There are roughly 3,500 kilometres between Humber College’s North campus and the spring training complex for the Major League Baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks.
George Halim has joyfully travelled each kilometre.
Former Humber journalism student Halim is an assistant coach for the Hawks men’s baseball team, but also works as the assistant scout for the Diamondbacks, a role he has held for the past year and a half. He hasn’t dared to make the near 33-hour drive to the facility yet, but travelled the skies last week to evaluate young prospects aiming to be signed or drafted by his club.
“As it stands, I cover eastern Canada, parts of New York, and parts of Michigan for the Diamondbacks,” Halim says. “Every year we bring players to Arizona as the Diamondbacks scout team, so I’m in charge of, not recruiting, but essentially bringing players with me from the east coast to that trip in Arizona.”
Halim recently returned from a spring training visit with British Columbian youth baseball team the Langley Blaze, heralded by many as the top high school travel program in the country. He describes the days as long but rich in opportunities for players to take advantage of.
“It was pretty much the same thing every single day,” Halim said. “You wake up, you have your coffee, your breakfast, you get in the vans with your players, and you go to whatever facility you are scheduled to play at. You take batting practice on the field, play a nine-inning game, drive over to another field, play another team, at times we would have to play a third game…take the kids out to eat when they’re done and then go back to the hotel.”
The competition is stiff on these trips, with Canada’s young prospects thrown in the proverbial deep end to see who will sink or swim. Halim says the Blaze only face affiliated minor league teams, all with players striving for their own big league roster spot.
If a scout liked what he saw in a player, a request would be made to evaluate the prospect further in private, which Halim says isn’t an unusual occurrence for that type of trip.
“As the trip went on and [scouts] liked what they saw, we would make a stop at a specific facility because they wanted to work a kid out,” Halim said.
While the Blaze’s opposition mostly consisted of young, lower-level minor league talent, Halim says last year the team received an opportunity like none other to go up against some of the hardest throwing pitchers in the world.
“Last year we played the Texas Rangers team, it was an early morning game, and when we went to flip the lineups their manager looked at me and said we have two big leaguers that need to work out, and it was Jake Diekman and Sam Dyson.”
Diekman and Dyson are two pitchers with a history of throwing very hard, both able to consistently throw between 95 and 100 miles an hour. Dyson is a member of this year’s United States team at the World Baseball Classic, and he has eclipsed the 100-mile per hour mark in the past.
Halim has seen a lot during his two years as a scout, and has learned a great deal about what goes into evaluating players, as well as how to instruct those players. His experience has translated to his role as an assistant for Humber.
“The game gets quicker,” Halim says of the gameplay in Arizona. “That’s the difference, aside from the fact that professional players are just physically bigger and more mature, the game is quick. At every level I think it’s very easy for guys to settle for a single, or be okay with a double. Professional baseball players at the highest level, guys who are getting paid to do this, whose livelihoods are on the line, they never settle.
“If I had to relay something to them (Hawks players), it’s that if you don’t settle, you’re going to put the pressure on the other team and the more players you have on your team that put the pressure on the opponent, the better you are as a team regardless of talent.”