COLUMBIA — In the bottom half of the seventh inning at Taylor Stadium on Friday night, two Major League scouts sit with radar guns by their sides. One, wearing a winter hat and a winter coat, turns to his colleague.
“So how good is 'Game of Thrones?'” he asks, referring to the fantasy TV show on HBO.
It’s a bottom-of-the-inning topic of conversation, something frivolous to pass the time before Missouri pitcher Rob Zastryzny takes the mound again.
“I just crushed seasons 1 and 2 of 'Walking Dead,'” the man in the winter clothing tells his hoodie-wearing associate.
When Missouri takes the field, the dynamic shifts. Both men pick up their radar guns and one retrieves his notepad from a backpack, where he had stashed it during the bottom of the previous inning. The talking stops, as both men point their radar guns toward home plate. The player they are here to see is on the mound.
One row in front, two more men with radar guns and notepads stare with similar focus. There are probably “five or six or seven” scouts at the game one scout says. When asked if they all came to see Zastryzny, he said, “That’s probably a fair guess.”
Scouts are instructed by the teams they work for to refuse to provide their names, and on Friday only one scout openly shares his thoughts on Zastryzny. It’s hard to believe there’s much controversy based on the pitcher's outing. Zastryzny is on his way to a complete game, his first since April of last season, allowing only two first-inning runs and striking out 10 San Francisco hitters in Missouri’s 6-2 win.
The scout lists all the pluses he sees in the junior pitcher’s game: the strength of each pitch, a variety of pitches, an aggressive nature and a competitive streak.
Zastryzny knows the scouts are there, but claims it doesn’t affect him. Even though it’s his junior year, which in baseball means he will be eligible for the upcoming MLB draft, he has been pitching in front of scouts for years.
“They’ve seen me throw 200 innings,” Zastryzny said. “Not all of them, but there’s been scouts here watching Matt Stites, Eric Anderson, guys who come in and play us. If they base it on this year, then they base it on this year, but I feel like I’ve thrown in front of scouts.”
Two scouts stand up from their seats and head for the exit before they could see Zastryzny strike out the final San Francisco batter. They’ve seen all they need to see.
And Zastryzny has given the scouts all the thought he needs to give.
“It’s out of my mind,” Zastryzny said. “The draft is gonna take care of itself. If I go high, I go high. If I go low, I go low.”