The baseball journey for Lebanon County native Bob Engle started as a catcher for Cornwall High School, playing in the American Legion East-West All-Star Game, a tour of duty in the Army where he played for service teams, two All-Star seasons at Mesa Community College and another two years at the University of Colorado.
That ended his playing days, but in 1973 he started his off-the-field career with the Baltimore Orioles, one that he emphasized provided him with a great foundation for scouting that would continue for 46 years in different capacities.
“I went to Toronto in 1976 that was an expansion year and spent 24 years there,” Engle said. “That was a baseball utopia for people who were involved in scouting and player development. There was great ownership with LaBatt Brewing Company, with a strong front office and a long range plan for success.”
From there, Engle went to another great organization in Seattle as Vice President, Director of International Operations, where they placed more than 40 players at the Major League level out of that program.
“My next change was to the Los Angeles Dodgers,” said Engle. “That was great for me because as a kid, I was a Dodgers fan, and then finished up my last three years with Cincinnati as an International Cross checker until the end of the 2019 season which is when I got the call.
“There is no question it’s a business, but it was not my decision to retire,” continued Engle. “I got a five-minute phone call and that was the end of my career. A lot of good veteran people before me were furloughed out of the business in their 50s to early 60s needing to bridge the gap for a decent retirement. In my opinion their cases were handled poorly.”
Engle is an admitted military brat who has traveled all his life so it has been very difficult to put the brakes on because of COVID-19. He had been traveling in the beginning of the year, doing a clinic in El Salvador working with under privileged kids.
After that, he traveled to Nicaragua and was scheduled for some other places, but that’s when the travel shutdown started.
“Kids in our country generally are not playing the game but are attending specialized showcase events that have a structure allowing only certain players to participate,” said Engle. “During my career, I saw baseball played globally and Seattle was able to sign many future major league players from Latin America but also in the Netherlands, Italy, Korea, Nicaragua and the first player out of El Salvador.”
Engle hasn’t been involved in the domestic draft for several years, but indicated there are guys who tell him there are still quality players in this country, but not the depth or quantity there used to be.
“I’m not sure of the international side of the game and if prospects continue to be amateur free agents will be allowed to sign a contract with a club of their choosing or if there will eventually be a world draft,” said Engle. “All of that will depend on the new basic agreement between Major League Baseball and the Major League Players’ Association.”
During his four-plus decades in various positions, Engle received a Lifetime Achievement Award in Scouting and was involved in the scouting or signing of numerous players who made it to “The Show”, that included four Cy Young pitchers, three of them for Toronto – Roy Halladay, Pat Hentgen and Chris Carpenter – along with Felix Hernandex for Seattle. There were also two World Series championships during his lengthy stay in Toronto.
As to the way this baseball season was able to play the shortened season with the post-season games in a few locations Engle replied, ”Obviously the owners wanted to get some games played for the TV money and you can’t blame them for that so we’ll see how this all shakes out next year because it will be very interesting.
“I don’t care for putting a runner on second when a game is tied and would like to know who came up with it and why,” added Engle. “In the regular season, it ultimately in the end comes down to good pitching normally will neutralize even a strong lineup.”
Being ‘old school’, the now 74-year old Engle gave his opinion on how the game has changed over his lengthy, successful career saying, “Because of the ways they are shaping the game with so much information, numbers and strategy it takes away the beauty and essence of the game. When the manager isn’t making out the lineup that’s not appropriate and doesn’t mean I’m against analytics, I just feel you can be inundated with it.
“This is a game that happens in the matter of a fraction of seconds and really how much actual time is spent with the ball in play in an inning,” Engle continued. “Having the information is good, but the overkill is incredible.”
“Looking back, I’d have to say I’ve had a much longer career in what I did than I would’ve had as a player and certainly never would have envisioned all of this,” concluded Engle. “None of it would have been possible without the support and sacrifices my wife Barbara and daughters Melisa, Amy and Jen made while I was traveling and missing special family events that can never be replaced.”