‘Hot Stove Night’ Initiates Off-Season Discussion on Baseball

Andover invited six prominent baseball figures to campus last Friday evening for Hot Stove Night. The term “Hot Stove League” refers to the baseball off-season, during which fans gather to discuss the latest trades and the upcoming season. The panel was organized by the Head of School’s Office and Kevin Graber, Senior Associate Director of Admission and Boys Baseball Head Coach. Moderated by award-winning sports writer Peter Gammons, the event featured players, coaches, commentators, and scouts, who discussed their experiences and offered commentary about recent occurrences in the baseball world.

“[Hot Stove Night combines] education and entertainment. I think that’s always a good thing. One of the great things about baseball is that people enjoy talking about the game and learning the nuances of what happens behind the scenes. There’s so much involved, from evaluating talent to the analytics that help guide decision making in today’s game. There’s a little bit of something for everyone,” wrote Graber in an email to The Phillipian.

Matt Hyde ’92, Northeast Scouting Supervisor for the New York Yankees, discussed the prevalence of increasingly early recruiting. According to Hyde, in order to identify great players in their youth, looking at intangible characteristics and who players are as people as opposed to just athletes is essential.

Hyde said, “Those intangibles are a separator. The skills are easy to see and evaluate, but what they are all about is what makes them who they are.”

Gus Quattlebaum ’93, Vice President of Professional Scouting for the Boston Red Sox, also highlighted the importance of scouts’ roles in making sense of information that flows in from many different angles about each player. In his eyes, scouts are the people who should be researching these intangible characteristics.

“We have an analytics department…We have our scouting information, different reports. We have medical information. Then you do due diligence and dig on the player’s makeup, and you learn about their background, personality, and whatnot,” said Quattlebaum in an interview with The Phillipian.

Sometimes, different scouts make different conclusions based on the results of their analyses. In this case, Quattlebaum recognizes the difficulty of making decisions about the most important facets of each player.

“When things don’t always add up and you have different analysts arguing with each other over the merit of the player… that’s the hardest part as a decision maker: to synthesize and then decide where you put most weight,” Quattlebaum said.

The panel also discussed policies surrounding international recruitment. Many Major League Baseball (MLB) teams continue to scout players from abroad, predominantly from Japan and the Dominican Republic.

Gammons said that international players can sometimes be isolated from the team dynamic, with divisions between players of different ethnicities and countries of origins forming in the locker room.

Duncan Webb, who works in player development for the Los Angeles Dodgers, said that recent policies mandate language and cultural programs for all teams and help international players better transition into life at America.

“We get these players at 16, 17-years old, and we really owe it to them and to their families to educate them… while they’re in our system,” he said.

Webb compared his experiences working in Los Angeles and Boston. “The atmosphere that surrounds the team really reflects the culture of the city… [In Los Angeles], it’s so much more of a relaxed attitude towards the Dodgers… [In Boston], the sky was falling every time something negative happened,” he said.

Quattlebaum said, “When I was growing up, the Celtics were very successful, but the other franchises not so much. Now the bar has been raised with the success of the Patriots, with Bruins, the Celtics, and now us… With that comes an added pressure to live up to somewhat unrealistic expectations.”

The panel also included Jason Bere P’18, former MLB pitcher, and Matt Tabor, pitcher, who was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks after graduating from Milton Academy last spring.

Tabor said, “I would say just have fun with it. Sometimes you’ll lose sight that it’s still a game. Just have fun with it. Use it as an escape from everyday life.”

Peter Ling ’20, a member of Andover Varsity Baseball, found Tabor’s journey particularly inspiring.

“Tabor was throwing in the 87 to 89 [miles per hour] range his junior year — which isn’t amazing — and was up to 95, 96 his Senior year, which is very good. It just shows that the growth is possible. If you put the hard work, you can get to where you want to be,” said Ling.