Philadelphia Phillies

Remembering Jim Fregosi Jr., a Great Scout Gone Too Soon

Remembering Jim Fregosi Jr., a great scout gone too soon originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The life of a baseball scout preparing for a draft is a never-ending road trip.

Planes. Trains. Automobiles.

A different hotel room every night.

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Many years ago, a Phillies scout from Southern California packed his bag for a road trip. The draft was approaching. The high school and college seasons were humming along. There were a lot of kids to see.

The scout ended up being away for 25 straight days when he decided he needed a few days at home. He booked a flight to Los Angeles International Airport, picked up his luggage and took the shuttle to the parking lot.

A veteran traveler, the scout always parked in the same area. But when the shuttle arrived in that area, there was no car.

At least not his.

The scout flagged down a security guard and together they drove up and down the aisles searching for the car.

Still nothing.

The two men headed to the office and called the police.

Then the scout called his wife.

"I'm at LAX," he told her. "My car's been stolen."

"What are you doing at LAX?'' his wife asked. "You flew out of Ontario.''

This is the story I always think of when I hear the name Jim Fregosi Jr.

It hurts to think of it now.

The baseball world -- and the word "world" is probably not an overstatement because this guy knew everybody -- was stunned to learn of Fregosi's sudden death at the way too young age of 57 on Thursday. He left his wife, Mary, and three children.

In Philadelphia, we know the name well. 

Jim Fregosi Sr. managed the Phillies from 1991 to 1996 and led the beloved 1993 team to the National League pennant.

Like his late father, Jim Jr. had a big personality and was always quick with a story that would make you laugh or a bit of baseball wisdom that would make you go, "Oh, wow!" 

Jim Jr. was a hard-hitting, All-America infielder at the University of New Mexico and went on to play in the Cardinals system. After his playing days, he scouted for 17 years with the Phillies, first covering the amateur scene then moving on to pro coverage. He earned a World Series championship ring with the Phillies in 2008 and later with the Kansas City Royals in 2015. After moving on from Philadelphia, he became a key member of that team's pro scouting staff and front office.

Cole Hamels was one of the Phillies' best draft picks ever.

Fregosi saw the kid pitch before he even had his driver's license.

"He was dominant -- even as a sophomore," he once told me.

Ryan Madson helped the Phillies win five division titles and a World Series. Fregosi pushed for the team to pick the young right-hander in the ninth round of the 1998 draft then helped convince the kid to sign a pro contract over a chance to pitch at USC.

Scouts are some of the best people you'll ever encounter in baseball. Their love for the game, their respect for it, their dedication to it, their smarts, their contributions ... words can't do it all justice. They log ungodly miles driving. They sit on cold wood-plank bleachers in bad weather. They pray that this budget motel in this little town in the middle of nowhere has internet so they can get this report filed.

And sometimes they're away so long that they forget where they left their car.

Even when I feel like crying, I laugh when I think of the story about Jim Fregosi Jr., losing his car.

What did you do when you found out you were at the wrong airport, I once asked him?

"I hung up the phone before the cops arrived, rented a car and drove to Ontario," he said.

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