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Orioles make strides in signing international amateurs

Club has acquired rights to 36 of them for about $1.5 million in 2009

December 27, 2009|By Dan Connolly | dan.connolly@baltsun.com

It wasn't the Twins' only lofty bonus of 2009; they set a club record for money spent internationally this year. Smith wouldn't offer specifics, but the Twins reportedly gave $4.68 million in signing bonuses to three players: Sano, Dominican shortstop Jorge Polanco ($750,000) and German outfielder Max Kepler ($775,000), who is perhaps the most ballyhooed prospect to come out of Europe.

Another organization that has put abundant resources into international scouting is the Boston Red Sox, considered by some as the emerging leader in procuring foreign talent.

"I don't think there is any secret; there's not a magic formula to go out and scout internationally," said Craig Shipley, Boston's vice president of international scouting. "It's a combination of hard work and having people that are good evaluators."

Shipley, an Australian who played 11 seasons in the big leagues, estimated his department is probably among the top five in the majors in international resources and spending. Not including Shipley, Boston had 14 full-time international scouts in 2009, as well as several part-timers.

In comparison, the Orioles expect to increase from two to three full-time international scouts in 2010, not including Stockstill, and will employ several part-time scouts. In addition, Stockstill also hopes to use three members of the club's pro scouting department internationally this year.

In 2009, Stockstill and his staff spent 264 days scouting in countries in which they do not reside. With help from the pro scouting department, that should increase to between 425 to 450 days, Stockstill said. The goal, he said, is 500 scouting days.

"I think John is comfortable with that [increase]," MacPhail said. "He sold me on the idea of getting the base coverage and then bringing senior evaluators through. That is a good formula for us."

There have been other advances. Felipe Alou Jr. was hired in 2008 to oversee the Dominican facility, and Bobby Dickerson, a former Orioles minor league coach, was recently hired as the organization's minor league infield coordinator with added responsibilities as the Dominican field coordinator, meaning he will be accountable for all Orioles baseball instruction on the island.

In 2010, the club expects to operate two Dominican Summer League teams as opposed to having one and sharing another with the Milwaukee Brewers. Also this year, the Orioles signed players from Guatemala, Colombia and Curacao, a first for the organization in each of those countries.

An attempt is being made. The payoff may not come for years - or maybe not at all.

"Ours was a slow and steady climb, and there are other teams that do it differently," Minnesota's Smith said. "But, really, you are one real good player away from having it be an instant success."

Global O's
The country of origin for the 36 international amateurs signed by the Orioles in 2009:

28 - Dominican Republic

3 - Venezuela

3 - Curacao

1 - Guatemala

1 - Colombia

Note: Does not include signing of Japanese pro players

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