By STEVE KRAH
Dave Machemer’s eyes have seen a great deal of baseball.
A Benton Harbor (Mich.) High School graduate, Machemer played at Central Michigan University and was selected in the fourth round of the 1972 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the California Angels.
Used mostly as a second baseman, Machemer played in 29 MLB games — 10 with the 1978 Angels and 19 with the 1979 Detroit Tigers.
Machmer’s manager in California was Jim Fregosi. His only career home run came in his first big league at-bat — a lead-off shot against Minnesota Twins left-hander Geoff Zahn on June 21, 1978 at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, Minn. That was one week after Sparky Anderson took over as Detroit manager.
Over 11 minor league seasons and stints with the Angels, Tigers, Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins organizations, Machmer batted .277 with 1,078 hits in 1,126 games played. He spent short stints with the Jim Leyland-managed Evansville Triplets in 1979 and 1980.
Leyland went on to manage in the majors with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Florida Marlins, Colorado Rockies and then the Tigers.
Cal Ermer, who won more than 1,900 games in the minors, was Machemer’s manager in Toledo.
Machemer would win nearly 1,700 contests as the main man in the dugout from 1985 to 2013 and also was employed five years as a coordinator.
His managing career began in the Midwest League with the 1985 Beloit Brewers. He went on to manage clubs in Stockton, El Paso and Denver for the Brewers, Delmarva, Rochester, Frederick and Bowie for the Baltimore Orioles, Clinton and Harrisburg for the Montreal Expos and Norwich, Connecticut, Arizona, Augusta and Richmond for the San Francisco Giants.
He took the 1986 Stockton Ports to the California League title, skippered Mexicali to 1989 Mexican Pacific League title and the Caribbean World Series, earned Texas League Manager of the Year with the 1996 El Paso Diablos and guided the 2008 Arizona Giants to the rookie-level Arizona League championship.
Machamer managed a number of future big leaguers, including Gary Sheffield at High Class-A, Double-A and Triple-A, Brian Roberts at High-A and Double-A, Jayson Werth at Low-A and Double-A and B.J. Surhoff at Low-A.
“I loved managing the game and the strategy and competition that I had with other managers,” says Machemer. “I thought I did it well.
“Managing is all about development and winning. Nowadays, the focus is not on winning. It’s about player development.”
Bruce Manno, minor league director when Machemer was with that organization, was liked to win.
“He said, ‘Mac, winning and player development go hand-in-hand because when you win those players get developed,’” says Machemer. “I always believed in that.
“You always had more fun when you won and you developed a winning attitude and a good solid player at the next level to eventual help you win in the major leagues.
“If you don’t win, what’s the game all about?”
The baseball lifer is now in his fifth year as a scout for the Orioles — the first on the amateur side tracking the best high school and college players for the MLB Draft and the past two on the pro side for trades and acquisitions.
In 2017, he traveled from coast to coast and in Latin America and racked up 120 nights at the Marriott while seeing players from Low Class-A to the majors.
“It’s not all bad,” says Machemer. “I get a lot of frequent flyer miles.”
Most of that flying is out of South Bend International Airport.
Machemer, who turns 67 in May, spent a month in Arizona for spring training intently watching players — using those eyes.
“(The Orioles) do a lot of sabermetrics and analysis through computers,” says Machemer. “I don’t. I go with my eyes and my heart and my experience.
“(Executive vice president) Dan Duquette believes in that and we’re still doing it a lot that way and I like it.”
Machemer notes that MLB organizations let 60 scouts go at the end of 2017 that do what he does.
“They’re handing the ball off to a lot of people who sit in the office and go over the numbers and watch a lot of it on television,” says Machemer, who worked with Duquette with the Expos and again with the Brewers. “Dan hasn’t done that yet and I hope he doesn’t.”
When Machemer joined the Orioles scouting staff in 2014 and began taking marching orders from scouting director Gary Rajsich, he was made a national cross checker. He spent three years assessing mostly players who wound up being drafted in the first two rounds.
