Tony started his career in 1983 as a scout with the Braves. The first player he signed was Tom Glavine. Before he left the Braves in 1990, the last player he signed for the team was Chipper Jones. He joined the Cleveland Indians in 1991 as a National Crosschecker. Tony then moved on to the Chicago Cubs as East Coast Supervisor in 1995 and spent four seasons there. He then became Scouting Director for the Baltimore Orioles in 1999. He is now a scout with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
SHANKS: Your first player was Tom Glavine?
DEMACIO: It was my first year as a scout. Cold weather area up in New England. Fortunately I had a Scouting Director who was a cold weather guy himself. You think you’re seeing somebody good in your first year of scouting. I got lucky. We had him cross-checked by Lou Fitzgerald twice.
SHANKS: We had some success up there in New England. Do you stay in an area where you have success like that?
DEMACIO: Paul Snyder was never afraid to take them. He took Mercker. He took Avery. We traded for Smoltie. He was never afraid to take a cold weather kid. I think because of that those of us who worked in cold weather areas felt we had an equal opportunity to have a player drafted in a high round than the guys from the warm weather areas.
SHANKS: Which is not always the case, right?
DEMACIO: True. Some clubs don’t put a whole lot of emphasis at all in New England to begin with. In fact I don’t think all 30 clubs are represented up there to this day.
SHANKS: Was Tom an obvious prospect?
DEMACIO: Tommy was a great athlete. You know, he was drafted in the fourth round by the Kings in hockey. He had all the intangibles that you look for. That was, along with his stuff. You never know how big anybody is going to make it. A lot of first round guys go by the wayside. We all know that.
SHANKS: We were looking for a good lefty.
DEMACIO: I think that was Paul’s philosophy then. We certainly didn’t know that at the time. Paul seemed to have a penchant for left-handers. The next couple of drafts, even when Bobby took over as General Manager, we took Derek Lilliquist, who was another left-hander. He took Mercker, Lilly, and Avery all in a row at one point. Tommy was a second round guy.
SHANKS: Did you see Tom during his minor league days? Did you know you had struck gold?
DEMACIO: After the year at Sumter, I thought he was going to be pretty good. He had a great year at Sumter and just took off after that. As a matter of fact, if I remember correctly Paul called me the day they called him up to the big leagues. Paul and I were together about a week before that talking about him. He had come up to see a left-handed pitcher that I had drafted. Paul came up. The very next week he called me to tell me they had called Tommy up.
SHANKS: How does that make a scout feel when your first pick gets up there like that?
DEMACIO: Very exciting. Especially since it was the first guy I ever signed. I was really excited. I was happy, as happy as could be. I was happy for Tom, of course. Happy for his family. He comes from a great family. But I also knew I was lucky too. There was a lot of help. Bobby Truzillo your crosschecker, then you had Fitzy, and then whoever fought for him in the room. So it was a lot of other opinions as well.
SHANKS: I’ve been told that Paul really depends on his area scouts.
DEMACIO: He believes in his area people. He always has. He knows that a crosschecker can come in one day and the kid might not have a great day. He listens to his area scouts. He always has. I think that’s why we always loved working for him so much.
SHANKS: Tell me about Chipper.
DEMACIO: We had all seen him that particular year. Johnny Groth had given up the Florida area. I was living half the year in Florida and Paul asked me if I would work Florida and cross check that year. I’d do anything for him. But he was a known commodity. It wasn’t like he was hidden or anything. Everybody knew about Chipper. We had numerous reports on him. Coxie had seen him. Paul had seen him. Hep Cronin was very instrumental in a lot of this. He was out scout in the Ohio area. We had a lot of reports on him. Of course there was the Van Poppel situation that year. At the time, as you well know, we weren’t very good. I really don’t think that Todd Van Poppel wanted to be a Brave. I really think that when we wanted to take him – Paul and Bobby had decided he was going to be the guy. I guess he told them that he didn’t want to be drafted. He was going to go to college. I just don’t think he wanted to be a Brave because at that time we weren’t playing very well. Those guys made a decision to take Chipper.
SHANKS: Were there intangibles there too that were easy to see with him as well?
