Except for the streaking salt-and-pepper sideburns, and a few more gray hairs on top of his head, Scott Hunter still looks fit enough to chase down any fly ball in the right-center gap.
But the former career minor-league outfielder is now paid to not only evaluate the tools of the world’s up-and-coming talent, he is now in charge of selecting it for the Mariners’ organization as its director of amateur scouting.
Come Monday, the 41-year-old Pennsylvania native will be very busy directing his first Seattle draft.
“It’s almost like we’re approaching Christmas Eve for baseball people,” Hunter said.
It wasn’t that long ago when Hunter was in the other pair of shoes — the prospect’s.
A standout two-star athlete in football and baseball out of Northeast High School in Philadelphia, Hunter was selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers as a catcher in the fifth round of the 1993 major-league draft.
An old shoulder injury shifted Hunter to the outfield where he could put his cover-all-ground burst on display. He was tabbed a can’t-miss prospect that eventually would roam big-league stadiums.
That never materialized. Hunter bounced around five different organizations (Dodgers, New York Mets, Montreal Expos, Cleveland, Baltimore) for the next decade, never seeing the major leagues.
“Anything that could happen to a minor league player, it happened to me,” Hunter said. “I went from a top-10 prospect ... to a fourth minor-league city in six months.”
Two years after retiring in 2002, Hunter joined the Mets as an area scout, then a coach. His role eventually grew to Northeast regional scouting supervisor.
There was a need for an international crosschecker when the Mariners lured Hunter away in 2014, and he spent three seasons in Latin America, and helping out in the franchise’s new baseball academy in Boca Chica, Dominican Republic.
“It’s been very entertaining getting to look at baseball through a different lens, and having the comparison of the international world ... to the amateur world — college and high school,” Hunter said. “It’s given me an eye-opening experience, to say the least, to where all the players come from.”
Essentially, his stint in the “bare-bones scouting” world in Latin America completed the circle of his profession. General manager Jerry Dipoto thought so, too, because he hired Hunter to replace Tom McNamara as the Mariners’ new amateur draft leader this past September.
Since the organization started developing its top-100 prospect board in January, Hunter has been all over the country, taking a look at potential draft picks.
“Probably the last month or so, that is when things really started to kick in,” Hunter said. “The adrenaline flow, it keeps you going, because there have been some sleepless nights and long travel days.”
There have been areas Hunter has frequented on multiple occasions, enough where he’s “created status on every airline, and at hotels, when you walk in ... they call you by your first name.”
Where the Mariners pick in the first round Monday — 17th — Hunter said the organization will have narrowed its list to 15-25 players for both of its first-day picks.
Dipoto has long had a taste for big-time athletes — much like Hunter in his heyday — and the new scouting director fits in line with that way of thinking, too.
But Hunter said he is also looking for prospects who love baseball.
“Tools get you to the big leagues; make-up keeps you there,” Hunter said. “We want athletes. We want ‘tools.’ But we want baseball players.
“I just want to make sure the guys we are selecting not only have the upside to make an impact at the big leagues, but they also want to be part of something bigger than themselves.”