February 2022 ~
What else does a PIL talent do when his playing days are over but become a talent scout?
That’s the career path Gabe Sandy (Franklin, 1990) ultimately landed on after starring for Franklin High and coaching baseball at Mt. Hood Community College.
The 1990 Franklin graduate and 2013 PIL Hall of Fame inductee is in his second year scouting for the Texas Rangers, after scouting for the Florida Marlins and Chicago Cubs.
While he loves the work and his brushes with the greatest in the game, Sandy treasures the athletics of his youth and the opportunities he had at Franklin. He lettered three times in both football and baseball for the then-Quakers. He’ll never forget those times, which included hours spent on the fields at the neighborhood Essex and Kern parks. The days spent hanging out with best friend (and fellow PIL Hall of Famer) Mike Nguyen and others playing one sport or another, the hours of honing his talents in Pop Warner football and Little League and Babe Ruth baseball.
“We were always at the park all day, every day,” Sandy says.
His mother worked as a seamstress at Nike for 30 years and would bring home shoes, enough that Sandy could hand many out to his friends (which made him even more popular).
Franklin had good teams, especially in football under coach Frank Geske and in baseball with Wayne Lunde at the helm.
Sandy was a 6-2, 180-pound cornerback and wide receiver who also returned kicks and punts, held on place-kicks and was on the kickoff coverage team. Franklin got to the state playoffs his senior year and beat Bend 21-19, even though Geske had only 22 varsity players.
“We all went both ways, which was awesome,” he adds. “We didn’t know any different.”
In baseball, Sandy mainly played in the outfield for Franklin. He also spent a little time at third base and pitched on occasion.
Baseball “was my best sport,” which showed as he moved on to play for coach Dale Stebbins at Mt. Hood CC and then Portland State under Jack Dunn and then Dave Dangler when the Vikings were competing against Pac-10 schools.
“But my favorite sport was always football, and basketball was second,” he says. “I regret that I stopped playing basketball after my sophomore year. I wish I had played another two years.”
Growing up, Sandy had the pleasure, so to speak, of going up against some rather good basketball guards around the city, such as Damon Stoudamire, Terrell Brandon and others. The basketball being played in the city and the PIL was top-notch.
Football was strong, too. Benson was 14-0 and state champions in 1988, and lost only one game both the year before and year after.
And, in baseball, Wilson (second in the state in 1989) and Madison were very good, Grant was tough, and Benson “always threw a wrench in people’s plans.”
Baseball afforded players a lot of games, with 50-plus over the summer in American Legion ball. And football had 7-on-7 passing leagues. So there was never a dull moment for Sandy.
“We were going up against some of the best athletes around, and I have so much pride in that,” he says. “I think other than the Terry Baker Jefferson years, the best football ever played in the PIL was in my era, and we were the second-best team in the league.
“I tell people I came up in the golden era.”
The camaraderie in those years of Franklin football was special, Sandy says. So much that the team has had plans for a 30-year reunion (on hold because of COVID-19).
Sandy was second-team all-PIL in football and all-PIL in baseball. And he is a huge PIL supporter to this day.
“A million percent,” he says.
When he learned he was going into the PIL Hall of Fame, in a call from then-Franklin AD Scott Santangelo, it was a special moment.
“It’s a great honor,” Sandy says. “When ‘Tango’ called, I was like, ‘Me?’”
After two years as a PSU first baseman/left fielder, Sandy went undrafted.
He wanted to keep playing, and “I went to every tryout camp I could and tried out for many different MLB teams as well as lots of individual teams. In my heart, I thought I was good enough. I really wanted it more than anybody else, but the reality was my talent didn’t match my heart, which is often the case.”
He wound up back at MHCC as an assistant baseball coach, then took over when Stebbins sort-of retired. Stebbins returned as his assistant coach for five years.
“Because of ‘Stebs’ we won some championships, and our 2000 championship team is getting inducted into the NWAC (Northwest Athletic Conference Athletics) Hall of Fame,” Sandy says.
Sandy had seven years in charge of the Saints’ baseball program when a buddy who was scouting for the Marlins recruited him.
