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Mudville: April 13, 2024 10:40 am PDT

BY KEVIN KERNAN

Scouts are people too.

Here is another MLB Scout Story that starts with those two nasty words: You’re fired!

It ends on a high note, though.

Billy Milos has been an accomplished amateur and professional scout for the Minnesota Twins for the past 29 years; he was getting set for season No. 30 with the Twins. Milos regularly puts 32,000 miles a year on his car as he scours the land looking for talent. He has carved out a unique niche in the scouting world because Milos, who learned from mentors like Bill Bryk and Mike Radcliff, is essentially the No. 1 expert in his field at finding talent in Independent Leagues – especially pitching. Bryk passed away in 2021. Radcliff, the Twins VP of player personnel, died last year.

Milos is totally locked into that Independent League world. In addition, he also is excellent in his regular scouting role, so this is a two for one deal, a great deal for Twins management.

You can see where this is heading.

Through the years, he recommended the Twins trade for future Cy Young winner Johan Santana in 1999 from the Marlins after the Marlins selected Santana in the Rule 5 draft from the Astros. Milos pushed for trades that included Eduardo Escobar and Eduardo Nunez. He signed All-Star Pat Neshek and others as draft picks and then he took on the most difficult challenge of finding talent in Independent League baseball and came up with gems like pitchers Nick Anderson, Randy Dobnak and Buddy Boshers.

So many other of his Independent League finds have filled out organizational roles as well and that keeps the line moving in the minor leagues.

For decades the Twins were a model of scouting efficiency and loyalty in the days of Terry Ryan. They treated their people right.

No more.

These new Twins leaders, out of the blue, eliminated Billy Milos’ position in late November. At the age of 55 finding a new job as a scout can be difficult and the fact that Milos was blindsided by the move made it even more difficult.

At this point I need to point out there is no nicer man in baseball than Billy Milos, who lives in Crown Point, Indiana. He is the definition of Midwest nice. Perpetually cheerful and always putting the job first are keys to his success. I know this from a baseball perspective, having crossed paths with Milos through the years at different ballparks and also from a weekend perspective because Milos was one of many baseball people who would make the trek to Laramie, Wyoming every November to catch a Wyoming Cowboys football game under the guidance of Hall of Fame writer Tracy Ringolsby.

This was always a fun weekend: football, fellowship, food (meat was on the menu) and the best part, all these baseball people, including the late-great Jim Fregosi and former managers Clint Hurdle and Art Howe who have made the trip – and a bus load of other scouts, executives and writers – were not at a baseball game so it was a more relaxed non-baseball atmosphere.

All this and getting to watch Josh Allen star in college football for the Cowboys, something the New York Jets scouts somehow missed, was worth the price of admission.

Soon after Milos got “eliminated’’ by the Twins, I spoke to him but it was not the right time to write a story. I sensed that at least one major league team would be smart enough to hire Milos so he could continue to do what he has done so well for the last 29 years. Scouts have become so much cannon fodder in the new world of computer and metrics “scouting’’ as baseball continues to lose its soul.

“I don’t care how good somebody thinks they are, I don’t care how good somebody actually may be, it doesn’t matter – scouting is screwed up, there are no jobs.”

Here is the good news, though, the Colorado Rockies, who must come up with as much pitching as possible to survive at Mile High altitude, recently hired Billy Milos. The Texas Rangers and the Toronto Blue Jays, to their credit, also were in the mix but it is for the Rockies where Milos now will put the miles on the car, traveling to scout independent baseball teams for talent while also working other scouting avenues.

Good for the Rockies. Good for Billy Milos.

“I know so many people at the Rockies and they are great people so for me to land with the Rockies, I’m telling you man, somebody was looking out for me,’’ Milos told BallNine, then mentioned Bill Bryk and Mike Radcliff. “The Rockies flew me out there for two days, and we just talked, we got some work done but just hung out and talked and I got to meet everybody in the office.’’

He was treated so well by every aspect of the organization and that meant so much to him.

Make no mistake, though, on the human level, it was a tough time being out of work, and so many scouts know that heartache. Things started to go south with the Twins a few years ago so this truly is a new beginning for Milos.

“It was nine weeks of hell,’’ Milos told me, not knowing if he would be able to pursue his chosen career ever again. “Because everything happened to me so late and I got blindsided, I don’t care how good somebody thinks they are, I don’t care how good somebody actually may be, it doesn’t matter – scouting is screwed up, there are no jobs. I was lucky there were two jobs available, they didn’t come open until after the first of the year, really. I interviewed for both, I had to go through the whole gamut, the whole process took two and a half weeks. But I’m telling you for those nine weeks, I was underground, I had to disappear for a while. I had never been fired from anything in my life and here I had spent more than half my life with the Twins.’’

Milos, because he is so well liked in the industry, was inundated and overwhelmed by individuals reaching out to him. “I know people were worried about me and I said, ‘You had the right to be, I was in a dark place.’’’

No longer is he in that place. “This was weird but I swear to you, the Rockies just feel like home, I am so thrilled to be with them,’’ he said.

Minnesota Twins vice president of player personnel Mike Radcliff looks on during a pre-draft workout on June 3, 2013 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)

When Milos did finally land the Rockies job, he also made sure to post on his Facebook page: “Special thanks to the Rangers and Toronto. Great organizations and great people.’’

Yes, the sun is shining again on the baseball field. Milos will go to spring training this week and after that will do his thing when the season starts, scouting major league teams and independents.