DEMACIO: Oh yea. He was a high profiled player – one of the higher profiled players in the country at that time. He wasn’t a secret. I just happened to be working the area that year because one of our veteran guys hung it up. Actually, Dean Jongewaard and I both signed him.
SHANKS: Let’s talk about Paul Snyder.
DEMACIO: I can talk all day about Paul Snyder. It just doesn’t get any better. I feel very, very fortunate to have had the opportunity to break in this business with him as my boss. I think anybody that doesn’t know Paul Snyder is missing something. I mean that from the bottom of my heart.
SHANKS: His faith in his scouts – is that the most appealing thing you saw in him?
DEMACIO: He’s a good human being. He cares about people. Nothing is superficial with Paul. Everything is well meant. Everything is sincere. He’s just a special human being.
SHANKS: His relationship with you when you were in the field. How would he work with you?
DEMACIO: He always listened intently to what you had to say. He always gave you the time to discuss your players. Always.
SHANKS: When you got the job with the Orioles, how much of your philosophy came from Paul and the Braves?
DEMACIO: Most everything. My first year we had seven picks, I took three high school left-handed pitchers.
SHANKS: Mike Arbuckle said when he got to Phily there was nothing for the GM Lee Thomas to trade. When you got to Baltimore, how had they been doing it?
DEMACIO: Not very well. Same problems. Some years they’d take high school guys high and some years they’d take college guys high. They had tried both ways but they weren’t developing anybody. My philosophy was to try to do it the same way Paul did it – along with some of your own ideas of course: build around young pitching, start with left-handed pitching. This system here was devoid of left-handed pitching. They haven’t had a left-handed starter here for years. I took three high school lefties. Two broke down and one of the two is out of baseball now. We took (Richard) Stahl right out of Atlanta. We thought he was going to be a star. He broke down and he’s trying to come back. Frank Wren hired me. Frank and I talked and we believed in young pitching. So I went the Paul Snyder route: three high school lefties.
SHANKS: Is that difficult to convince an owner to increase the budget for that kind of player?
DEMACIO: First year. I just happened to get here with seven picks. It wasn’t a whole lot of fun. I knew it was going to be under the microscope. That was a tough year – tough year in a lot of ways. Frank got fired that year. We spent all of ten months together. Everybody has their own philosophy on college guys and high school guys. Paul always said, “You know I want to grow our own.” You figure if you take the high school guy you can groom them the way you want. I believe that as well. Each club has its own circumstances now. Finances are apart of a lot of it. Signability. Agents. There are so many intangibles now when you look at a kid. I think the reason the Braves have been so successful overall these years is because first of all you had Paul and Bobby, now you got John who believes in the same thing, and there’s so much consistency there with Leo being the pitching guy, all of that filtering down, you got Dal Canton, all those veteran pitching coaches. A lot of those guys have been around with Atlanta a long time. They don’t have egos. They care about the kids. They care about each other. I think when you do that and you care about your staff and you care about your kids, you’re going to have success cause everybody’s pulling in the same direction.
SHANKS: We’ve always had that consistency in Atlanta haven’t we?
DEMACIO: Always. Paul and Hank got along great. They worked well together. Then you had Dewsy (Bobby Dews) as the field coordinator. They don’t come any better than Bobby Dews. Great teacher. Great with the kids. You got to have that. You just do. But it’s a younger guys business now and a lot of guys want to climb fast.
SHANKS: How do you think anyone could dispute what the Braves have done over the past 14 seasons?
DEMACIO: How can you dispute what they’re doing? That’s why when people bring it up to me I say, “Don’t talk to me about Moneyball. You want to talk about consistency? Go down the road to Atlanta. See how they did it. Every year.
SHANKS: When Cox came back to Atlanta, was there an influence from Toronto?
DEMACIO: I think so. Bobby’s a good listener, like Paul is. I think those guys had a philosophy together. There was some influence with Gillick, cause he took high school guys. This is just from watching. Their personalities – Bobby’s a great guy too. He’s as good as it gets. It was a great match between those two. Bobby had been there before of course.
Scout’s Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team is in bookstores now. You can reach Bill Shanks at firstname.lastname@example.org.