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BILL PLASCHKE

Scout's honor: It's Phil Pote

Pote might be one of a dying breed, but the man is beloved by many in baseball.

August 09, 2009|BILL PLASCHKE

"I came into this world without all that technology, I will leave without it," says Pote.

Also, unlike everyone in all areas of baseball, Pote doesn't work from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, as he observes his Sabbath as a Seventh Day Adventist.

"It is a tribute to baseball's tolerance that I've been allowed to hang around so long with such a restriction," Pote says. "I've been very blessed."

Hang around the old scout long enough and realize that it's baseball that has been blessed.

Listen to the story of how Crenshaw's Darryl Strawberry signed his first contract with the New York Mets only after Pote -- who didn't even work for the Mets -- assured him that he was being treated fairly.

Listen to the story of how Pote's Fremont team wore uniforms with giant numbers because he wanted them to walk into hostile suburban schools with oversized pride.

Listen to how Pote was the voice for local baseball fixture Dennis Gilbert's philanthropic mission to build a stadium at L.A. Southwest College. It is no coincidence that Gilbert also founded the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation, the leading benefactor of needy scouts everywhere.

Finally, listen to John Young, the founder of the first and most successful national inner-city baseball movement in history, the 20-year-old Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program.

"Phil Pote was my inspiration for that program," says Young, a former major leaguer from south Los Angeles. "I remember I signed my first contract and I bought a new car and I was cruising around when I ran into Phil."

Pote encouraged Young to give back to the community, Young listened, and the rest is a wondrous bit of baseball history.

"I saw the impact Phil was making, and I realized I could make the same impact, so I went for it," Young says. "None of it would have happened without Phil."

The old scout is still pushing his causes, pushing for scouts to be allowed in the Hall of Fame, pushing for someone to make his baseball movie, pushing for a national council of athletes designed to guide youngsters as he did.

"I don't have much time left," Pote says. "I'm just an old beat-up guy, but I'm hoping somebody will still listen."

On a bright Saturday afternoon at Griffith Park, there is hard evidence that somebody has.

Tacked to the backstop of a green gem of a baseball field is a square wooden sign

"Pote Field" it reads.

The diamond was dedicated to him about 15 years ago after city fathers realized the old scout would already be remembered forever.

"The kids come from everywhere to play here, they love this place," a security guard says.

You will end up like me.

--

One can only hope.

bill.plaschke@latimes.com

twitter.com/BillPlaschke

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