Here is a glimpse at what scouting Independent Leagues is all about. There are boots on the ground but there also is the computer end of it as well and yes, scouts can handle the computer aspect of scouting and then add the human eye to the player and the human touch as well.

Many teams are looking for any excuse to fire scouts, a few years ago it was the Covid Shutdown, now it happens to be the issues with regional baseball networks, meanwhile the Orioles just sold for $1.725 billion, that’s with a “B’’ and every team seems to have a glut of Nerd middle management; just check out some of the job titles on teams’ websites.

Milos’ job is fascinating because it is so different. Here at The Story we like to take you behind the story.

“First of all, you are doing two things,’’ Milos explained of Indy Ball scouting. “I go see the players live when I can and I also work remotely because over the years I’ve built a network, so it’s kind of twofold. I am lucky because I have a lot of Independent League stuff that is around my house.

“It’s funny, that isn’t what got me doing Independent Leagues, I was doing it and then it all kind of spawned around me. All these teams,’’ he explained. “There is the American Association, there is the Atlantic League out East, they are the two most experienced independent leagues. Originally, the only Independent League team I had was the Gary, Indiana team, 19 miles from my house. That was it, all the rest of the leagues were far away. Since then, they built a team in Chicago, the Chicago Dogs, they built a team in Milwaukee, which is like 120 miles from my house, Kane County was contracted, so they are an Independent League team now. So I went from having one team drivable to having five teams drivable. There also is the United Shore League, where I got Dobnak.”

Randy Dobnak #68 of the Minnesota Twins pitches against the Texas Rangers during the first inning at Globe Life Field on June 19, 2021 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

Often, Milos will drive to a game and drive home the same day.

“And then the Frontier League, which is 16 teams, the longest continuous independent league, there are three teams that are right in the Chicago suburbs,’’ Milos said. “It’s no different than any other minor league game, make sure you have a ticket, show up for batting practice and then the game.’’

Milos has a network too. Coaches, managers and players love when he is in town.

“In Indy Ball,’’ he noted, “everybody is a free agent.’’

Milos has been on the Indy Ball circuit since 2015 and even though he is no longer with the Twins, something like eight players he signed last year will be in Twins spring training. “That might be my best haul ever,’’ he said.

Of his Indy Ball signings that have made it to the majors, three of his pitchers have made it to playoff rosters, whether with the Twins or another team. And get this, a year ago the Twins were for some reason moving Milos away from scouting Indy Ball despite all that success, but he continued to somehow fit it into his busy regular scouting coverage and still came up with players the Twins signed and will be in Ft. Myers.

Included in that group is a fascinating 6’8’’ outfielder named Carson McCusker, who was with the Tri-City ValleyCats of the Frontier League and was leading the league in home runs, RBIs and batting average with a .433 mark when he was signed. Oh yes, his OPS was 1.302. He went on to have a good season in A and high-A last year with 14 home runs, 36 RBI over 46 games.

At 6-8 and 250, his ValleyCats manager, former major league slugger Pete Incaviglia noted the Aaron Judge comparison and said it was stunning that McCusker was not drafted in 2021 out of Oklahoma State, calling McCusker, “a special’’ player.

There is so much more involved than just scouring rosters and cross-referencing with analytics. There are the “scouts’ eyes’’ side of the equation as well.

As you can tell by the itinerary, a great tool for scouts is the ability to drive. “All the old Twins scouts love to drive,’’ Milos said.

Milos passes the time in the car making phone calls but he also loves music.

“I have over 110 gig(abytes) of music in my phone, I’m not a streamer, I’m like a juke box. I buy it and load it in my phone, my favorites are ‘80s one-hit wonders,’’ Milos said.

Fitting, that the scout who can find hidden major league talent in independent league baseball loves ‘80s one-hit wonders.

Good scouting, good music, the only thing that Milos is not fond of is having his picture taken so there are no pictures of him in The Story. When I asked if he had a photo of himself scouting that we could use, he laughed and said, “Big time irritated when people try to take my picture. Fortunately it goes well with being behind the scene physically as scouts tend to be.’’

No spotlight for Billy Milos.

Just do your job, something he will be gladly doing now for the Rockies in this, his 30th season of scouting. For Milos and so many scouts, it is not the spotlight that is important, it is the finding of talented players and always, the promise of a new day.

45+ years, columnist at NY Post for the last 23 years prior to joining BallNine. Elected to the NY Baseball Hall of Fame. Former SportsTalk Host (KFMB), ESPN’s First Take and Cold Pizza contributor. Frequent guest on radio shows and podcasts nationwide. Author of seven books. Seen in episode 10 of ESPN’s “The Last Dance” (the one with Dennis Rodman). First baseball interview he conducted was with Thurman Munson. Now you know why he is America’s Most Beloved Sportswriter.

Comments
  • Andy Gibbons

    Thank you for these amazing articles you continue to write on real people that have dedicated their lives to the game. Please keep them coming. Unfortunately, so many scouts, coaches, and players seem to be getting lost in the current numbers driven world of pro sports. So many in the sports media seem to be all about analytics and downplay the human element and you are one of the few with the courage to speak out.
    Thank you! Andrew

    February 18, 2024
  • Frank Novak

    Former minor league FO staff member here. Billy Milos is one of the best guys I met in my decade in baseball. Just all around good people. Thrilled that he beat the odds and remains in baseball.

    February 19, 2024
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