Interview: Emily Waldon – Prospect Evaluator

90 Feet From Home is a blog for everyone who loves baseball, but we want to make an extra effort to shine a spotlight on women working within the industry. This is the first of an ongoing series of interviews with the hard-working ladies who are so passionate about baseball they decided to make it a part of their professional lives.

 
14068048_10157332190990646_5596251819824541120_nI first met Emily Waldon online during the 2015 MLB season. Her remarkable knowledge of the Tigers prospects and farm team surpassed many of the beat writers covering the team, and she always brought excitement and passion to all her discussions of the game. It was clear she knew her stuff, and wanted to share that joy for baseball with everyone around her. After a stint writing with Bless You Boys, Emily moved on to the more involving field of minor league scouting, where her keen eye and whip-smart awareness of the game make her a natural fit for evaluating young talent.

When she’s not out spotting the next Miguel Cabrera, she spends her time honing her sports photography skills. All photos in this article were provided by Emily herself.

In her own words:

“I’ve never had to work to enjoy baseball. My latest role with 2080 Baseball allows me the opportunity to tie in my love for writing with the development process into a scouting role, adding in my continued development as a photographer. In 2017, I’ll be producing video content for the Midwest, Eastern, International and Florida State Leagues, as well as player interviews and evaluation reports throughout the season. My goal since Day One has been to give voice to an industry of young men who rarely get noticed until a major league call-up and that goal will remain the same entering the 2017 regular season.”

 

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JD Martinez at bat in Toledo © Emily Waldon

 


Ashley: When did you decide you wanted to make a career in baseball?

Emily: Honestly, it’s been a dream of mine since I was 10 or 12 years old. There’s a feeling you get when you’re in the park, either working a game or just as a fan. I’ve been around the game my entire life and I can’t tell you anything that gets me quite like a day at the park.

“I can’t tell you anything that gets me quite like a day at the park.”

A: What’s your earliest baseball memory, the thing that stands out for you as a really big moment that connects you with baseball?

E: I think the early days of watching games with my Dad. I was a big Derek Jeter fan and I would beg my parents to let me stay up to watch those infamous 1990’s postseason outings with the hated Yankees. Coming from a large family, money for activities such as attending major league games was next to none, so I actually didn’t attend my first major league game until I was about 14. Coincidentally, it happened to be against the Yankees for their final game at Tigers Stadium before the park closed down. Had the honor of meeting Andy Pettitte and also the lasting memory of being able to catch one game on Michigan and Trumbull.

A: You did game coverage first, and now you’re working as a minor league scout, how difficult is it to work such a rigorous season, where the games are relatively non-stop?

E: It was an adjustment, no question. My first year of covering the minor league scene consisted more of news related writing and making the move to the scouting/evaluation side of things is a night and day difference. From the enjoyment side, evaluation is a huge passion of mine. I’ve been incredibly blessed to be supported by a community of seasoned members of the scouting community and although I still have a great deal to learn, the ability to say I love what I do gives me the drive to keep digging my heels and moving forward.

“I’ve been incredibly blessed to be supported by a community of seasoned members of the scouting community.”

A: What made you decide to shift your focus to scouting?

E: Learning to read what I believe my abilities are. Evaluation has been something I have done out of habit for as long as I’ve been around the game. My desire to bring light to the minor league scene ties in so well, giving me a chance to spotlight the maturing that’s taking place in the system’s prospects. I am still doing feature pieces as well, so it’s a really great balance of learning to read a player’s skill set and getting to know them on a personal level to find out what got them to where they are today.

A: Have you received any really memorable words of wisdom from the more seasoned scouts on the circuit?

E: Oh, so many. The ones that stand out to me the most are, “You’ll never stop learning.” I talk with guys on a regular basis who have been scouting anywhere from five years to 25 years and none of them are satisfied. It’s an industry of continuously asking questions, while learning to trust your gut, present your perspective and maintain the confidence to stand on your conclusion.

“Trust your gut, present your perspective and maintain the confidence to stand on your conclusion.”

A: As a minor league scout, you get to see a lot of the up-and-coming players before they’re household names. Who is in the big show now that impressed you in the minors? Who hasn’t gotten to the big leagues yet but you think will be one to dazzle us down the road?

