Student hired by Rays as professional scout

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Posted: Monday, December 2, 2013 2:11 pm

Seven years ago, Jason Cole was attending St. John’s University in New York and writing a small sports blog with virtually no idea of what he wanted to do after college.

As of Nov. 22, Cole has been hired by the Tampa Bay Rays of Major League Baseball as a professional scout, a job that even the baseball junkie inside of him could never have dreamed of.

Cole recently visited Beth Eakman's Career Prep class here at St. Edward’s to discuss with students his ascension from a “crummy” blog to professional sports, and to tell them that writing can take you anywhere.

Studying sports management at St. John’s, Cole wrote a small baseball blog just as a means of keeping up with the sport. At the age of 19, his writing was nowhere near perfect. In fact, Cole frequently read sports articles in the newspaper as a way of teaching himself how to properly write.

However, he would correct his wording and formatting enough on his blog to get noticed by Fox Sports, where he caught his first major break.

“I really felt like I was writing for myself every day,” Cole said. “But I got lucky, the right person read it, and they offered me a contract.”

Cole, a native Austinite, accepted the contract from Fox Sports and immediately moved back home, transferring to St. Edward’s in the process. Studying English writing and rhetoric, he began perfecting his craft and learned how to dissect his writing. Cole’s writing improved each year, as he covered the Texas Rangers and their minor league affiliates for the next six summers.

It was this work for Fox Sports that helped Cole establish connections with baseball writers and scouts, which eventually led to his hiring last year by acclaimed online think tank Baseball Prospectus.

“I have handed out so many business cards over the years,” Cole said. “Not because I was looking for a job, but rather to get to know people. By the time Baseball Prospectus lost one of their main guys to the Houston Astros, I had networked with a lot of people there and they wanted to bring me in to cover my region.”

During his work for Baseball Prospectus, Cole watched multiple games a day during spring training and learned the art of scouting and assessing prospects. From analyzing player mechanics and attributes to even analyzing their bodies, Cole wrote reports about virtually everything.

“You spend a lot of time looking at young men’s’ bodies,” Cole said. “Like whether or not they have a high butt, which can affect how they run.”

Cole was required to be direct and specific with his writing. In the past, many former players acted as scouts, but could never articulate their reports very well. In the last decade, scouts like Cole have come to the forefront as writing and analytical skills are becoming increasingly valued by professional teams like the Rays.

Cole’s scouting skills may have just landed him an MLB gig, but with spring training not until Feb. 14, he has quite a bit of time on his hands for now.

“Right now I am sitting at home and playing a lot of Grand Theft Auto,” Cole said.

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