His role changed last year. He recently returned from spring training where he followed key players on five MLB teams, but was also responsible for everyone he saw on the field. Players might have been out of options or would help the O’s with their Triple-A depth.
Machemer, who got his first taste of scouting in 2007 when the Giants sent him on the road for three months with renowned advance scout Ted Uhlaender, was looking for things like athleticism, arm strength and bat speed and submitting reports.
Since teams do their pre-game work on back fields during the spring, Machemer had to rely on just what he saw in games.
“You have to be very, very astute to be able to evaluate a guy on a couple different plays or couple at-bats,” says Machemer. “It’s not an easy job. It’s hard.”
Machemer would watch teams for five or six games in a row and then move on to the next team.
“I’m hoping to see something in that five or six games that excites me a little bit,” says Machemer. “Maybe I don’t see that this guy’s skills play to the level he should?”
The player in question might be heavy or light on his feet, have a weak or strong arm, slow or quick bat.
“All I can tell them is what I see,” says Machemer. “I pull the trigger and that’s what we all do as scouts. You’ve got to pull the trigger.”
Scouts have to have the ability to project what they think a player is going to be and how they fit into the organization’s plans.
“Every player in this game as they come up is going to have a role,” says Machemer. “As a scout, I put a present role on them and a future role.
“That’s what this game is all about. Can he help us in the big leagues?”
That’s what Machemer’s bosses want to know.
Fernando Tatis Jr., who played for the Fort Wayne TinCaps at 18 in 2017, impressed Machemer in Cactus League play and sees him as a talent that could become an everyday big leaguer.
“When you see guys like a Tatis, you know he’s going to be something in the major leagues,” says Machemer. “It’s for you as a scout to determine what he’s going to be
Machemer was also projecting as a minor league manager.
“Those skilled players I knew were eventually going to start in the big leagues,” says of players like Sheffield, Roberts, Werth and Surhoff. “That was going to be their role.
“Not everyone coming up is going to be an everyday player in the major leagues. I had to zero in on what they needed to get better at and what their role was going to be.”
The player’s idea of their role and the team’s is not always the same.
Such was the case with Machemer as a player. He didn’t always see eye to eye with his managers, including Leyland, about his playing time and his role.
“As a I graduated into managing and player development, I understood it a little more,” says Machemer. “When I got into scouting, I really understood it.”
Machemer learned much for many people over the years. His baseball and football coach at Benton Harbor High was Al Ratcliff.
“He taught me so much about the game and about life,” says Machemer. “That man taught me to the believe in myself and to overcome adversity when the trenches got real deep.”
Ratcliff died March 7 at 93.
Machemer also looks back fondly on his time with his minor league majors Ermer, Jimy Williams, Deron Johnson, Doc Edwards and Joe Morgan. Williams (Toronto Blue Jays, Red Sox, Astros), Edwards (Cleveland Indians) and Morgan (Red Sox) all managed the majors. Johnson was an MLB hitting coach.
“Those guys gave me a piece of them,” says Machemer. “I learned a lot from each and every one of those guys. From them, I kind of developed my own style.
“I’ll never forget those guys. I pay tribute to them for my career. They molded me into who I am.”
While he was managing in the Midwest League, he was approached by South Bend coach Jim Reinebold and the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame took him back to the days that he led his South Bend Clay Colonials against Benton Harbor.
“‘Dave, you played the game as hard as any player I ever saw,’” says Machemer in repeating Reinebold’s comments. “That meant a lot to me. That guy’s a legend and those kind of people are hard to impress. They are cut from a different cloth.”
Does Machemer have his eyes on another managing job?
The only jobs that would pique his interest are managing at the Triple-A or the majors and coaching the bigs.
“I like what I’m doing right now,” says Machemer. “I have a good feel for scouting.”
Dave Machemer’s long baseball career as a player, manager, coordinator and scout includes two brief stops with the old Evansville Triplets in the Detroit Tigers organization. The Benton Harbor, Mich., resident is now a pro scout for the Baltimore Orioles.