Call it the Midas Touch, call it the Man with the Golden Eye, call it whatever you want; but whatever it is, Dodger scout Mike Brito has it – it’s as simple as that.
Mike Brito, who was born in Cuba, was once a catcher in the Washington Senators’ minor league system and made it as far as the Triple-A level until an injury ended his professional career. Brito remained in the game as a scout for the Mexican League until moving to Los Angeles in 1968.
While working as a Mexican League scout, Brito continued to play baseball on the weekends. During an adult baseball league game in East Los Angeles in 1977, a young high school pitcher named Bobby Castillo struck Brito out on a screwball with the bases loaded on a 3-2 count. So impressed was Brito that he contacted the Dodgers, who immediately signed Castillo on his recommendation. Brito had Castillo teach him how to throw that screwball pitch and he himself later taught it to a young left-hander from Mexico named Fernando Valenzuela; and the rest, as they say, is history.
Brito joined the Dodgers as a full-time scout in 1978 and spent most of his time covering the Mexican, Caribbean and Cuban leagues in search of young baseball talent, and he frequently struck gold. In fact, Brito is responsible for the signing of 27 players who reached the major leagues including former Dodgers Ismael Valdez, Karim Garcia, Antonio Osuna, Juan Castro, Dennys Reyes and, of course, Fernando.
In 2005, Brito received what he considers his greatest honor when he was inducted into the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame.
“When I was a kid, I dreamed of playing in the Major Leagues,” said Brito. “But when you love this game, you never get tired. I feel very lucky and honored to be selected for the Cuban Hall of Fame.”
Brito is perhaps best known by Dodgers fans for his Panama hat and was frequently seen on televised Dodgers games holding a radar gun behind home plate. He is arguably one of the most recognized figures within the international baseball community.
Shortly after the beginning of the 2012 Dodgers season, Brito learned of a 19-year-old Cuban outfielder who had just defected and was currently in Mexico seeking asylum in the United States. Brito viewed a video of this young ball player and noticed that he could hit for average, hit for power, had excellent speed, had an accurate cannon arm, and had exceptional fielding abilities. In other words, this young man was a five-tool player.
Brito quickly got in touch with Dodgers scouting director Logan White who, in turn, got in touch with player development director De Jon Watson, and on June 28, 2012, the Dodgers signed the young Cuban defector to a seven-year/$42 million contract. That player is, of course, Yasiel Puig, who is having perhaps the best spring training of any player in MLB history.
It appears that Mike Brito, the man who brought us Fernando Valenzuela, has once again struck gold.