By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Newberg never hid his report. From the very beginning he sent it directly to Reid Nichols, then the head of the farm system, a position he now holds with the Milwaukee Brewers. At first, Nichols was spooked. It was his job to protect these players, and here was a guy who made the whole organization feel a little vulnerable. So a few months before the start of the 2000 season, John Lombardo, who was then Nichols' assistant, sent Newberg an e-mail that said Nichols wanted to meet at the Ballpark in Arlington, where some prospects were gathering for a sort of career development day. Newberg was giddy. At last, someone in the Rangers organization wants to meet me, he recalls thinking. Pinch me.
When he got to the ballpark he found Nichols alone, sitting in the second row behind third base. Some guys were on the field taking batting practice. Newberg was ecstatic. But he was greeted with the cool skepticism of a man who just couldn't believe the only motivation behind all this was a fan's good will. For the first 45 minutes, Nichols peppered Newberg with questions, wanting to know how he was getting his info. Newberg told him, repeatedly, it came from newspapers and prospect handbooks and box scores--all public stuff, man, seriously. Nichols finally figured out the guy was on the up-and-up.
"I found out he was a genuine fan and a bright, intelligent person," Nichols says now. "He serves a great function. We would talk on a pretty regular basis. You have to be careful with the media, and I never had to be careful with him because he had the players' best interest at heart. I am sure he has a lot of dirt on a lot of players." He laughs.
Perhaps one day Newberg will finally get what he wants--a shot at working for a big-league club. People who know such things say he's exceptionally gifted at crunching the numbers and evaluating the talent, and God knows he loves doing the research. So, yeah, just maybe he could get into baseball after all, if he's willing to take the pay cut. Or maybe he'll do his report for a little while longer, then decide he'd rather play with the kids and just watch baseball like the rest of us, with a hot dog and a beer rather than a notepad and scouting report.
"Jamey's never tried to make a name for himself," says Nichols, the skeptic who became the fan's biggest fan. "I wish we had somebody like him here with the Brewers. I actually think he would be a great assistant to a farm director or somebody in the front office who needed research on players. He'd have to spend time learning the system, but with what he does now, if he could do it full time, he'd be an asset to an organization."
"If he's ever ready to make that step," Nichols says, "I'd talk to him."
The dream is not dead yet.