By Joey Rutherford
It’s no secret to anyone in my office that I adore the game of baseball. My favorite team has long been the Chicago Cubs and I watch almost every game they play, but my fandom doesn’t stop there. I also watch the Cubs’ players in the Minor League Baseball System (MiLB), where players arrive at various times in their lives and I get to see players with different skillsets and expertise compete. While players enter MiLB after college, high school, or even as free agents (domestically and internationally), all MiLB players have something in common—a scouting report!
Scouts rate players between 20 and 80 for their hitting, running, power and arm strength. Then, they average the scores and produce a final scouting report where a grade of 20 is poor and 80 is elite. The grades of the players are not the important part, though. The important part is how scouts determine the grades of the players. Are you ready for it? Good old fashion observations! Countless observations. All 30 MLB teams have dozens of scouts around the county and world observing and rating baseball players in every aspect of the game under all sorts of circumstances—on good days, bad days, cold days, hot days, etc…
Scouting and Evaluation
So, how does this relate to evaluation? Thorpe and Olive (2016) state that using observations can be valuable for scholars and evaluators trying to understand themes and developments. In baseball, scouts conduct multiple observations of young baseball players to effectively rate a player’s development and ongoing weaknesses. We do this in evaluation regularly, observing meetings and events to determine what happened, went well, didn’t and can be improved.
Thorpe & Olive (2016) also discuss using observations in sports to create scores and scales to make decisions, allowing observers to use these scores and scales to quantify results objectively and unbiasedly. Baseball’s 20-80-point scale allows scouts to quantify and assess the skills they’re observing. This is just like evaluation, where we quantify observations to provide useable results for decision-making. Sometimes we use tools like the CLASS teacher observation as it’s quantifiable and allows us to pinpoint areas for improvement and development.
Evaluators and baseball scouts, then, both collect evidence over time to identify strengths and weaknesses and to inform decision-making. Home run!