NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Fred Ferreira should be selling real estate. One phone call changed that -- and baseball -- forever.
Ferreira and his wife were working toward taking the test to become licensed realtors when he received a phone call from Bob Fontaine of the Angels, offering him a full-time job.
"That changed my life," said Ferreira, one of four recipients of this year's Scout of the Year Award. "That's the direction I went. I spent two years with the Angels, then I went with the Yankees. Two months later, they needed some help in Latin America, asked if I would do it on a temporary basis. That temporary stay is 37 years [long]."
Winter Meetings Action
The Winter Meetings concluded Thursday in Nashville, Tenn.
Ferreira was honored as the International Scout of the year at a Wednesday reception, along with Buzz Bowers of the Red Sox (East Coast), Don Welke of the Rangers (Midwest) and the Cardinals' Marty Keough (West Coast). This quartet all have certain things in common: a passion for the game and decades of experience evaluating players.
"There's a pure area of the game when scouts find someone and watch them matriculate into Major League players," said Welke, who started his scouting career in 1965 and became a full-time scout for the Toronto Blue Jays in 1977. "There's a lot about agents, business and technology in the game today, but scouts are still the lifeblood of the game. I'm honored to be one of those to be selected to be honored, especially being selected by your peers."
"Don is fond of saying 'beisbol solamente' to describe how he lives his life," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "And it's true, he has dedicated himself to the game and been wildly successful identifying championship players. But he also has one of the biggest hearts and genuine personalities you'll come across. With the Rangers, he's been integral in acquiring [Josh] Hamilton, [Neftali] Feliz, [Elvis] Andrus, [Adrian] Beltre, [Jurickson] Profar, and dozens of others. Bigger than that, though, is the impact he's had in helping to put our staff and philosophies in place. He is a scout's scout and a wonderful human being."
Bowers has spent his life in baseball, first as a Minor League pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies, then as a scout. In the Northeast, he signed players like Carl Pavano and Lou Merloni and was an inductee into the inaugural class of the Professional Scouts Hall of Fame. He still goes to see players in the Cape Cod League every summer.
"Buzz's passion for scouting and love of the game is unparalleled," Red Sox scouting director Amiel Sawdaye said. "His 60-plus years in the game as a player, scout and mentor have helped shape many baseball dreams and careers. It is almost impossible to go to a game on the Cape without seeing Buzz's presence sitting behind home plate.
"His hard work throughout the year -- especially in the summer where he helps us identify college prospects -- has had a profound impact on our Drafts for the past 20 years as a Red Sox scout. We are lucky to have a person with his character and skills in our organization."
Keough has the most playing experience in the group. He spent parts of 11 seasons in the big leagues, playing for the Red Sox, Indians, Senators, Reds, Braves and Cubs. He amassed just under 1,800 at-bats and hit .242. His impact working for the Cardinals since he hung up the cleats may be greater than what he did on the field.
"Marty has been an integral part of our scouting department and organization for a long time," Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said. "The St Louis Cardinals organization is very proud that one of our own is being recognized as Scout of the Year."
It's possible that no scout has Ferreira beat in terms of players he's brought to Major League Baseball. A total of 61 players he's signed have gone on to the highest level. He had a tremendous run with the Yankees and Expos, uncovering players like Vlad Guerrero, Javy Vazquez, Jose Vidro and Bernie Williams.
"In my opinion, the two greatest events to ever happen in Major League Baseball history are: 1. Babe Ruth being sold from the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees. 2. Fred Ferreira signing two future Hall of Fame players for $4,500 -- Bernie Williams for $3,000 and Vladimir Guerrero for $1,500," said Pirates director of Latin American scouting Rene Gayo, who coordinates the committee that selects the International Scout of the Year. "With agents and the MLB Office in Latin America, we will never see that again."
Not that Ferreira or the others are showing any signs of slowing down. Ferreira reunited with Dan Duquette, his GM with the Expos, in Baltimore. Immediately, his impact has been felt. The Orioles needed some pitching depth heading into Spring Training and Ferreira remembered seeing a guy throw well in the Mexican Winter League. The Orioles gave that pitcher an invite to Spring Training, and by the end of the season, it could be argued that Miguel Gonzalez was the most consistent pitcher on the Orioles' staff.
"Fred is an all-time scout who made a career signing All-Star players all over the world," Duquette said. "We are grateful he is signing players for the Orioles as he approaches his goal of being responsible for signing 75 Major League ballplayers."
Ferreira said he set that goal a while ago and feels No. 62 might be coming soon in Cuban signee Henry Urrutia. Like all of the honored scouts, Ferreira is not showing any real signs of slowing down.
"I may even exceed it," Ferreira said of the benchmark. "I set it a while back, but I'm not that far away. I have confidence in the guys I signed this year. I think we have some good ones this year. Seventy-five is certainly not out of my reach. I feel just as good as I have in the past."
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com and writes a blog, B3. Follow @JonathanMayoB3 on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.