David Tapia is on a mission. He is looking for the next Ken Griffley Jr. He is prowling the borderlands searching for the second coming of Alex Rodriguez. He is camped on wooden bleachers in Tijuana conjuring the next Fernando Valenzuela.
Tapia watches baseball for a living, sifting through legions of young players for that rare pearl who might someday play in The Show. He would not do anything else.
Born in Tijuana, the Bonita Vista High School grad and Southwestern College alumnus has scouted for the Oakland Athletics and the Boston Red Sox, and is currently on assignment for another American League team.
His job is mainly to focus on Mexican players, but he is looking for players of all ethnicities.
Baseball, like soccer, is becoming a global phenomenon, he said.
“The World Baseball Classic was the best sporting event ever,” said Tapia.
Tapia began scouting for the Red Sox as a student at SWC from 1999 to 2001.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in communications in 2007 from Cal State San Marcos.
Communications and journalism are his loves, he said, but baseball comes first.
“Baseball wasn’t my first word but it might as well have been,” he said.
He has been talking baseball ever since.
He played ball in high school but had to quit for personal reasons. Scouting kept him in the sport he loves. Now, he said, he even prefers scouting to playing because he likes the “behind the scenes” aspects.
“The artist sees the crowd and the producer is the one who found the artist and stays behind the curtain,” said Tapia. Scouts, he reasoned, are the unsung heroes of baseball.
While scouting for the Red Sox, Tapia sent them two starting pitchers, Sun Woo Kim and Jorge Delarosa. In 2002, he sent SWC shortstop Salvador Castallenos to a Mexican League team in Ensenada.
His uncle, Miguel Angel Tapia, a legendary catcher for Yaquis de Ciudad Obregon, is in the Mexican League Hall of Fame. Cousin Miguel Angel Tapia Jr. was scouted by the Milwaukee Brewers, but threw out his shoulder and tore a rotator cuff while pitching for the University of Hawaii. He went on to become a lawyer.
“David always wanted to be a scout.” Said his childhood friend, Keith Dewalt, junior varsity head football coach at Bonita Vista High School. “He had a lot of tricks and he researched it really hard.”
Ken Griffley Jrs. do not come along often, Tapia acknowledged, but stars are out there and need to be found. Kevin Kouzmanoff is from Sunnyside and Adrian Gonzalez is from Bonita, so Tapia might be onto something here in the borderlands. Check back in a few years.