Change of focus for iconic Aussie scout
29 December 2017
A readily identifiable figure at baseball grounds over many years – especially at national championships and other events – long-serving Colorado Rockies Australian scout Phil Allen has accepted an exciting new position in player development starting from early 2018.
His twenty-three year tenure as a professional scout is just one facet of an outstanding career for Allen – a self-avowed baseball lifer who has been engaged at the highest Australian levels in the sport since starting as a club player over fifty years ago.
Re-energised by the opportunity presented to him as Australian representative, Phil Allen will join newly-established Nevada-based company Imaplayer – an organisation headed by a group of formidable baseball people dedicated to “serve players of any age with its professional approach to scouting and development.”
Melbourne-based Phil Allen enjoyed a stellar career in Victorian baseball – both as a winter and summer club player and as an elite representative. He was a former General Manager of Melbourne Monarchs during the first incarnation of the Australian Baseball League and he earned the distinction of representing Victoria as a winning Claxton Shield player, a winning Manager and then as a Coach who led Victoria to a championship in 2002.
“Although I only ever considered myself as a “good ordinary player,” I am especially pleased with the success I enjoyed with the Claxton Shield programme,” Phil Allen told Australian Baseball Alumni in a chat about his new role just recently. “My contribution was small and much kudos must go to those key team members who ultimately facilitated the successes we had – but I savoured it nonetheless!”
Phil Allen's start as an Australian scout for the Rockies was largely at his own instigation, as he contacted several MLB clubs during late 1993 to offer his services.
“Scouting seemed like a natural progression for me, but it was an undertaking I soon learned I knew far less about than I had thought,” he admitted.
“Colorado were looking to expand from the USA and Latin America at that stage. Their then Scouting Director Mr Pat Daugherty responded to my correspondence and sent out an experienced scout by the name of Herb Hippauf to survey the “lay of the land” in Australia,” he said. “Subsequently – in early February 1994 – I was offered a contract as scout for the Colorado Rockies.”
“Learning on the job is a staple component of scouting, and with the unqualified support of the club, I began a journey that lasted twenty-three years! Throughout all of that – and before – I have been extremely fortunate to have had the unconditional support of my beautiful wife Jan, without who none of this would have been possible, or worthwhile.”
Twenty-three years in any employment is a long time, creating an inevitably broad range of highlights, experiences, contacts, achievements and potential disappointments along the journey. While he is reluctant to single out any of his many highlights as a Rockies scout – including receipt of an NLCS ring in 2007 – Phil Allen has overwhelmingly fond recollections.
“Just having the opportunity to meet, and become friends with so many great baseball people both from Australia and overseas – all driven by a shared passion for baseball - will always be an enduring memory,” Allen said.
“I can honestly say that I have had few disappointments. When a kid from Ivanhoe Baseball Club in the 1960s gets to take the journey I have been so fortunate to have taken, there can be no regrets – and few lasting disappointments. All of the players that I have scouted, reported on, dreamed the dream for on some occasions and ultimately offered contracts to has been rewarding in itself.”
“To see the “kids” who you scouted at 16, 17 or 18 years of age grow and develop is very satisfying,” he continued. “Not too many who go through that process – as tough as it is at times – don’t emerge as better, more rounded adults. And of course seeing other clubs offer opportunities to players - and being able to follow their progress - is in many instances just as satisfying.”
A long-time participant in Australian baseball and a discerning observer of its progress – both at elite and grassroots level – Phil Allen is well-placed to make observations on the evolution of the sport, the status of the current Australian Baseball League relative to its earlier incarnation and the opportunities available to young players both at professional and college level.
“In regard to the current ABL, the old cliché that it was “better in our day” certainly does not ring true,” he said. “We had players during the nineties who could and would hold their own in any company – but the game awareness, the finesse, the tactical and analytical areas of the game are constantly developing. We see that now at all elite levels.”
“At the Monarchs we believed we were the best, and we went out every day to prove it. We weren’t consistently the best, but that was of little consequence to us! And in 1993 we lived the dream as ABL Claxton Shield Champions.”
“In this re-formed Australian Baseball League, just to have so many MLB players past, present and future competing is testament to the development of the game here,” he said. “We must not be impatient, in a world where everything needs to be achieved yesterday. We need to continue to grow and develop the game gradually. Granted that is sometimes frustrating for all of us, but we need to be patient. If we build it properly, they will indeed come!”
Over his lengthy career, Phil Allen is one among a group of long-serving scouts who are well-placed to reflect upon changing attitudes towards what may or may not be the better option for emerging young players seeking to become engaged in professional baseball or to take the alternative college route that at least will provide an education without individuals necessarily reaching the pinnacle of their chosen sport.
“Many things in life move in a cycle, in an ebb and a flow, and the opportunities for our players to experience baseball in United States are no different,” he said.
During his tenure with the Rockies, Phil Allen has observed at first-hand the evolving attitudes towards Australian baseball players and the place of scouting in the broader equation. He is confident that his role with Imaplayer will enable him to apply his skills in helping to provide a service that puts the interests and the well-being of the player above all else.
“Back when I started with Colorado, clubs were initially somewhat hesitant to offer large contracts to Australian players and may have been seen as wanting principally to get a toe in the water in a new market over here,” he said. “But as the talent coming out of Australia began to manifest itself in professional baseball in United States, clubs became more committed and more aggressive in pursuing players here. And as the scouts developed their capacity to understand the evaluation process and how it transferred to on-field performance, more and more players were identified.”
