In 1996 I was asked to work as an associate scout for the Kansas City Royals. I received a phone called and set up a meeting with the territory scout for Florida, Herb Raybourn.
We meet at a local restaraunt and immediately became friends. Herb is the type of guy that is easy to get along with. He is very warm and friendly always making the other person feel at ease. Little did I know that Herb would teach me more about baseball over a two year period than one could ever imagine.
Herb did not talk much about the players he signed. In fact, I had to press him for information about players. But Herb had signed plenty of players during his career. One of the first conversations we had about a player was his signing of former Pittsburgh Pirate centerfielder Omar Moreno
As a young person growing up in the 1970's there were several teams that stood out to me. The Cinncinati Reds won the 1975 and 1976 World Series, followed by the New York Yankees winning in 1977 and 1978. But one of my favorite series was 1979 when the Pittsburgh Pirates won behind the play of Willie Stargell, Dave Parker, and Omar Moreno.
I ran across it by accident, in a book entitled "Dollar Sign on the Muscle" by Kevin Kerrane, it mentions the signing of Pirate star centerfielder Omar Moreno by scout Herb Raybourn.
Curious, I asked Herb about the signing. He told me that he signed Moreno as a skinny 16 year old kid who hardly had the strength to swing a bat. But Moreno could run like the wind and Herb envisioned him roaming the outfield in Pittsburgh tracking down fly balls. That's exactly what I remember of the 1979 World Series, Moreno running down fly balls in the outfield to help the Pirates win. Of course, I also remember the celebration to the song "We Are Family" by the Pointer Sisters, the Pirate's theme for that year.
More Than A Scout
Herb Rayborn was more than a scout, he was a teacher and passionate about people. Herb grew up in the country of Panama where his father was stationed in the military and assigned to work on the Panama Canal.
Herb was in charge of the Latin American Scouting for Pittsburgh in the mid 1970s and later assumed a similar role with the New York Yankess and Toronto Blue Jays. He also served as a territory scout in Florida for the Kansas City Royals.
When Herb took the job with the Blue Jays, he called and told me he was in Toronto watching a game. He told me that the Blue Jays had offered him the job of Scouting Director in Latin America. He was excited about the job, but he wanted to tell me himself, before I read it in the newpaper later that week. I was floor, not that he took the job with the Blue Jays, but that he called me. I was a high school coach in Florida, but worked as an assocaite scout for Herb recommending players. He didn't need to call me, but he did. Herb Raybourn taught me how to value people over positions.
Herb had plenty of stories, he was a baseball guy and a talented scout. He would notice things about players that others would never notice.
I remember going to a game with Herb, along with the Royals special assignment scout Guy Hanson and the general manager's assistant Larry Dody. They had viewed a game the night before and written a full report on a player that was projected to be a first round pick. The report was amazing. It covered everything from the way the player warmed up to the size of his hands and his jaw structure. It was a complete report on the positives and negatives of this young man. They already knew he was a talented player, but they wanted to find out about his make up and how he went about his business. Would he be an asset to the Professional Baseball Club of Kansas City?
Herb taught me about the scouting system and how to report. Scouts use a number system from 1-8 with 5 being an average major league talent. He taught me how to value the tools of running, fielding, arm strength, hitting for average, and hitting for power. I learned to not only watch the outfielders throw before a game, but to watch how the ball traveled from their point of release to the infield. Did the ball have an arc on it, did it die once it hit the ground, or did it have good carry on it? I learned alot of baseball from Herb in a short time. In fact, every time I was with him it turned into a teaching session. As a young coach I was eager to learn.
One of Herb's most well known signings was that of Yankee closer (and future Hall-of-Famer) Mariano Rivera. Mariano is from Panama and Herb had scouted him when he was working for the Yankees. Herb first saw Rivera as a young shortstop, but Herb did not think the youngster had enough tools as a fielder or hitter to be a big league player. But he liked his competivness and thougt he had a decent arm.
A year later, after Herb became the Yankees Director for Latin America Scouting, Rivera was mentioned to him by an associate, but this time as a pitcher. Herb went to see Rivera pitch and liked what he saw. Although Rivera only topped out at 87 mph on his fastball, he saw plenty of movement and late life that made him envision Rivera as a Major League pitcher.
Herb went to Rivera's home in Panama and offered him a $2000 signing bonus. Rivera was already 20 years old and was stunned by the offer. (Curry, 2009)
Let me bring that story full circle. In November 2007 I took a mission trip to the Domincan Republic. We had about 150 coaches and professional players on this trip with a group called SCORE International. One of the players on the trip was Mariano Rivera. When I mentioned Herb's name, Rivera quickly responded. He still remembered Herb and was grateful for the opportunity Herb gave him to play for the Yankees.
Herb Rayborn is now retired from baseball, but he left a mark on the game. His mark was not necessarily a list of great players he signed, which he signed several, but in the lives he enriched. Everyone that meet Herb Raybourn felt his compassion and love. Herb truly cares for people and is unselfish in sharing that compassion.
Curry, Jack. (2009, July). Scout Saw Effortless Ability in Rivera. New York Times. Retrieved December 9, 2009 from http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/06/sports/baseball/06scout.html
Kerrane, Kevin. (1989). Dollar Sign On The Muscle. Simon and Schuster:New York.
Personal Acquaintance: Herb Raybourn, Kansas City Royals Scout.
Score International (2009). Score International Website at http://wwww.scoreinternational.org