Pat Gillick’s Eye—And Enthusiasm—Never Wane
Even at age 79, Pat Gillick hit the road hard for the Phillies when they picked No. 1 overall (Photo by Cliff Welch)
Baseball America’s Roland Hemond Award is one of our most prestigious, for several reasons.
First, it has Roland’s name on it. We’re like anyone else in baseball; we want to be associated with Mr. Hemond. And we are proud to be so associated.
Second, the Roland Hemond Award intends to honor recipients for their achievements in scouting and player development. BA’s goal is to cover the game at all levels from a scouting and player-development point of view. So this award really tries to honor the best of the best in the field that we purport to cover the most.
When I reached out to this year’s winner, I was excited to make the call. I mean, Pat Gillick is in the Hall of Fame. A mutual friend gave him my number; he called promptly and broke the ice quickly.
"I know we’ve met and talked before,” Gillick said, "but I think the time we spoke the most was on the bus to Stonewall.”
Of course he was right. But how does Pat Gillick, Hall of Famer, remember the bus ride to a USA Baseball game during the 1999 Pan American Games, taking the first U.S. team of pros—and me—from Winnipeg to the secondary ballpark in Stonewall, Manitoba, for a round-robin game against Brazil?
You remember the conversations and relationships that you’re most invested in. Clearly, Gillick was invested in that endeavor enough to remember it 17 years later.
No one has been involved in scouting and player development in the 35 years of BA’s existence like Gillick. Along with longtime Royals scout Art Stewart, Gillick is one of the few men to be involved in every Rule 4/amateur/first-year player draft. By any name, it’s the Draft, with all due respect to the Rule 5 draft that we discuss so much in this issue.
Gillick was involved in plenty of those, too, first as general manager for the Blue Jays. Gillick and the Jays plucked first-division regulars such as Willie Upshaw and Kelly Gruber in the Rule 5, plus 1987 American League MVP in George Bell. Toronto became a model franchise, going from expansion in 1977 to the playoffs in 1985 and back-to-back World Series titles in 1992-93.
During that span, Gillick instructed his Jays scouts not to discuss their information with Baseball America; they were subject to being fired if they did. "It was nothing against Baseball America,” Gillick wrote in Allan Simpson’s fantastic Baseball America Ultimate Draft Book. "It’s just that the Blue Jays weren’t going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to gather information and then provide it to a publication selling it for $1.50.”
Gillick’s clubs in Toronto, Baltimore, Seattle and Philadelphia all made the playoffs at least twice in his tenures, with three World Series titles between the Jays and Phillies, plus an American League-record 116-win season with the Mariners in 2001.
Our magazine costs more now, and online a lot of our content is free, such as mock drafts during draft season. And this spring, when I kept hearing about Gillick sightings—along with other Phillies personnel—at Mickey Moniak’s practices and games, I knew Philadelphia was looking at the San Diego prep outfielder for the No. 1 overall pick.
"He’s Gillick’s favorite,” one scout would say. "Gillick loves him,” said another. "I saw him react when Moniak hit a triple, and you could tell he was excited.”
I wasn’t there; I had to take the scout’s word for it. But hearing those pieces of information made me put Moniak at No. 1 in our May 27 mock draft, and less than two weeks later, the Phillies indeed selected Moniak.
The best part of the story, though, is that Gillick, at 79 and having been involved in every draft for 51 years, still gets excited about young talent, and still feels invested. That’s the essence of the game; it’s about the players.
I have seen it at ballparks during draft season before; I saw it in 2016 at the National High School Invitational, with Gillick sitting with Phillies crosschecker Eric Valent as they were bearing down on prep outfielder Blake Rutherford. Gillick’s opinion obviously still carries weight in the Phillies front office and around the industry.
The Shape Of Baseball Is Changing In 2021
The game is getting younger—and in some cases shorter and lighter.
It’s a legacy to he can be proud of, one worthy of being associated with Roland Hemond. We look forward to having both of them at this year’s gala, which thanks to them should be one to remember.