E: Top of the list would be Michael Fulmer, without a doubt. I unfortunately was not able to catch him when Detroit picked him up, but tracked his outings very closely and loved watching him find such success in his rookie campaign. Speaking with him off the field, I can personally attest to the fact that the humility you see during onscreen interviews is every bit as genuine as it appears.

 

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JaCaboy Jones at bat in Toledo © Emily Waldon

Secondly, I would say JaCoby Jones. Obviously, he ran into his suspension hiccup not long after coming over from the Pirates system, but getting to see him play in person at the Double and Triple-A levels, it was impossible to ignore the track he was on. In a very short time, he has matured leaps and bounds and should find even more of a groove going into 2017. I had the pleasure of speaking with him in person in Erie and was able to see how serious he looks at his opportunity. He learned a massive lesson and I’ve seen nothing, but determination ever since.

 

A: Which minor league park should all fans see a game at if possible?

E: For the 2016 season, I had the opportunity to visit multiple parks and found some of my favorites were located in Florida. The Tampa Yankees have a beautiful facility. Within the Tigers system, it would have to be Triple-A Toledo. They are consistently improving and have opened some really fan-friendly additions to the area. The crew does an exceptional upkeep job and always a really enjoyable atmosphere.

A: What’s the most exciting thing you’ve ever seen at a game?

E: It’s hard to pick just one situation, but I find it difficult to top the rain delay tricycle race in Toledo between Tyler Collins and Anthony Gose. Aside from that, Dixon Machado and Derek Hill routinely dazzle in the field. It’s tricky to narrow it down to just one situation.

A: As a woman working in a largely male-dominated sport, what are the advantages and disadvantages of being in the gender minority. Do you find you’re mostly treated with equal respect by your peers, or have you encountered prejudices?

E: I’ve found that the more I’ve moved into the analysis side of things, the more opinions I receive from people; most shared over social media than in person. From the interview side of things, I’ve been surrounded with a highly supportive group at all the parks I deal with and work to let them know my appreciation any chance I get. Dealing mainly with the Tigers system, the players have worked quite well with me. There’s always a “what are you all about” vibe that has to be worked through in the beginning, but in a short time, I’ve been fortunate to build a great bond with the teams and have worked to bring focus to the work they do. I could share the negative side of things, which I have experienced a healthy dose of, but the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that focusing on my own character is what will lead to success.

“The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that focusing on my own character is what will lead to success.”

There are and always will be exceptions, those who choose to exercise the old fashioned mind that women don’t belong, but that should never be enough to derail someone. I would say one of the biggest lessons I learned is to set the tone early with the players and staff. Show them what you’re about, be transparent. You have a job to do as much as they do. Lastly, surround yourself with women from the industry. A support system will carry you the furthest, especially through the ugliest situations.

A: Where do you hope to ultimately find yourself within the baseball field? Do you see this as your lifetime career? And what advice would you give to anyone else hoping to break into the field?

E: Well, for those who don’t know, I’m still very new to the industry, having just completed my second season. Without question, I hope to do this full time someday. I get to spend time in an environment rich with stories of young men from all walks of life, from all over the world. I would love to continue in an evaluation and feature role within the minor league system. It’s an industry that needs a voice and I hope through my work to be able to open more eyes to the faces that are still fighting like crazy to achieve a dream. For someone working to get there foot in the door, be transparent. Doors will open as people begin to catch on to how passionate you are about the industry. Find your voice and build on it. Lastly, the art of networking is a must. Build relationships as your first step and the support of those relationships within the industry will be your foundation as you move forward in the years to come.

“Doors will open as people begin to catch on to how passionate you are about the industry.”

For someone working to get there foot in the door, be transparent. Doors will open as people begin to catch on to how passionate you are about the industry. Find your voice and build on it. Lastly, the art of networking is a must. Build relationships as your first step and the support of those relationships within the industry will be your foundation as you move forward in the years to come.

 

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Drew VerHagen and friend in Toledo © Emily Waldon

 


 

Emily will continue her work as a prospect evaluator in 2017. Knowing Emily, I don’t imagine she’d consider herself a trailblazer, but there’s no doubt in my mind her presence in the minor league system will pave the way for other young women to be respected as skillful, smart, and equal to their male peers when it comes to spotting talent. I hope you’ve all enjoyed getting to know a little more about one of the great young women in baseball.

Do you know a woman you’d like to see interviewed? Are you working in baseball and want to share your story? Get in touch!

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