LOS ANGELES (AP)Mike Brito, the top scout in Mexico for the Los Angeles Dodgers for nearly 45 years who discovered such talents as Fernando Valenzuela, current Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias and Yasiel Puig, died Thursday. He was 87.
The team announced his death to the crowd and held a moment of silence before hosting the Chicago Cubs. Photos of Brito and his discoveries were shown on the stadium’s videoboards. He died at a Los Angeles hospital. No cause of death was provided.
For years, the mustachioed Brito was instantly recognizable behind home plate dressed in a stylish suit and a Panama hat with a cigar clenched in his teeth holding a radar gun. More recently, he used a cane in concession to his age as he observed the current Dodgers from the press box.
Brito had a connection to the club’s most recent World Series championship, won after the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. In the deciding Game 6 against Tampa Bay, Victor Gonzalez was the winner and Urias earned the save. Both Mexican-born pitchers were signed by Brito, who remained part of the team’s scouting staff until his death.
”I learned a lot from him talking about players and just seeing the game,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. ”It doesn’t matter where on the map there was a baseball game, if there was a potential prospect, Mike was going to be there and put his eyes on him.”
Before gaining rare international notoriety for someone in the scouting profession, Brito played in the Washington Senators’ minor league system from 1955-61. He reached the Triple-A level and played professionally in Mexico from 1961-66.
Born in Cuba, Brito moved to Los Angeles in 1968. Through his work as a scout in the Mexican League he became associated with the Dodgers and then-general manager Al Campanis, who hired Brito full-time in 1978. The first played he signed was pitcher Bobby Castillo.
In 1979, Brito convinced Campanis to sign Valenzuela, who became the most successful Mexican-born pitcher in major league history. He was won rookie of the year and the NL Cy Young Award while leading the Dodgers to a World Series title in 1981.
”My heart is very heavy,” said Valenzuela, who works as a broadcaster for the team. ”Mike was a great man and instrumental in my success as a baseball player on and off the field. No one loved the Dodger organization more than Mike and we will all miss him very much.”
In all, Brito helped to sign over 30 players who went on to play in the big leagues, including pitchers Antonio Osuna, Dennys Reyes and Ismael Valdez, and infielder Juan Castro.
Brito was elected to the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005 and was named international scout of the year at Major League Baseball’s 2014 winter meetings. Last year, he received the Tony Gwynn Award from Baseball America for his contributions to the game.
”He lived a great life and he’s going to be missed,” Roberts said.
Brito played a scout in the 1991 movie ”Talent For The Game.”
He is survived by his wife, Rosario, and daughters Diana and Minerva.
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