He’ll call the shots
Sawdaye poised to direct draft
Amiel Sawdaye graduated from Maryland in 1999 with a degree in decisions information systems and took a position with
When that economic bubble burst two years later, Sawdaye still had his job but decided to take his career in a vastly different direction.
“Baseball was always something I wanted to be involved in,’’ he said. “I made calls, sent résumés away, and got an interview with the Red Sox.’’
The timing was fortuitous. John Henry had just purchased the team, and the Red Sox became an organization that welcomed young, intelligent voices from divergent backgrounds. Sawdaye was hired as an intern in the baseball operations department.
The pay was low and the hours long. But Sawdaye forged a strong relationship with new general manager Theo Epstein and several veteran executives, including Bill Lajoie and David Chadd. He became a scouting assistant in 2004 and the assistant director of amateur scouting a year later.
Sawdaye helped create many of the systems the Sox use to manage the draft.
He had “a knack for getting things done quickly at a high level,’’ Epstein said. “He knew all the angles and wasn’t afraid to use them.’’
Now the former Internet project manager is about to direct his first draft for the Red Sox.
Sawdaye’s unlikely baseball journey led to his replacing Jason McLeod as amateur scouting director in January. When Jed Hoyer left the Red Sox to become general manager of the Padres, McLeod followed him. Sawdaye was the natural choice to move up.
It’s an important position. Eight of the 25 players on the current roster were obtained via the draft, including Daniel Bard, Clay Buchholz, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester, Dustin Pedroia, and Kevin Youkilis. For even high-payroll teams like the Sox, the draft is vital to success.
The Sox have four of the top 57 picks in the draft, which starts June 7 and runs three days. The first draft Sawdaye directs could be a significant one.
“It’s exciting and I’m glad we have those extra picks,’’ he said. “But we’ve done a good job of finding players in the later rounds over the years. We have a process we believe in. We’re not going to be right every time, but we try and follow that process.’’
The winter was a time of transition for the amateur scouting staff. Mike Rikard was promoted to national cross-checker. Area scout Dan Madsen became the West Coast cross-checker. The Sox also hired new area scouts for Southern California, Northern California, the Ohio Valley area, and the Northwest.
All now report to Sawdaye.
“It’s a collaborative effort,’’ he said. “There are a lot of opinions and some healthy debate. It’s my job to separate the good information from the bad. Ultimately, the scouting director has the responsibility for what happens and whether we’re successful.’’
Epstein, who has hit the road to see some prospects, said the transition has been smooth.
“It feels like we are in great shape heading into draft meetings,’’ he said. “Amiel and our cross-checker group have showed a lot of leadership, and the scouts have been working their tails off. We have a lot of information and just have to get in the room and put it all together.’’
Sawdaye estimates he has slept in his bed no more than 10 nights since March 1 as he traverses the country to personally watch the best players. His ambition was to see the top 80-100 players as many times as possible.
“I want to be as comfortable as I can be with those players,’’ he said. “I’d rather do that than see more players only one time. It’s hard to get a feel for a player based on one game.’’
That means weeks away from his girlfriend back in Boston, endless miles in rental cars, and late nights reading reports, communicating with his staff, and keeping Epstein updated.
“You have to have a real passion for baseball,’’ Sawdaye said. “I loved the game growing up and I still pinch myself that I’m working in it. I tell people you have to love baseball to do this job, not just like it.’’
Managing the flow of information and keeping the scouting staff well-organized is as important as being able to decide whether a 17-year-old kid can throw a breaking pitch for a strike.
McLeod said Sawdaye handles that aspect of the job well.
“He was always a strong administrator and took great pride in getting out and seeing players,’’ said McLeod. “We gradually increased his evaluative responsibilities every year and he has turned himself into a competent field scout.
“He will work tirelessly to make sure the Red Sox have as much information as possible on a player before making a decision. Having been there for many years, he has comfort in managing the staff and knows the strengths and weaknesses of the scouts.’’
Sawdaye, who turns 33 next week, has further ambitions in the game. But he describes himself as “not looking out the window’’ to what could come next.
“Maybe someday the travel will get to me,’’ he said. “But I love what I’m doing. For me, this is the kind of career I always wanted.’’