When we look back at a baseball team’s performance, we tend to look at the players on the field. Who played well? Who underperformed? Who filled in when there were injuries? What is more difficult to fathom are all the people behind the players working towards helping the ballclub win games. There is the General Manager. Managers and coaches. Minor league coaches. Player development executives. Scouts.
Guy Hansen is a man who has been in the game for a long time in several of these capacities. If you were a Royals fan in the 90s, you probably recognize his name as the pitching coach that was able to develop an ace pitcher in Kevin Appier. But what you may not know is the full extent of his hand in shaping the development of Royals players throughout the years. Hansen shares his experiences in a new book, “A Baseball Guy”, written with Tom Gresham.
“Baseball is full of guys like me - guys who have devoted themselves to the sport and its players without necessarily becoming household names. We’re a sort of foundation for the game though.”
Hansen details his own playing career from the fields in southern California before he pitched at UCLA and was drafted by the Royals in 1969. After a brief minor league career, he transitioned into coaching at the college level before becoming a scout, first for Major League Baseball’s Scouting Bureau before joining the Royals in 1981.
For anyone that is into scouting and player development, this book is chock full of good stories. Hansen talks about the history of how scouting came to be, as well as interesting tricks of the trade. Scouts often use deception to throw other teams off their trail, and they can often butt heads with their own supervisors when it comes to the evaluation of a player.
One of of the more fascinating stories is how Hansen discovered a skinny high school kid from California by the name of Bret Saberhagen. The future two-time Cy Young winner suffered a shoulder injury that caused a dramatic velocity drop, scaring teams away. It was Hansen who remained persistent, catching a game (dressed incognito, so as not to tip off any other teams!) where Saberhagen finally shook off the injury and got his velocity back up. Based on his reports, the Royals selected Saberhagen in the 19th round of the draft and the rest was history.
Hansen also has fun stories on the early careers of Cecil Fielder, who he discovered when a friend brought the slugger to a sandlot game, and Jeff Conine, who Hansen convinced to convert to hitting after an unsuccessful pitching career at UCLA. He also shares that he loved Zack Greinke’s talent, but the young phenom “couldn’t care less how hard you worked to help them.”
The book is also sprinkled with some of his scouting reports over the year, including a glowing report for Tim Lincecum and one that suggested moving Evan Longoria to first base.
Hansen shares many of his philosophies on scouting and pitching in the book, offering a wealth of knowledge to readers.
“For pitchers, I look at their physique and throwing motion, the deception in their delivery, and their ability to get swings and misses - or to produced a high percentage of mishits from batters, which shows batters have a hard time centering the ball off them.”
Many of the chapters are an excellent guide to pitcher mechanics, useful for any aspiring young pitcher. Hansen sets aside some common pitching myths, disabusing the notion that pitchers must throw from the opposite side of the rubber. He discusses the importance of rhythm and tempo and of sequencing pitches. He advocates “The Answer”, a pitching delivery he cites as perfect mechanics. He also details some good drills from young players and workouts that can improve performance, including long-toss for pitchers.
“A Baseball Guy” would be good reading for any fan of Royals history, anyone interested in scouting, any aspiring young pitcher, or any baseball coach. Hansen has a lifetime of experience in the game and he offers much to readers without having an ego about it. Baseball is made up of people like Guy Hansen and it is fascinating to get their perspective on the game.
*-Full disclosure, I received a complimentary copy of the book from the publisher, but no other compensation.