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Panama hat and radar gun, Mike Brito was fixture with Dodgers



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He was the white Panama hat. He was the radar gun. He was the cigar. He was the heartbeat behind house plate, fixed, regular, at all times standing, at all times scouting, at all times there.

For years, Mike Brito was a Dodger Stadium landmark, as distinctive as a Dodger Canine, as strong because the San Gabriel Mountains, as comforting as a ninth-inning breeze.

You could not have identified his title, however you couldn’t miss his presence, and a chunk of Dodgers historical past will likely be endlessly misplaced with out him.

Brito died Thursday at age 87 after a 44-year profession as a Dodger scout who indelibly modified the group by turning one uncomfortable night time into an everlasting legacy.

In 1978, the Dodgers despatched Brito to the Mexican city of Silao to take a look at a hot-hitting shortstop in a Mexican rookie league. The night time he arrived, it was Holy Week, and all of the native accommodations have been booked. However Brito wouldn’t be deterred. He slept on 4 chairs in a bus station, painfully awoke the following day, hitched a journey to the sphere, and dutifully took notes on the shortstop.

In the identical recreation, he additionally observed a 17-year-old pitcher who struck out 12 hitters. The child was superb but fully nameless. Brito excitedly reported his findings to basic supervisor Al Campanis, and a 12 months later the Dodgers signed that oddly dazzling younger lefty.

Identify of Fernando Valenzuela.

Brito’s involvement within the creation of Fernandomania didn’t finish there. As soon as Valenzuela joined the Dodgers group, his greatness was solid when he realized the screwball from fellow Dodger Bobby Castillo, a pitcher Brito had additionally signed amid uncommon circumstances.

Brito, a former minor league catcher who nonetheless performed in his spare time, was dealing with Castillo in a semi-pro recreation in East Los Angeles. Castillo struck out Brito on a depraved full-count screwball. Brito was offered. Castillo was signed. Valenzuela ultimately had his tutor. The Dodgers have been by no means the identical.

“Mike Brito’s potential to look past the apparent modified the course of the franchise and baseball historical past,” stated Mark Langill, Dodgers historian. “Whether or not it was discovering Bobby Castillo in a semi-pro recreation on Tuesday night time in Los Angeles or discovering Fernando Valenzuela within the Mexican League, he by no means adopted the group.”

Dodgers scout Mike Brito looks on as pitcher Fernando Valenzuela celebrates in the clubhouse.

Dodgers scout Mike Brito appears on as pitcher Fernando Valenzuela celebrates with teammates within the clubhouse after profitable the 1981 World Collection in opposition to the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium.

(Jayne Kamin-Oncea / Los Angeles Instances)

Brito, who was Cuban, was as soon as alerted to a prime younger Cuban participant who was enjoying in a junior match in Canada. Brito was so enamored with the child, he and then-Dodgers scouting director Logan White rushed to Mexico when he was being showcased and subsequently signed him.

Identify of Yasiel Puig.

“Brito beloved discovering the obscure individual and predicting stardom,” stated Langill. “He beloved his diamonds within the tough.”

He was additionally the beneficiary of some good luck. On that very same journey to Mexico to see Puig, Brito was trumpeting the talents of a younger catcher named Julian Leon. Whereas signing Leon, Brito and the Dodgers additionally signed a few different locals in a gaggle, one among whom was given a contract regardless of a problem together with his left eye.

Identify of Julio Urías.

Brito was a scout who spanned generations and fostered championships, his three World Collection rings crowding his hand with a shine as brilliant as his fixed smile.

“My coronary heart could be very heavy right now,” Valenzuela stated in a press release. “Mike was a terrific man and instrumental in my success as a baseball participant on and off the sphere.”

Dodgers scout Mike Brito steps up to throw a ceremonial first pitch.

Dodgers scout Mike Brito steps as much as throw a ceremonial first pitch in Recreation 1 of the Nationwide League Divisional Collection at Dodger Stadium in 2018.

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Instances)

Brito, who’s survived by his spouse Rosario and daughters Diana and Minerva, did his most compelling work away from the stadium, caring for his disabled son Miguel for greater than 20 years earlier than his demise.

By means of all of it, he’ll nonetheless be endlessly often called the person behind house plate within the white Panama hat. Not surprisingly, his presence there’s one other story in itself.

He started standing behind house plate in 1978 when Campanis requested him to chart the pitches of Bob Welch. He would write the speeds and kinds of every pitch on a chunk of paper after which ship the outcomes to staff officers. It was quaint, but it surely was efficient, and Campanis requested him to face behind the plate for each recreation when he was on the town.

He remained there for greater than 20 years, regardless that the Dodgers by no means paid him further for his efforts, and regardless that they may by no means even promise him a seat. Although his strategies ultimately grew to become outdated, he would regally stand for 3 hours with the slowly pointed radar gun and the lengthy stare whereas turning scouting into efficiency artwork. On the peak of his profession, he owned 25 Panama hats and 40 fits. He at all times wore the hat and deserted the swimsuit solely on sizzling Sunday afternoons.

Oh, and about that cigar. In his last years behind house plate he stopped smoking them as a result of field-level followers complained concerning the stench. He would, as a substitute, merely chew them.

The entire scene was so easy, so great, so Dodgers.

“He ultimately realized he was enjoying a task, and he performed it completely,” stated Langill. “Identify me one other scout you acknowledge. Identify me the second-most well-known scout in baseball. You’ll be able to’t.”

Even in the event you didn’t know Mike Brito, you knew Mike Brito, the writer of a grandiose Dodgers’ profession that right now deserves the elevating of an historic radar gun and the tip of a white Panama hat.