Milwaukee Brewers Special Assistant to the General Manager/Director of Amateur Scouting Jack Zduriencik has been named 2007 Major League Executive of the Year by Baseball America.
"I was honored and flattered when Baseball America informed me of the award," said Zduriencik. "As appreciative as I am, this is a reflection of those that I work with and the hard efforts that they have put into their jobs. I consider this award a representation of the entire organization and from the bottom of my heart I would like to thank Baseball America for this award."
Zduriencik is the first non-general manager to be recognized as the recipient of this award, which was first presented in 1998 to current Brewers Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Melvin (then with Texas). Prior to recieving the Executive of the Year Award in Nashville, Jack spent some time in the House of Blogs.
One On One With Jack Z.
His name might be tough to spell, but it belongs at the top of the leaderboard when it comes to delivering Major League talent. Jack Zduriencik [Zur-EN-sik] begins his ninth year as the Crew’s Amateur Scouting Director. His blue collar Pennsylvania roots fostered a "produce results, deflect credit" mentality. But, the stats don’t lie and the spotlight continues to shine brighter. Weeks, Hardy, Fielder, Braun, Hart, Kendall (Jack’s 1992 pick in Pittsburgh), and Sheets. You need only look at the Brewers potential Opening Day lineup to keep score. No Draft Day boss in baseball can rival the results Jack Z. has produced in Milwaukee.
BRIAN ANDERSON: What is your "big picture" draft day philosophy?
JACK ZDURIENCIK: You have to remove yourself from addressing immediate needs at the Big League Level. Baseball is different than any other sport in that normally our guys are three to four years away from being a big league player. There’s a learning curve on what kind of impact they can have once they’re in the system. There’s a point in time when you draft for need but with those early picks you have to take the best player available simply because in a small market we don’t have the luxury to go out and sign those high priced players. If were going build up our team, we have to build it up with the kids in OUR system.
BA: What skills are you specifically looking for in a ballplayer in preparation for the draft?
JACK: Power. Power comes in many phases of the game. Power arms, power speed, power bats. Look at what JJ Hardy did this year at the shortstop position. We think Rickie Weeks will be a power guy. Ryan Braun IS. Prince IS. We have some kids in the Minor Leagues that can "fly!" Those are power legs. They are going to offer things to this organization in the years to come. We took Mark Rogers (2004) and Jeremy Jeffress (2006). These guys have power arms. We talk about it all the time. Power, in every aspect of the game, is a very desirable tool. If you have it, then other teams are going to desire what you have because it’s a tough element to find.
BA: How about tools outside baseball skills?
JACK: What makes a player special? His character, his drive, his desire, his confidence. You can sit there and talk about 30 players but it works like a pyramid, eventually you get to the point where there is that one who is sitting there and that your going to select. Now, you’re dealing with the human element so you’re not always successful but I think it’s important to find players who want to play and who want to play now. I think it’s important to have background on players. We like to watch them play other sports. We have really pushed our scouts to make sure they have answers about a guy when you’re putting the kind of dollars into these players like we are. In many cases, our scouts have hit the nail on the head. We’ve been fortunate with our kids. Our scouts have done a great job of recognizing what makes a major league player.
BA: What does it mean to a franchise to get good young players to the Big Leagues?
JACK: It does an enormous thing for your payroll. Homegrown talent is much less expensive so it offers the opportunity to make a big free agent signing if necessary. We’ve counted on our minor league system to deliver
big league players by need. Our margin for error is a lot less than the higher market clubs.
BA: Drafting Prince Fielder came with some criticism. Now, what impresses you most about his impact on the franchise?
JACK: I go back to draft day (2002), our area scout Tom McNamara stuck his neck out on the line for Prince. He went to his private workouts, got to know the family, got to know the kid inside and out and when there were questions, Tom never wavered. He said, "This guy is off the charts, he’s an old school type of player." I think Prince has brought that to our organization. To be 23 years old, to do what he’s done, to be respected by not only his teammates but especially his peers in the other dugout is pretty special. Prince is a very special player. The name is appropriate. Actually, we should change it to "King Fielder!"
BA: How about draft day 2005 that produced the Rookie of the Year, Ryan Braun?
JACK: The draft that year was loaded with quality third basemen. Washington took Ryan Zimmerman. We picked 5th. Quite honestly it got down to three guys for us, Ryan, Troy Tulowitski, and Cameron Maybin. When it was time to pick, Ryan made the most sense to us. We liked his work ethic. We liked the fact that was was ready to sign and start playing. We liked his confidence. I don’t think any of us expected him to put up these kind of numbers this fast but his impact in terms of solidifying the infield and the lineup has been phenomenal.
BA: What are your thoughts on the contributions of two other Rookies in 2007, Yovanni Gallardo and Carlos Villanueva?
JACK: You look at Yovanni Gallardo as a future one or two starter down the road. The confidence and poise he brings when he’s on the mound has been fantastic. Carlos handled a few roles for us in ’07 including some real nice starts at the end. And, these are young guys, 21, and 23 years old respectively. I look at these guys and the rest of our young talent and I say, "This could be fun…for several years to come!"
BA: Can you give us an update on your latest first rounder, Matt LaPorta?
JACK: We’re very happy with what Matt has done. He signed quickly and went out and played. We had to get him through a lingering quad pull but once he was healthy, he was terrific. He hit 12 homeruns in 30 games and adjusted very well to left field, which we are happy about. We rolled the dice a little bit (with Matt and LF). In our market, there are certain times you have to do that and as a result he had a long first three months on the job. He did well in the regular season and did well in the Fall League. He made some real good adjustments and we’ve seen some real positives. We think once he gets a chance to relax a little in the winter, then continue to work on his conditioning, he’ll come into Spring Training next year and open some eyes.
BA: Your name continues to surface as a possible General Manager candidate. Is that something you’d like to do?
JACK: Yes. I would certainly like the opportunity to run an organization someday. It is an interesting process. I interviewed for the job in Pittsburgh. Anyone in this game has goals and (GM) is something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve been fortunate in this game in that everything I’ve done I’ve enjoyed so I haven’t pursued jobs like others have. I’ve been a Farm Director, Scouting Director, Director of International Operations…and in doing all of these different things I’ve been content. But, there is a point in time where I’d like the opportunity to run an organization. That said, I’ve had a great mentor in Doug Melvin and I’m excited about what’s here. That’s the main focus.
BA: Can you tell us about the relationship between you and Doug Melvin?
JACK: Doug’s tremendous. His demeanor? I wish I could be as low key as he is. He’s been a good friend. He’s sharp and he has very good instincts. I think he’s one of the better General Manager’s in the game. I don’t think he gets enough credit for his abilities.
BA: What is the status of the organization, top to bottom, right now?
JACK: You always want to be better, we finished two games short. We were in it right to the end which is a positive. If you look at the age of these kids, our corps of talent, the possibilities are exciting. That said, we have to get better. Everyone in our league is going to be aggressive to improve their ballclub so although we’re headed in the right direction and we’re satisfied thus far, we’re not content by any means because we’re not where we want to be.
*photos courtesy of Scott Paulus
Here’s another "Jack" I’m fond of…CLICK Check him out in Brew Town in January.
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