“Many of those who signed during the period from the mid-nineties onwards went on to significant MLB careers, whilst many other toiled manfully at the lower levels,” he explained. “More often than not they were representing themselves and Australia with distinction – along the way opening the eyes of club scouting departments.”
“However, I feel there is now a more educated realisation of just how difficult it is to succeed as a professional player. And we need to be realistic. After all, statistically approximately only six per cent of those signed to Minor League contracts become MLB players.”
“Currently we are experiencing a degree of reticence by some MLB clubs toward becoming involved with Australian players,” he said. “Not all clubs, mind you, with a few key organisations remaining quite active within Australia. But college has always been an option and it is fair to say that it is now being more widely considered as a viable, attractive alternative when pursuing an opportunity to play and train in United States – and developing as baseballers - whilst gaining valuable educational credits and pursuing career opportunities.”
Broadly experienced and wonderfully qualified in the area of player development after his time with Colorado Rockies, Phil Allen will take up his new appointment with Imaplayer early in 2018 – enthused about the changed requirements and challenges of his new role as the principal scout for Imaplayer in Australia.
Presenting itself as “The Ultimate in Player Development”, Imaplayer offers a range of mentoring services, video coaching and players’ advocacy as valuable adjuncts to the start-up membership and scouting service.
Company services – which will be delivered by experienced industry professionals - include scheduled calls, support for players or parents, career direction, academic support and college recruiting plans.
Company founder and CEO Bill Geivett has three decades of experience in professional baseball as a player and a scout, including front office time with several MLB organisations including California Angels, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Montreal Expos and Colorado Rockies more recently.
His supporting staff and Board members comprise highly-credentialed and experienced professionals including long-term playing professionals, outstanding college coaches and personnel with proven marketing and business acumen.
Phil Allen explained how the change of scouting employment from the Rockies to Imaplayer came about.
“Bill Geivett is an old friend and colleague,” he said. “Bill was until recently director of Major League operations with the Colorado Rockies following stints with several MLB clubs over a 28 year career in professional baseball. He had resigned from that position in late 2014 and has been busy establishing a College Recruiting program.”
“Just recently I emailed Bill to congratulate him on a book he had authored – ironically titled “Do You Want to Work in Baseball?”
“Bill responded to my email with general chit-chat and then asked if I would be interested in becoming involved in his new venture as an Australian connection, as a scout! Given that my contract with Colorado concludes on 31 December, 2017 I told Bill that I would relish an opportunity to represent his company, Imaplayer, as we had discussed.”
“I see it as an exciting new direction, and an opportunity that will allow me to continue my love affair with baseball whilst at the same time offering young Australians a service unparalleled in college recruiting anywhere in the world. That may seem like an egotistical assessment, but once this service is floated in its entirety it will become evident to all clear thinkers how beneficial it will be.”
“The position will allow me to focus – or to re-focus, I guess – on what attracted me to scouting in the first place,” he said.
Imaplayer will be launched across the United States in January 2018, with the service to be fully operational in Australia shortly thereafter, applying unique approaches and features that set it apart from the more traditional role of professional scouts attached to specific individual clubs. Primarily a baseball service at start-up, Imaplayer has projected an involvement in softball in the near future.
“There will be some fundamental differences between what I will be doing with Imaplayer and what I was doing before,” Phil Allen said.
“Typically, a scout will establish a “follow list” and a “pref list”, both of which are constantly being updated as new talent emerges and those who were followed move on, either signing professionally, entering into a college program or simply not panning out. Covering a tournament, a professional scout will be scouring the diamond looking for the next prospect whilst at the same time evaluating the players on his follow list, making mental notes and logging data - all the while formulating where his player will fit into his pref list. Will he be a player to report on? Have his tools, both mental and physical, made it tough to project as a professional player, let alone a big leaguer?”
“That is a huge call, Allen said. “What gives me the right to judge whether that player should have the right to enter into professional baseball? But that is the role of the scout.”
“On the flip side of that, my new role will focus entirely on players who have a desire and a commitment to enter into a college program,” he continued.
“Once enrolled into Imaplayer the player will be individually evaluated. The player will have the scout’s full attention during evaluation and will have a personalised development plan established. The player will also be entitled to both academic and baseball mentoring in preparation for entry into the college ranks - amongst many other services and products.”
Ultimately, through consultation between the scout, player mentor/online coach and the player and his family, an approach will be formulated to allow a realistic approach to a college placement. Additionally, the player will get to view their own evaluation and development plan, giving specific points to work on and develop. It will be made perfectly clear to any Australian player entering into this program that it comes with no entitlements or guarantees.
Any placements will be on merit, with hard work and dedication required as staples of the individual’s personal responsibility and preparation.
“Attractive from my perspective is that there will be no more clandestine meetings or exchanges between the player/player’s family and myself,” Phil Allen said. “No more trying to disguise who is on your radar and at the same time trying to evaluate who your competition might be, or dealing with every scout’s nemesis, the agent!”
“I am genuinely looking forward to being a part of this exciting new recruiting program, he said. “If it leads to players being offered opportunities to pursue their baseball dreams, whilst continuing their education – as I am confident it will - then I will be one happy old scout!”
Australian Baseball Alumni extends its appreciation to Phil Allen for his assistance in the preparation of this story. We wish him all the very best in his new venture and we will seek to provide more information on Imaplayer.us as it transitions to full operation early in 2018.
With Adam Bright and Shane Lindsay
At training camp in Dominican Republic
Phil Allen at the Rockies Academy