BA Newsletter: Get Analysis, Rankings Delivered To Your Inbox!

Another Scouting Story On Pujols As An Amateur

Many scouts have stories of their encounters with Pujols, but it’s harder to find those with tales from his amateur days. Here’s one from Jay Darnell, now a pro scout with the Yankees. In 1999, when Pujols was at Maple Woods (Mo.) CC, he was the Rockies’ Midwest crosschecker and saw him play once. But he’ll never forget it.

“This is still my most amazing scout day in 30 years in the game. It was late May, and I was in Houston and I received a voice message from Lance Nichols (our area scout), he said that Jose Pujols had a juco playoff tournament game the next afternoon at Jefferson College in Missouri.

“I jumped on the first flight that morning from Houston Hobby to St Louis, grabbed a rental car and rushed to the college.

“There was an early game; I got there in the late innings. On the mound was a smooth easy lefthander with a terrific delivery and the ability to pitch with a mid-80s fastball. I asked Nate Durst with the White Sox, who is that? He laughed and said we have him under control (as a draft-and-follow), and I am going to sign him in the parking lot after the game. I said, really, congrats, what is his name? He said Mark Buehrle. I asked him how to spell it.

“The next game Maple Woods CC took the field. Pujols was at shortstop. He only had a couple of routine plays at short. The team took no BP. During the game he didn't get a pitch to hit, until he got one up and out over the plate and drove it out over right-center field. The game ended and I had a lot of blanks on my scout card, just Jose Pujols at the top and a few sketchy notes.

“I was enamored with the way the ball jumped off his bat to right-center. But I had no idea about the complete picture of the player. I thought he would need to move off short to catcher or third base. I sat in my car and attempted to construct a report, all based on a gut feel and a swing that profiled for Coors Field.

“Slowly I drove away alone and wasn't sure if this last two hours was for real. I pulled over at the Dairy Queen/Truck Stop in Hillsboro. I called into the Rockies voice mail system (we didn't have cell phones yet) and l left a message for Pat Daugherty, Jeff Schugel, Dave Holliday and Bill Gayton. I said you guys are gonna think I am crazy, but I just saw the best lefthanded pitcher I saw all spring and the best power hitter also. We were days away from the draft. The pitcher the White Sox just signed as a draft and follow unfortunately, but the other guy is Jose Pujols, a big guy from Maple Woods, and in case I die on these back roads and don't make it to Denver tomorrow for our meetings, he is going to hit for a lot of power, make sure you draft him!

“Long and short of it—we didn't ever take him. It was a complicated situation. I am sure many teams were in the same boat. That is the way the draft goes, it is a crap shoot.

“The young scouting director for the Cardinals whom I had gotten his first job in baseball drafted him. John Mozeliak played high school baseball for me, I was his coach and helped to get him a job with the Rockies. (He got a) franchise player, that was a once in a lifetime draft selection.

Frank Thomas Focusonsport

Identifying The Best MLB Draft Picks To Hit For Average And Power

Just how hard is it to draft and develop a 70-grade hitter with 70-grade power? History suggests it's as difficult as you'd expect.

“I see Albert now play often, and I smile, my thoughts think back to that day like it was yesterday and wonder how great Albert would have been in Colorado, my home state? At least if it wasn't with the Rockies, I am glad it was with the Cardinals."

Are you a member?

In order to access this exclusive content you must have a Baseball America Account. 

Login or sign up  

Additionally, you can subscribe to Baseball America's newsletter and receive all of our rankings, analysis, prospect insight & more delivered to your inbox every day. Click here to get started. 

of Free Stories Remaining