After ditching his own big league dreams, The Dodgers’ new recruiting ace, Billy Gasparino, decides the fate of the country’s most promising players.
“Putting the pieces of the puzzle and the variables together is my passion,” Billy Gasparino says as we walk the perimeter of the legendary Dodger Stadium. “I go home every day, always thinking about it. That part of it drives me.”
The fresh-faced Gasparino was hired this past November as the team’s new director of amateur scouting, and he’s hit the ground running. As part of a new regime under General Manager Farhan Zaidi, it is Gasparino’s role to handpick the next wave of talent that will wear iconic Dodger blue. In doing so, he is helping to usher in the latest era of the fabled major league franchise, post the infamous McCourt family ownership debacle. “From my perspective, with Farhan there’s more of a bigger picture, long-term thought process involved,” he says. “We’re not just trying to win this year, but for the next 10 years, in a somewhat responsible way.”
Passing the famed dugout before scaling the stands, Gasparino communicates with an easygoing air that belies the seriousness of his job. Think about this: Every June, all 30 teams in Major League Baseball draft their next crop of talent—for 40 rounds. Compare that to the NBA’s two, or even the NFL’s seven, and you can only begin to comprehend the massive pool of college players that Gasparino and his crew of area scouts have to comb through.
Currently he’s in the thick of the crunch, a relentless 16-hour-day, six-days-a-week work cycle that will see him accruing more frequent-flier miles than an air marshal. The schedule is brutal, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. After all, his road to Dodger Stadium wasn’t always assured.
Growing up playing ball in Tampa, Gasparino was recruited by Oklahoma State University, where he enjoyed a stellar career, batting around .350. He still holds the Big 12 conference record for career runs scored, a feat that helped earn him a place in OSU’s Baseball Hall of Fame. Drafted by the Colorado Rockies in 1999, Gasparino then spent a year trudging through the minor leagues before realizing, “Hey, I don’t want to live this lifestyle,” he recalls. “It’s too tough.”
Deciding to exercise his finance degree, Gasparino switched gears to broker stocks—a miserable experience that had the priceless consequence of rekindling his love for America’s pastime. “That’s when I realized: This is what I wanna do.” He sent out waves of resumes, finally locking down an internship at the Cleveland Indians. Stints as an area scout for the Toronto Blue Jays and San Diego Padres followed, culminating with his current position, which he secured alongside his GM, Zaidi.
Back at the decidedly less magnificent bleachers of Loyola Marymount University, Gasparino has invited me along to witness a sparsely attended LMU vs. San Diego State game, in which there are two players his scouts have identified as having pro-level potential. He’s here, quite simply, to sample the mustard—having arrived early to watch batting practice, during which he examined the prospects’ swings up close.
Like with many of life’s critical decisions, it is not always these players’ most obvious attributes that will decide if they have the right stuff. There are all sorts of variables that his scouting network must discern, judge and quantify—qualities known in the biz as tools, character and makeup. That’s who came to the company from Levi’s last May, admits he and his fellow designers are amused by the attention: “We weren’t chasing it, and that’s what’s so rewarding,” he says. “We don’t need to be on trend or in fashion, because we’re very committed to longevity. We just have to be OK with it.”
They’re far more excited by the fact that in January, Tommy Caldwell made the first free-climb ascent of the Dawn Wall (with Kevin Jorgeson) on Yosemite’s El Capitan, wearing their Spring 2015 Simul Alpine Pants for 19 days straight during the journey. It’s a fitting piece to spotlight, given that the collection emphasizes an internal supply chain focus dubbed “On the Sharp End,” which takes its name from a term referring to the act of lead climbing. “Our objective for spring was to make every piece [600-plus items] green, so we had to drop a couple that had stuff we didn’t believe in,” says Senior Designer John Rapp. And the significance of the initiative’s name? “When you’re climbing on the sharp end, if you fall you don’t have someone to catch you,” Rapp says. “You have a lot more to lose when you’re leading than when you’re following.”
By Nicolas Stecher.
Photographed by Aaron Smith.