Loyal King an unsung hero for Phillies
Pro scout's contributions to organization span 30-plus years
In the era of free agency, loyalty is often considered something hard to come by in Major League baseball. Many players and employees swap teams regularly for the highest paycheck, while very few remain devoted to the organization that gave them their first chance in the "bigs."
How, then, has professional scout Hank King maintained his allegiance to the Phillies for over 33 years?
"Because whatever I have now in my lifetime, everything that I have in my possession, I would never have gotten without the Phillies," explained King. "I never, ever want to work for any other team."
A graduate of Upper Merion High School, King has been employed by the Phillies since 1975. After spending six seasons pitching in the Orioles' system and one in the White Sox organization, the left-hander took a job as batting practice pitcher for the Phils for $15 a day.
While not the most lucrative position, he was able to earn the trust and respect of the coaching staff over time and began traveling with the team, mostly keeping defensive charts in the dugout during games.
Then, as luck would have it, King found himself in the right place at the right time. During the 1984 season, Hugh Alexander stepped down as the team's advance scout, and the Phillies turned to King to take the job. He gladly accepted, even after being warned of what the future had in store.
"A guy once told me that advance scouting is the worst job in baseball," King said. "But do you know what the worst job really is? Not having a job in baseball."
For the next 24 years, King would travel the country ahead of the team, preparing reports on future opponents, charting their strengths and weaknesses. He practically lived out of a suitcase for 150 to 175 nights a year, doing everything he could to give the Phillies an edge.
Meticulous and detail-oriented, he was the perfect man for the job.
"Hank is a consummate professional," said Mike Ondo, the Phillies' pro scouting coordinator. "You're not going to find someone who will work harder for you. And if anyone knows what big league talent looks like, it's Hank."
In October, King was one of five Phillies scouts who evaluated the Tampa Bay Rays during the postseason. Along with Jim Fregosi Jr., Charley Kerfeld, Gordon Lakey and former Rays general manager Chuck LaMar, the group provided valuable information for the Phillies en route to their second World Series championship.
"It was a great experience," King said. "We wrestled with each player and had our own opinions, but we never got mad or upset and we always came out with what was best. Nobody was on an ego trip. It was just a great group of guys who bonded well together."
As if a World Series championship wasn't enough, in January King received the prestigious George Genovese Lifetime Achievement Award in Scouting, given annually by the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation.
"I'm very gullible," King said. "I thought when I got the call that it was a prank."
Prior to the 2009 season, King, 65, left his role as an advance scout for a more manageable pro scouting position with the Phillies. While he loved his old job, his new position will allow him to stay closer to home and spend more time with his wife, Carol Ann.
When asked if retirement was in his future plans, King said, "I'd probably still want to do something part-time in scouting ... because without baseball, I'd be totally lost."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.