LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- It's often been said that baseball scouts form more of a family than an industry. Never was that more evident than at the 27th annual Scout of the Year Award reception held Wednesday evening at the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort.
Founded in 1984, the program is "dedicated to the men who have devoted their lives to the profession of scouting," executive director Roberta Mazur said in her opening remarks. The four honorees have certainly done that, giving nearly a century and a half combined to the game of baseball. And hundreds of their colleagues, friends and family -- both real and extended -- were on hand to pay them homage.
Jerry Stephenson was the recipient of the Directors Award, but sadly it was his son, Brian, who accepted the award on his behalf. Jerry Stephenson, who pitched for the Red Sox, Seattle Pilots and Dodgers before scouting for nearly 40 years, died of cancer in June, making Wednesday night's reception particularly emotional.
"This is one of the greatest families in all of baseball," said Peter Gammons, who introduced Brian Stephenson as both the Hall of Fame writer and a close family friend.
Jerry Stephenson's father, Joe, was a big league catcher and a longtime scout. Jerry was one of more than 50 Major Leaguers signed over the course of his scouting career. Brian, his son, is now the West Coast supervisor for the Los Angeles Dodgers, the team his father scouted for over the course of a quarter-century.
"Those who were close to my father knew there were two things important in his life," Stephenson said in accepting the award. "Family and baseball. I hope it was in that order.
"My father was my mentor, my role model, my best friend. I wanted to be just like him, to play in the big leagues and become a scout, just like he followed his father. I'm a third-generation scout and I've never been more proud of that than I am today."
Three regional awards were given as well and all spoke to what a privilege it's been being a scout and providing the backbone of the game they all love so much. West Coast Scout of the Year Tom Davis of the Braves began his scouting career as a part-timer back in 1969. He's worked for the Phillies, Cubs, Angels, Mariners and now as a cross-checker for Atlanta.
"It's great to work in peace, to enjoy your work," Davis said. "And it's not work. You're going out to find players who are going to help you win pennants."
East Coast Scout of the Year Murray Cook echoed Davis' sentiments and received credit for helping the careers of so many in the room. The 70-year-old is a beloved figure in the game, celebrating 48 years in the industry. Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski, who introduced him, summed it up succinctly, saying, "If you say Murray, everyone in the game of baseball knows who you are talking about."
It has been a personally challenging year for Midwest Scout of the Year Mike Roberts. A player, coach and scout since 1958 -- scouting for the St. Louis Cardinals since 1978 -- the one-time pitcher has been battling colon and rectal cancer. He had surgery, has undergone radiation therapy and is stilll dealing with chemotherapy. Yet he was standing tall and promising to be back at his post as a Cardinals cross-checker in 2011.
"When the shout goes out this spring to play ball, I plan on being there," Roberts said to applause.
Credit for his ability to press forward went out to his wife -- wives annually get greatly deserved kudos for being the backbone of the scouting world -- and to many of the people in the room, his extended scouting family that has shown him so much support.
"The calls, the notes, the e-mails, the texts I have received from the baseball industry, I cannot thank you enough," Roberts said.