Saturday, September 3, 2016

Interview Part 3: Bobby Filotei, Good Players

The field at Keene State College. Bobby Filotei scouted a Keene State pitcher in April 2016. (Greatest 21 Days)
Part 1: More Baseball | Part 2: Perfect Situation
Part 3: Good Players

Longtime scout Bobby Filotei attributed perhaps his most notable find partly to luck.

Infielder and future Cardinals World Series hero David Freese transferred in to Filotei's old school in his adopted home town and no one knew about him, Filotei recalled.

In fact, through that next season, Freese' junior year, Filotei, then scouting for the Padres, pegged him as a possible senior sign - and no one drafted him. Filotei kept an eye on him and, as a senior, Freese's bat continued to stand out.

"The thing that stood out to me the most was he was one of the few right-handed power hitters that really drove the ball to the opposite field," Filotei recalled. "And, I was like, 'You know, he's a senior. He's not going to cost much and I was fortunate enough to get him in the draft."

Selected in the ninth round by Filotei's Padres, San Diego send Freese on to the Cardinals a year later in a trade. In October 2011, Freese had his legendary October that culminated in breaking the collective hearts of Texas Rangers fans in the World Series.

"He's one of the few guys I have signed that went to the big leagues and I still keep in contact with," Filotei said. "He hasn't forgotten me. I've never forgotten him because I've always followed all my players while they're playing."

Filotei is now more than two decades into his scouting career, after a brief, three-season career as a player in the low minors with the Reds. He's scouted for the Reds, Padres and the Cubs. The 2016 season marks his third with the Cubs.
Busch Stadium in St. Louis. David Freese, signed by Bobby Filotei, helped the Cardinals win the 2011 World Series. (Greatest 21 Days)
Filotei spoke with The Greatest 21 Days earlier this year at Keene State College, after scouting a home team pitcher.

Filotei started his scouting career almost immediately after his playing time ended. He got a crash course in scouting with the Reds.

Still just 24 as he started out as a scout, Filotei recalled having a tough time initially shaking the player view and going full scout.

"It was a little hard because I was going out looking at players still with a player's mind," Filotei said. "I'm going 'I'm better than this guy and we're thinking about drafting this guy?' In reality, once you get into scouting, you're looking at the tools, looking at the makeup."

Filotei also got to use his playing experience, however brief. He recalled watching the challenges of a kid fresh from high school and and the different challenges of those starting at an older age.

Projecting how players will deal with those challenges and others is part of the scouting process, Filotei said

With the Cubs in 2016, Filotei serves as a crosschecker, focusing on the southeast. The area scouts first identify the better players and Filotei goes in and seems them himself.

The players he focuses on are those that could go in the top 10 rounds, "so I'm basically seeing good players every day," Filotei said.
Petco Park in San Diego. Bobby Filotei scouted for the Padres for more than a decade. (Greatest 21 Days)
Some of them may not go in the top 10 rounds, some Filotei might like better than the area scout.

On the day Filotei spoke to The Greatest 21 Days, he crosschecked Keene State right-hander Cody Dube, helping out the Northeast crosschecker with a long list of players. Filotei didn't offer his assessment, but the Cubs didn't get Dube in the June 2016 draft. The Orioles selected Dube in the 10th round.

"It's fortunate that I can go in and you're scouting high school, junior college players, college players and just trying to see, OK, does this guy one, have the ability to play in the big leagues, two, does he have the makeup and the work ethic to do it and three, he's going to go through adversity, is he going to be able to handle adversity?"

The adversity question is an especially important one, Filotei said, especially for high school players. High school, Filotei said, haven't experience failure. They're going to do that in pro ball and Filotei has to figure out how they'll handle that.

"I've seen players throughout my years that, on the field ability, I don't question anything they do," Filotei said. "They could go to a big league ballpark and everybody would think they'd fit in. But, up here, in the head, they don't have it. Or here, the work ethic in the heart, they don't have it to reach their goals.

"So some of these kids I'm like, 'He has all the ability on the field, but he's not ready to go out and handle this," Filotei said. "If he goes out and fails, he may quit and come home and then that's a wasted investment on our part."

Then there's other kids that Filotei knows have been away from home, done things that show he has the mental makeup that he can handle it. That player isn't going to go home, he's going to work to get better, Filotei said.
Bobby Filotei is serving in 2016 as a crosschecker for the Cubs. (Greatest 21 Days)
With Freese, he didn't seem to be on anyone's radar. Filotei got to see him early in his junior year with South Alabama, against Ole Miss.

"He had a brutal series defensively," Filotei recalled. "Swung the bat well and I was like, 'probably more of a senior sign."

No one else moved to select Freese as a junior and Filotei's Padres got him in the ninth round after his senior campaign.

Then, in October 2011, Filotei fielded several calls from the media as Freese made his post-season run.

"It was fun," Filotei said of watching Freese's run. "You hope every guy you sign plays in the big leagues and they can go out and have that type of success and impact in the game.

"As a scout, overall, you don't ever get any recognition for anything," Filotei said. "Nobody ever knows. You hear about coaches in the minor leagues, 'he really helped him with his breaking ball' or this or that. But nobody ever asks 'how'd we even get this guy?'"

With Freese, Filotei got those media calls. Filotei recalled saying he should have put Freese's name in to be drafted after that junior year. But he did put Freese's name after his senior year.

'Once he signed, I said 'Now my job's done. It's up to him,'" Filotei said. "And he took the bull by the horns."

Be sure to read Part 1: Bobby Filotei, More Baseball

Part 1: More Baseball | Part 2: Perfect Situation
Part 3: Good Players

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