Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Budding Star Builds Bond

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Budding Star Builds Bond

Article excerpt

Byline: Chase Goodbread

Des Hamilton enjoyed carrying on inside jokes with friends.

Scott Leffler was ours.

Hamilton, a longtime area high school baseball coach and pro scout, collapsed and died at 53 on Saturday after pitching batting practice for Florida Community College at Jacksonville. I wish I had the chance to mention Scott Leffler's name to him one more time, just to make Des crack one more smile.

It always worked.

Scott Leffler was a star catcher at Dunedin High, one of the state's elite baseball programs, and Des and I got to watch him play a few times. The last time I saw him was in 2003, when Dunedin came to Jacksonville for a game against Bishop Kenny that drew scouts like Des in droves.

Leffler hit with all sorts of power, had a throwing arm like a Howitzer and blocked wild pitches like he was flypaper. Even on a field full of future college players, he stood out, and Des was a part-time scout for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

"You need to call your hot line to the brass in Pittsburgh and tell the Pirates to draft that guy," I said. "He's going to be a star, and I'll let you take all the credit."

Now Des had once been a high-level scout with the Seattle Mariners, but he settled into grass-roots scouting with the Pirates. I knew he had no such hot line, and couldn't just pick up the phone and make the Pirates draft anyone.

His opinion was very much respected, it's just that there were a lot of three-piece suits between him and the general manager's office. Leffler didn't really catch Des' discerning eye, but he enjoyed kidding around with me about my first amateur scouting find.

Hamilton had a knack for turning up at most of the prep baseball games I covered for the T-U. He would be there with his radar gun to watch this kid or that kid for the Pirates, while I was merely trying to pick the best game in town that day. …

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