high school and college winter camps. Like most things in Jeju, once Koreans got passports in the late 80s, there became little reason to keep things up to date because the place is no longer the edge of the Earth. I was walking around Jeju once and came across an old croquet mega-complex. I’m sure families used to make an evening out of it. Now it’s like an abandoned warehouse, probably filled with rats and unused squid wrap sheets.
What is the off-season like for a scout? Or is there an off-season?
I’ve been doing this a short time, but off-season is kind of a drag. I get antsy and start looking forward to games in 40 degree weather in February. Outside of games I do a lot of report writing and film editing. Then there are phone calls…talking to agents, coaches and other scouts. But off-season in Korea is basically the week of Christmas and New Year’s.
Do you see scouts in Korea from leagues other than the MLB or KBO? Places like Japan, Taiwan, or Australia?
A lot of MLB teams send in scouts in varying numbers. A few teams have people here on the ground in Korea, a few have someone that lives in Taiwan that also covers Korea. A couple live in Japan. Some teams don’t send anyone to Korea. The KBO scouts are here every game, every tournament, every inning. Some of them are good guys, others I, um, don’t know very well.
Again I would like to thank Aaron for taking the time to answer my questions.