Q&A: Former scout Johnson on discovering Pudge

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Sandy Johnson signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates out of high school in 1958, and he is quick to point out on that the following year, while playing for Class D San Angelo/Roswell, he tied for fifth on the team in home runs with Willie Stargell. They each hit seven home runs.

“He developed more power along the way,” Johnson said, laughing.

That’s OK. Johnson developed his own identity — as a scout. And during his days as a scouting director with the Padres and the Rangers, Johnson made an impact, particularly with his success in signing and developing players out of Latin America.

Among those players was Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, who the Rangers signed at the age of 17, and who was catching in the Majors on a daily basis at 19.

Rodriguez is in his first year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame, and there is a chance he could be among the players inducted into Cooperstown next summer.

The results of the 73rd BBWAA Hall of Fame election will be revealed Wednesday, Jan. 18 at 6 p.m. ET live on MLB Network, and simulcast live on MLB.com beginning at 5 p.m.

Johnson talked with MLB.com recently about finding and signing Rodriguez, which is featured in this week’s Q&A:

MLB.com: How did you come across Rodriguez?

Johnson: We were going down to the Latin countries. Melvin Nieves was the hot prospect in Puerto Rico, so we were going to work him out and then to go the Virgin Islands to see Midre Cummings, who was another hot item. Our Latin scout, Luis Rosa, had 11 or 13 guys at the workout in Puerto Rico. After awhile, I’m in the dugout, talking with Nieves, and [scout] Doug Gassaway comes running in from the outfield, yelling, ‘That little guy just threw 93 miles an hour to second base.’ He’s talking about Pudge. Why he was out there clocking catchers throwing to second base, I got no idea, but he was. That was Gasser. He was ahead of the game. I’m sure everybody is doing that now. They time everything. So we had Pudge hit and run the bases.

MLB.com: So …

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