Johnny DiPuglia was given a quick introduction to life in the world of a scout.
“I was sent in to sign my first draft pick, Eli Marrero, the Cardinals third-round pick in 1993,” DiPuglia remembers. “I gave my presentation. I handed Cardinals’ hats to the whole family. And I made the initial offer.”
And then. . . .
“They were offended and threw me out of the house with the hats, too. Thank goodness for Freddie McAlister. He told me that he knew that was going to happen. For me, it as part of my scouting development.”
And for the record, make it known that DiPuglia eventually signed Marrero, one of many he has signed to their first professional contracts in the last 27 years.
He began his scouting career as a part-time scout for the Cardinals (1990-93) and it has spanned 30 years. His assignments have included stints as an area scouting for the Cardinals (1993-95), Latin America Scouting Director for the Cardinals (1996-97), Assistant International Scouting Director for the Giants (1998-99), Latin America Scouting Director for the Red Sox (1999-2009), Washington Nationals Vice President of International Scouting since 2009 with the addition of an assistant general assignment role in Washington in 2018.
He has signed an All-Star caliber list of players, including the likes of Rick Ankiel out of the amateur draft, and a legion of players in his efforts in Latin America.
Just as importantly. he has never forgotten those players, whether they made it to the big leagues or not. DiPuglia has always been there when they needed to reach out.
The reward for DiPuglia has been seeing the success of the young talent he projected to big-league possibility, and his commitment to helping those players along the way is underscored by that day Placio Polanco handed DiPuglia a gift-wrapped glove with one of the three Gold Gloves Polanco won.
He took pride in watching the 2012 Nationals Gulf League team go 52-9 in winning the league title, featuring a roster with six eventual Major League players from Latin America – right-handed pitchers Wander Suero, Jeffry Rodriquez and Phillip Valdez, catcher Wilson Ramos, infielder Wilmer Difo and center fielder Rafael Bautista.
“We rebuilt the franchise’s international department,” DiPuglia said. “I am proud to say that Latin program has helped the organization, which this fall is celebrating winning the first world championship in the franchise’s 51st season.”
It is in Latin America where DiPuglia has made his mark. He undertook the initial steps of the rebuild of the Cardinals (1996-1997) and Giants (1998-99) Latin America programs, was presented the Danny Monzon Scout of the Year Award in 2001 for his work with the Red Sox Latin program, was selected the Red Sox International Scout of the Year in 2007, and this year, the Scout of the Year Foundation honored him as baseball’s International Scout of the Year.
Born on May 10, 1963 in Queens, New York, DiPuglio grew up in Florida, graduating from Maimi’s American Senior High School in 1981. He earned an Associate in Arts at Miami Dade Junior College, where his playing career, as a right-handed pitcher, ended after one year.
His love for the game never diminished. After his graduation from junior college, he spent the summer of 1993 as an assistant coach for the St. Louis Cardinals Johnson City affiliate in the Appalachian League.
The next year, the scouting bug bit and DiPuglio was hooked.
With his involvement in Latin America, it has meant plenty of days and nights on the road, and has made him feel fortunate to have his wife Ivey, who raised the couple’s four children – Jessica, Summer, Kayla and Katie – while DiPuglio was looking for talent to create championship teams.