July 26, 2013 by Wayne McBrayer with contributions & photos by Rebecca Herman
On July 13, 2013, we drove to Lake Elsinore to watch BP and chat with some players as well as Storm Manager, Shawn Wooten, who had contacted us to say he would be happy to interview with us. Arriving at The Diamond at 3PM, we walked in and immediately ran into someone we weren’t expecting to see; the Director of Scouting for the Padres, Billy Gasparino. We recognized him as we had seen him at the Padres Draft Recap for season ticket holders and were very impressed with him.
Billy joined the San Diego Padres organization in the fall of 2010 as a national crosschecker and was promoted to his current role last September. Gasparino’s prior scouting experience includes interning with the Indians in 2003; SoCal area scout for Blue Jays in 2004-2006; and national crosschecker for the Blue Jays from 2007 until joining the Padres in 2010. As a player, Gasparino was an infielder that was selected by the Rockies in the 17th round of the 1999 First-Year Player Draft out of Oklahoma State University. He played one season for Single-A Portland with the Rockies organization.
Billy spent time on the field during BP – talking with coaches and evaluating the talent at Lake Elsinore.
Gasparino arrived at The Diamond with his son, Will, and two of his friends. The boys seemed excited to get to the batting cage and also to shag balls during the Storm’s BP. Once the Storm finished BP, the kids took their own BP session. It was great … Manager, Shawn Wooten pitched to them while Billy and a couple of the Storm players covered the infield.
As he concluded BP with the boys, we asked if he had time for an interview and he agreed.
Padres 360 – What is your earliest memory of baseball?
Billy Gasparino – I actually started late. I was a soccer player growing up so it was a little bit of an unusual path. I started when I was 9 or 10 years old. The biggest memory was how hard it was when I first started. It is really a hard game, especially at that age.
Padres 360 – What caused you to change over from soccer to baseball?
Billy Gasparino – You know it’s funny because in today’s world I see my son and everyone specialized really early. Back then it was kind of like you played every sport and it was fun. So I tried baseball and I grew up in Florida so it’s warm year round and I really liked it. My parents kind of saw a little bit of a future, I was a pretty good athlete and I picked up on it quick. They kind of saw a future in it and I kept playing and I liked it. It was kind of that simple back then there was no really ulterior motive.
Padres 360 – So you started playing at 9 or 10?
Billy Gasparino – Yes. I skipped t-ball I think it was farm back then. I skipped up to kid pitch and started fending for myself.
Padres 360 – Who are your all-time favorite major league players and what do you like about them?
Billy Gasparino – Growing up I was a huge New York Met fan. My family is from New York, kind of the Connecticut area, and my grandfather is actually like President of the New York Mets fan club. So he had big Mets ties so it influenced me at the time growing up, WWOR was the main station that was on and you could actually turn on and watch the game. It was during the Mets highlight year 1986 and 87. Some of my favorite players were Dwight Gooden. He’s from Tampa where I grew up. He was a phenom when I grew up so it made it even more special. I loved Howard Johnson and the way he played. Even Darryl Strawberry, the big left hand easy power. Lenny Dykstra, I mean they had so many guys you could like on that team. I just loved the whole team and I was obsessed by it.
Padres 360 – Up to this point in your career, what has been your proudest moment?
Billy Gasparino – Proudest moment would probably be in my senior year at Oklahoma State in our regional against Baylor University. We faced Jason Jennings, who went on to be a pretty good big league pitcher, and we beat them 2 out of 3 to go to the [College] World Series. I kind of had the clutch RBI in the last game to take the lead and it was a big moment just to make it to the World Series. All that 4 years of hard work, you reach your ultimate goal and get to Omaha was probably my proudest moment.
Padres 360 – As far as being a scouting director when you go into the draft what aspects are you looking for in players?
Billy Gasparino – I’ll kind of skip the obvious, the kind of tools part of it, and what they do on the field and go more to what we do. We ask a lot of questions on what we call the players make-up. So we like to look for players, ask coaches and teammates people that know them how competitive they are. How much do they love the game? Have they faced any adversity and how did they overcome it? What’s their work ethic like when no one is around? All of those type of questions.
Padres 360 – Character questions?
Billy Gasparino – It is character-type based questions. As you see here, these guys play a lot of games and spend a lot of time on the road, going through the bumps and adjustments along the way. If they don’t have aptitude or have the skill set to do that, then no matter how talented they are, they don’t make it very far. So we’re looking for more of the off field makeup character equation of it more than probably anything.
Padres 360 – As you have toured the many parks in the Padres organization, is there one you enjoy a little more than the others and find a little extra special?
Billy Gasparino – I haven’t been to all of them yet. It’s my first year and I’m still kind of touring our minor league clubs. I did come from Fort Wayne a couple of weeks ago and I really enjoyed that place. Great fans, the hotel is right behind right field and you walk right to it. They’re restaurants around. It was just a great atmosphere and a really good park. The fans are nice, and they get a big crowd. Not that this place (Lake Elsinore) is bad. This place has been solid for a long time but kind of the hotel makes it for me.
Padres 360 – Who are some current players in the organization that really stand out to you?
Billy Gasparino – I think we have a really good farm system up and down. Take here for examples, I think Austin Hedges is on track to be a really good major league player, his catching and throwing skills are really special. His bat had been a real nice surprise and it’s going to keep getting better and better. Jace Peterson, our SS here has been a really good player, a good all-around player. Likes to play the game, love the make-up. I think he can stay at short. Travis Jankowski is a really good center fielder with defense and base running ability. I think 3 or 4 of these guys right here are great examples of the kind of players we can produce and we’re proud to produce. I really don’t have favorites. All of these guys are great examples of what we look for.
Padres 360 – Is there another position in the organization that you aspire to move up to in the future? Would you like to move into the front office, do you like scouting?
Billy Gasparino – I’m not like that. I know a lot of guys who try to get into those goals. I really keep in simple. I like my job, I’m fortunate to do it. I just try to focus on what I am doing. I’ve only done it for one year now and I still have a lot of work to do.
Padres360 – If you weren’t involved in baseball, what would you be doing?
Billy Gasparino – Well, I know what I wouldn’t do. I was actually a stock broker for 2 years and I didn’t like it so I know what I wouldn’t be doing. I do have a finance degree and I like the business aspect, so maybe try to own a small business if I could where you’re still like managing people and have control of what you are doing, where it’s goal oriented and competitive. I could definitely see doing something like that. I don’t know, that’s part of the problem, I couldn’t find anything, so I came back to baseball and so I am happy to be here.
Padres 360 – And we’re happy you did. Thank you so much for your time.
Billy Gasparino – Thank you guys.
We truly enjoyed this opportunity to get to know Billy and appreciate what he sees in our farm system.
Wayne McBrayer, TheCasualFan
Rebecca Herman, TheBaseballPHD