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Black recalls Draft day 30 years ago

Black recalls Draft day 30 years ago

SAN DIEGO -- Bob Harrison probably wasn't the first scout to become smitten with left-handed pitchers, though he certainly was proactive in finding and procuring southpaws in a time wasn't it nearly as chic as it is now.

"When the Mariners first started [1977], we had an opportunity to draft a lot of guys. And I guess I just had a feel for left-handed pitchers," Harrison said. "I took every left-hander that I could sign. I could take these guys low in the Draft."

Harrison's luck eventually ran out to some extent when, as he said, "other teams began to take these lefties a lot higher in the Draft," but not before Harrison would sign five lefties who went on to pitch in the Major Leagues -- Matt Young, Ed Vande Berg, Carlos Diaz, Mark Langston and current Padres manager Bud Black.

It was 30 years this week when Black was drafted by Harrison and the Seattle Mariners in the 17th round out of San Diego State University.

What did Harrison see in Black? Ironically, for someone who had a niche in finding left-handed pitchers, Harrison felt that if Black didn't make it as a pitcher he could end up a position player, likely a first baseman.

Black was 7-1 as a senior and struck out a then-school record 15 batters in a game that season.

"He was a good athlete, that's what I liked about him," Harrison said. "I thought that if he could not pitch, he could play first base because he could swing the bat a little. He swung the bat as well. He was a good athlete who competed. I put him on my Draft list, offered him a small bonus and off he went."

Talent aside, Harrison liked Black's makeup, his intangibles. That set Black apart from some of the other players Harrison signed. Harrison, who is 88 and is still scouting for Seattle, speaks fondly of Black.

"The big thing about a kid that you don't know is what's inside of him," Harrison said. "It is the thing that drives him to be good. That's how it was with Bud. You could take someone who might have been less talented but had that something inside of him that allows him to get the job done."

This was the third time Black was drafted. He was also picked after his senior season at Mark Morris High School in Washington and after playing at Lower Columbia College. Black felt much more prepared to start his professional career after his two seasons with San Diego State.

"At that time I was a senior a college. I had just finished my senior year at a four-year program. I was prepared as I was ever going to be," Black said. "Division I, major program, great coaching, coach [Jim] Dietz. Great summer program in Iowa the previous two summers.

"From a baseball side, fundamentally, I was ready. I think mentally, a senior and being around a lot of great players and coaches in my amateur days, prepared me for that step."

Black didn't stay in the Mariners organization very long. Black spent two seasons in the Mariners Minor League system before making his Major League debut with Seattle two seasons later.

He was traded to Kansas City before the 1982 season. Black went on to win 121 games over 15 Major Leagues seasons.

Harrison has been scouting since 1961 with several clubs, including two stops with the Mariners. He still lives in Long Beach and scouts California for the Mariners on a part-time basis.

Hanging on his wall at his home are autographed photos of the players he signed that have reached the Major Leagues, including one from Black.

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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