In her new film, “Scouting for Diamonds,” Nashville filmmaker Molly Secours tells the emotional stories of scouts and their impact on the game of baseball.
But as the filmmaking overlaps post-season play, Secours acknowledged that a film about baseball was once out of her league. Throughout her filmmaking career, Secours has woven together stories about criminal justice, education and healthcare.
“Almost any friend who has known me for any amount of time cannot believe I am doing a film about baseball. The deal is, this film isn't just about baseball. Baseball is the backdrop, but it's much deeper and it's about the underdogs – the invisible heroes of baseball,” Secours said.
Dave Dombrowski, president of baseball operations for the Boston Red Sox, expressed similar romanticism about the game’s scouts.
“Scouts don't get a lot of publicity at all, and they're the backbone of the organization,” Dombrowski told Crain’s. “They're out there finding talented young players and recommending trades at the professional level. Their accuracy in evaluating talent and their recommendations really set up the success of the organization.”
Veteran scout Gary Hughes, who has worked in many capacities for at least 10 Major League Baseball teams, likened scouts to the sales team at a traditional business.
“My father was a salesman his whole life, and he taught me that nothing ever happens until someone sells something,” Hughes said.
Secours’ film celebrates the love story between scouts and baseball, although it originally was set to focus on George Digby, the scout who signed Hall of Famer Wade Boggs.
Secours said she was enamored with Digby’s story, but at age 96, he died before she could interview him.
After Digby’s death, Secours felt an event stronger push to do the film, and pursued Boggs to join the effort. The former Red Sox third-basemen agreed to an interview and teamed up as a co-producer.
That was just the beginning as Secours has now completed 110 interviews over two-plus years.
“We've interviewed a significant amount of Hall of Fame players, and it sort of just gives you a brief overlay of (the scouts’) process and what they go through trying to find that one-in-a-million kid,” Boggs told Crain’s.
While the ballplayers enshrined in Cooperstown, New York, have always dominated the headlines, Secours lit up with pride and energy in telling the behind-the-scenes stories of Digby and his peers. She hopes the film will plant a seed in baseball circles, to get scouts a place of their own in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
Tim Corbin, head coach of the Vanderbilt Commodores baseball team, said he hopes Secours’ film wins scouts some well-earned recognition.
“The names that we see in the Hall of Fame may not be sitting there if it wasn't for a gentleman that was doing his job. Those players would have been missed if it weren't for the industriousness of a scout,” Corbin said.
According to Secours and many of the coaches, players and talent evaluators interviewed in “Scouting for Diamonds,” the under-appreciated craft has been further pushed aside as teams have moved toward more statistical methods of finding that diamond in the rough.
“I think that the game is going through a cycle where we have found different ways to quantify things, but I don't believe the (scouting) profession is facing extinction,” Pittsburgh Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle said in an interview with Crain’s. “Unfortunately, there are a generation of scouts who have been challenged as generational turnover happens.”
Secours said the project, packed with numerous big-name interviews across the wide world of baseball, will cost about $1.2 million to produce. The film’s website encourages donations to cover the independent project’s remaining $800,000 funding gap. Secours said she’s also deep in negotiations with potential distributors.
“Like every filmmaker walking the planet, of course, we'd love to be an Academy contender,” she said.
Several baseball lifers have already come to the defense of the film and the profession by joining the “Scouting for Diamonds” team. The legendary lineup includes Boggs, Willie Mays, George Brett, Tommy LaSorda and Dusty Baker.
“I think Molly (Secours) has done her research and I don't think there's anyone else out there who can tell the story the way she is,” said Chris Carminucci, a special assignment scout for the Arizona Diamondbacks. “She's one of us; she's embedded herself in our world.”
Bill Murray joined when approached by scout Gary Hughes, who showed the actor the film’s trailer. Murray was sold and agreed to co-produce and narrate the film.
“Bill Murray didn't come on board because of me. He came on board because he loves baseball and he has a great respect for scouting,” Secours said.
With funding and distributorship still a wild card, the film has an anticipated release date in 2017. A portion of the film’s proceeds will benefit the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation, while another chunk will be funneled into Roberta Mazur’s Scout of the Year program.
Secours, who moved to Nashville in 1994 and sang the praises of Music City’s growing filmmaking scene, said the project has motivated her to pursue two more sports-related films.
“I'm a stage four cancer survivor and my life changed. I don't do anything that's not fun anymore. I don't make film just to make film,” the founder of Lasting Legacies Video said.