That led to 13 years for Sandy as the area scout for the Florida MLB team. When the Marlins got new ownership, Sandy went to the Cubs. When COVID-19 hit, the Cubs downsized their Northwest scouting position, basically eliminating it and making their Northern California scout cover the territory as well.
The Rangers had an opening, though, and Sandy hopped aboard. He primarily covers Northern California, which has him living out of his car and whatever Marriott hotels he can find.
October through December are slow, but starting in early January, he’s making plenty of Zoom calls, talking to prospects and getting to know them and their families.
In February, small colleges and junior colleges start their seasons, and he is out the door to get to games. The NCAA Division I schools right behind, adding to his workload, all in a good way.
“You’ll probably find me in a Division I ballpark every Friday night or Saturday,” he says.
He also arranges to go to key high school games, mostly in NorCal but also in the Pacific Northwest.
The MLB draft is in July, and summers are busy for him as well, as he watches minor-league games, including the Single-A Hillsboro Hops and Eugene Emeralds.
“You get to watch the best of the best in the minor leagues, where the schedules are way more predictable than for high schools and colleges,” he says.
He’ll keep an eye on the Seattle Mariners, too, through the end of their season in early October.
In addition to seeing games in person, he watches a lot on livestreams or television, replays included.
“It’s all day, every day,” he says. “My DVR is always full. I record the games I go to, as well. I watch every pitch of every game. I love watching video.”
He has to type information on players every day.
“You’re always writing reports,” he says.
While after 16 years as a scout “I still change my system every year,” some things never change.
“A laptop, stop watch and camera – I never leave home without them,” he says.
He’s got the routine down on the road and has learned how to refuel and take care of himself.
“When I started, I put on a lot of weight,” he says. “I found out that scouts don’t eat hot dogs at the ballpark, except in an emergency, which is OK. We’ve had so many in our lives. Now it’s a lot of Starbucks and Chipotle. It’s quick, fresh and available in every city.”
His territory goes as far south as Fresno.
“I’m away from home probably 75 to 100 nights a year, and we go back to Arlington (Texas) once or twice a year for meetings and go to Arizona for spring training,” he says.
He wouldn’t change much about the job.
“I love pro scouting,” he says.
He doesn’t rule out coaching again someday, but that’s not likely at the moment.
“I’ve settled in so nicely to this scouting thing, and I think I’d miss it,” he says. “I get to be around baseball, which I love, and I’m at the professional level.”
Not that it’s all fun and games.
“It’s pressure-packed,” he says. “You gotta produce, you gotta be good.”
He’s always on a one-year contract.
“It’s a tough business,” he says. “It’s all about contacts, relationships with coaches and players, agents and parents, especially with high school kids, is huge.”
The information he gleans has to be kept secret from other scouts. Sometimes his whereabouts are, too.
“You don’t tell everybody where you’re going,” he says.
Opinions about players can vary. Sandy remembers when catcher Adley Rutschman was playing at Sherwood High, and scouts were talking about him mostly as a pitching prospect.
“I had a really strong relationship with his dad, Randy, and I knew that catching was in the family DNA, and Adley was a switch hitter,” Sandy says.
Suffice to say that Sandy reported his belief that Rutschman, who went on to star for Oregon State, would be worth the money to draft and sign. Rutschman wound up going No. 1 overall in 2019 to the Baltimore Orioles as their catcher of the future.
Talking to prospects as a scout is a lot different from being a college coach trying to convince players to come to your school, he says.
“At Mt. Hood, I had to recruit players. Now I go into a player’s house and it’s ‘I’m not recruiting you, you’re recruiting me,’” he says. “I have the million-dollar contract, the job, the healthy signing bonus.”
The only drawback is the time spent away from home and family. His wife, Kristen Sandy, is athletic director at Damascus Christian High, and they have daughters ages 8 and 12 who play basketball and volleyball, with the youngest also playing softball.
They live next to Persimmon Country Club in Gresham. But you won’t find Sandy on the course that much.
“I love to play golf, but I only play a little,” he says. “Scouts that are good golfers are bad scouts.”
~ Profile written by Steve Brandon (Cleveland, 1972)