MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL
Red Sox rely on local eye
Hawaii-born Jason McLeod is the new director of amateur scouting for Boston
Jason McLeod returned to Hawaii last week to watch the first two games of the Hawaii-San Diego State baseball series.
It was his first trip here since being hired as the associate director of scouting by the Boston Red Sox three years ago. He is now the director of amateur scouting for the 2004 World Series champions.
McLeod was born in Hawaii, the youngest of Robert and Pua (Faivae) McLeod's three children, but lived here just a year and a half before the family moved to San Diego.
His mother went to Radford and was quite a softball player, according to McLeod. His father and twin brother Richard were born here but attended high school in Virginia. McLeod's parents met when they were in the Marine Corps stationed in California.
"My dad is Portuguese Hawaiian and my mother is Samoan," McLeod said. "When Theo (Epstein, Boston's general manager) hired me, he said I would be the first Samoan scouting director in the major leagues.
"I'm not sure if that is true, but I've never met or heard of another Polynesian in a (major league team's) front office.
"I know my mother's cousin, Eni Hunkin, American Samoa's representative in the U.S., has tried to play the fact up, tried to get me to come to Samoa and put on clinics, but I haven't made it yet."
McLeod has always had family connections here, and living in California made it easy for his family to make frequent trips to the 50th state.
Another family connection is Stan Harrington, who had a 14-year boxing career and beat Sugar Ray Robinson twice at the Honolulu International Center (now Blasidell Arena). Harrington is McLeod's grandmother's half brother.
"I actually had the good fortune of spending time with Stan when I was playing minor league ball in Florida," McLeod said. "I didn't know he was a boxer when I first met him, but I understand he had a pretty illustrious career."
Also, McLeod's grandmother's husband's uncle is Carl "King Carl" Hubbell, the New York Giants' left-hander who struck out five future Hall of Famers -- Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin -- in succession with his screwball in the 1934 All-Star Game.
"I guess you can say that sports runs in the family," he said.
McLeod attended Rancho Buena Vista High School in San Diego, where he played basketball and baseball and was a teammate of former major league player Dave Roberts. He went to Palomar Junior College, was drafted by the Houston Astros and pitched two years in their farm system.
His active playing days over, McLeod got an internship with the San Diego Padres.
"Kevin Towers (now the Padres general manager) was the scouting director. He let me hang around, file papers and help with the tryout camps," McLeod said.
"When he became general manager, I became an assistant in baseball operations, then coached three years in the minors before moving back to the front office as assistant director of scouting.
"Theo and I are very good friends and he asked me to come out and interview when he moved to Boston."
McLeod got the job, moved to the East Coast and is in his third year with the Red Sox
"It has been such an experience being in the Northeast after growing up on the West Coast. The passion those people have for their teams is unbelievable. Their teams are in the news 12 months of the year," said McLeod, who makes about four trips a year back to Southern California because of the quality of baseball there.
He was the Padres scout who selected Rainbow pitcher Steve Wright out of high school in the 26th round of the 2003 First-Year-Player draft.
The UH-SDSU opener was the first time McLeod had seen Wright since high school.
"I liked Steven as a two-way player," McLeod said. "He was a really good hitter."
McLeod listed some of the things he looks for when scouting a player.
"I like to see pitchers with size, to be able to project how many innings they will carry. I want to see how his arm works, the stuff coming out of his hands. That is more important than velocity and movement. Does he have command? Can he change speeds? I want to know what kind of competitor he is, does he want the ball in tough situations?" McLeod said.
"For position players, I look for athleticism. You search for the five-tool guy, but you don't find them often. I want a guy who wants to be up with the tying run on third and two outs. I want a guy who takes the extra base, who isn't a 'me' guy.
"You want players with ability and those players have to have the proper mental makeup."