Looking for a needle in a haystack…trying to locate a diamond in the rough – pick your cliché because they certainly fit what New York Boulders chief scout Kevin Tuve is constantly thriving to do.
Whether it is sitting through a showcase event in the cold and rain in Massachusetts on an October afternoon or reaching out to the many scouts, coaches, friends and associates that he has in his network, Tuve is always on the lookout for the next Stephen Cardullo, a former Boulder who made a grand entrance into the big leagues four years ago.
After three splendid seasons with the Boulders (2013-2015), Cardullo signed with the Colorado Rockies and was the first Boulders player to play in Major League Baseball. He made his big league debut on Aug. 26, 2016 and made an instant splash five days later in a doubleheader against the Los Angeles Dodgers by homering in the first game and belting a grand slam home run in the nightcap. Over parts of two seasons with the Rockies, Cardullo appeared in 42 games. He is one of nearly two dozen Boulders who signed with Major League organizations during Tuve’s time with the organization.
“Stephen was a guy who we weren’t sure if he would make the Boulders at first,” Tuve said. “But he went out and did everything opposite of what we thought we were getting – he worked his tail off and got better and better and became an All-Star with us, signed on to the next level and made it to the big leagues.” He added, “A guy like that (Cardullo) makes this job worth it.”
Cardullo’s are hard to find, but not impossible – and that is the task at hand for Tuve, who has been doing his job for a decade, first with the old Pittsford Colonials of the Can-Am League for two years before hooking on as an East Coast scout for the Seattle Mariners in 2012. That summer, he joined the Boulders.
“I have always loved baseball,” Tuve, 43, said. “When I was in high school at Pascack Hills (NJ), I didn’t play, but I basically did what I am doing now – charting pitches, scouting.”
Tuve, who grew up in Montvale just over the New Jersey border, attended St. Thomas Aquinas College in nearby Sparkill, NY, where he received an opportunity to help coach the women’s softball team.
“From 1996 to 2010, I basically shut down all of my baseball stuff,” Tuve, a high school History teacher, said. “I began teaching and coaching girls’ basketball at Immaculate Conception High School (Montclair, NJ), then, in 2006, I got out of coaching and began teaching in Lodi (NJ).”
His love of baseball, though, drew him back into the game in 2010 when he began scouting for the old Pittsfield Colonials of the Can-Am League. There is where he first met and worked with former Boulders’ manager Jamie Keefe. In 2012, after the Colonials folded up shop, Tuve became the East Coast independent baseball scout for the Seattle Mariners.
“The Seattle job was a lot more travel that I had ever planned on doing,” Tuve said. “I left that job in July of 2012, hooked up with the Boulders and Jamie (Keefe) and the rest is history.”
Since then, Tuve has played an integral part in assembling each Boulders’ team, including the 2014 Can-Am League champions.
One constant in independent ball is the need to continuously look to improve and upgrade a roster. To help with this, Tuve keeps an up-to-date data base with hundreds of players’ information to fall back on.
“In position players, we like to see how often a guy gets on base and see how many times he strikes out,” Tuve said. “If a guy hits the ball out of the park 25 times and drives in 75 to 80 runs, he can probably maintain that with us. But this level of baseball is a lot better than people think.”
He continued, “We have seen guys come to use from the New York-Penn League and they think they will do really well and they find out that the quality of our play is a lot better than they thought.”
Tuve added, “In a pitcher, always check out the guy’s walk rate. You can look at his strikeout numbers, but his walk rate can always scare you away. Also check out if the guy pitches to contact, how many outs does he get without striking guys out.”
The off-season is when the bulk of the roster is put together.
“You see who finished up their college careers and didn’t get drafted or signed, see who has been released from Major League rosters,” Tuve said. “You leave no stone unturned.”
He continued, “The hardest part of putting a team together is getting everyone to fit in under the salary structure.”
Each May, in an attempt to continue their quest to find players and to update their data base, the Boulders hold an open tryout at their home, Palisades Credit Union Park.
“We invite players from all over – Canada, Dominican Republic, they fly in from everywhere,” Tuve said. “You look at some of the guys and you know they don’t have a shot, but you let them run with it for a couple of days. You also get lucky and get a guy or two who has been overlooked and can play.”
Tuve also keeps a close watch to see who has been released by Major League clubs.
There are constant additions and subtractions to the data base – which plays an important role with attempting to better the product on the field throughout the summer. In addition, Tuve keeps a short list of players he believes may be a phone call away.
“I met Kevin (Tuve) for the first time last year,” Boulders’ second-year manager Kevin Baez said. “I had heard of him, but to see the work he puts in and does was just great. He does a great job with our open tryouts and getting us players – especially during the season when we are scuffling about. He does a great job finding guys – and that isn’t always easy.”
Baez continued, “I speak with Kevin (Tuve) at every home game. On the road, if it is close by, he comes to the game, does some scoring, charts pitches, he has his interns do some stuff for me and the team. Kevin (Tuve) is an important part of our organization – he is always there when we need to find someone. He is very important to what we are trying to do.”
It is hard, though, to find a difference maker during the season.
“It is hard during the season, though, because most of the guys that you felt could play and produce are signed and playing somewhere,” Tuve said. “A lot of times during the season, it comes down to word of mouth and recommendations from people – you know, I think I have a guy that can help you.”
During the season, Tuve also breaks down and scouts opponents – keeping a detailed analysis of each player.
Always on the lookout for the next Stephen Cardullo, Tuve loves the pressure that comes with trying to put a quality product on the field.
“It’s a good pressure to have,” he said. “I don’t think a job is worth it if there is no pressure. Sure, it’s tougher now with so many leagues and teams, but I still love it. I look at it as a labor of love.”
Debuting in 1993, the Frontier League is the largest and longest-running of the modern independent leagues and features teams stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River and from the Ohio River to the St. Lawrence Seaway. More information and the complete 2020 schedule can be found at www.frontierleague.com.
The Boulders open the 2020 season on Thursday, May 14, traveling to face the Sussex County Miners before hosting the Washington Wild Things to start a nine-game homestand at 7 p.m. on Friday, May 15. Season tickets and packages for the 2020 season are now available – for more information call 845-364-0009 or slide to NYBoulders.com