I have long thought that one of the most interesting jobs in baseball is that of a scout. In addition to the traveling, the ability to see so many games and players would be amazing for a baseball nut like me. Of course it would be grueling, especially for those with families, but in many ways it would also beat having a traditional 9-5 job. Some scouts got their position after having their own playing career; being in an excellent position to judge talent, and knowing what it takes to play at the highest level. One current scout who followed this path is Rusty Gerhardt.
Gerhardt was a small left-handed pitcher taken in the 12th round of the 1972 draft by the San Diego Padres. He played his college ball at Clemson, winning 34 games and posting a 2.39 ERA over his career. He also was a two-time All-ACC selection, and was ultimately inducted in 1982 to the school’s Hall of Fame. The success he had at Clemson was desirable to the Padres, who were still seeking to legitimize their franchise only a few years removed from their inaugural season of 1969.
Being relatively polished because of his college experience, Gerhardt was given a year at each level of the minor leagues. He had a losing record each year, but ERAs of 3.24, 2.50, and 3.91. The minors were really just for Gerhardt to gain some seasoning, and his ability shone through despite his winning percentage.
On July 27, 1974, Gerhardt made his major league debut with San Diego, pitching the final inning of a 5-1 loss to the Cincinnati Reds. His next game was several days later against the Dodgers, and he struck out Ron Cey for his first major league strikeouts. He pitched the remainder of the season mainly out of the bullpen, with his first win coming on August 4th, against Pedro Borbon and the Reds.
The highlight of the season for Gerhardt was September 24th, in what would also be his final Big League appearance. He made a spot start against the San Francisco Giants, lasting seven innings, and picking up the win against Elias Sosa.
Gerhardt ended the 1974 season and his major league career with a 2-1 record, 1 save, and a 7.07 ERA in 23 games, all but one appearance coming in relief. More information about his career statistics is available at http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/g/gerharu01.shtml.
Unfortunately, Gerhardt was never able to get back to the Big Leagues as a player. He played his final minor league season in 1981, and then retired for good. He subsequently got into scouting, and today is a MLB Scouting Bureau Area Scout Supervisor. The game has come full circle for Gerhardt, once a top baseball prospect, who now evaluates young players for a living. There are not many who can claim his multifaceted experience, and his ability to adapt has kept him in baseball for many years.
Rusty Gerhardt Interview:
If you could do anything about your playing career differently, what would you do?: I would not have gone and played Winter Ball in Puerto Rico. The old scout that signed me told me I needed to go home and rest. Pat Corrales offered me a job pitching for him in Ponce that winter of ’74-’75. I should’ve listened to Gus Lombardo, and I wouldn’t have hurt my arm.
What is the strangest thing you ever saw in baseball?: Strangest thing that ever happened to me was to get hit with a line drive in the left shoulder, off the bat of Mike Schmidt; and my shortstop caught it in the air for an out.
Did you have a favorite coach or manager?: My favorite coach and manager was strangely enough Pat Corrales and Roy Hartsfield. Pat caught me in Hawaii AAA, Pacific Coast League, and taught me to use what I had to get hitters out. Roy was my manager and sent me to the Big Leagues that year. He gave me a chance.
What was the best part of being a major league player?: Looking back now, the best part of being a Major Leaguer was knowing I was one of 650 players who were the best ball players in the world. My parents were very proud of that, and I felt very honored and blessed to have been one.
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