By John Bauernfeind / Indianapolis Indians
Entering the 2010 MLB Draft, the Pittsburgh Pirates held the No. 2 overall pick to choose among a field with one consensus top player overall. The hottest prospect at the time – and arguably one of the most heralded prospects ever – was Bryce Harper, a 17-year-old who had graced the cover of Sports Illustrated under the moniker “Baseball’s Chosen One.”
Sitting ahead of the Pirates with the No. 1 overall pick was the Washington Nationals. The possibility that the Nats would pass on such a rare talent in Harper with their top pick was slim, but not impossible. So, to keep tabs on the phenom, Pittsburgh had one of its area scouts follow Harper throughout the draft.
That area scout was Larry Broadway. A new face joining an old artform, the first-year scout had just concluded his eighth and final season of professional baseball with a 69-game stint for the Indianapolis Indians.
Broadway’s first area he covered traced the Southwest region of the United States, from right along the border in El Paso, Texas, to up near the west coast in Reno, Nevada. And it was right in the middle of the two – in Las Vegas, Nevada – where he found himself watching not only the hometown Harper, but also a relatively unknown prep pitcher with a 6-foot-5, 200-pound frame with room to grow: Nick Kingham.
“There was stuff you could dream on,” Broadway said. “From an organizational, 30,000-foot level, we felt like it was time to try and stockpile some of these arms (like Kingham) and see if we can’t, by the law of averages, come out with a few aces.”
When Broadway began scouting Kingham, the 18-year-old hurler was pitching at Sierra Vista High School in Las Vegas. Touted as the No. 2 ranked recruit in the state of Nevada, Kingham received an offer from and later committed to playing for the University of Oregon.
Kingham, though, would never suit up for the Ducks, and the promising arm opted to enter the 2010 draft. He was selected 117th overall as the Pittsburgh Pirates’ fourth-round draft pick.
“On the day of the draft, I was out working with my dad…and I was helping him when I got the call,” Kingham said. “I had no idea who would draft me; all I knew was the Pirates were very interested in me throughout the drafting process…”
Since then, both the prospect and the scout overseeing his development have rocketed up the organizational ladder to their current level. Kingham, now 22 years old, has dominated since his promotion from Altoona: He finished his first month above the Double-A level having faced just 17 batters above the minimum 80, surrendered one earned run in 26 2/3 innings, fanned more batters (20) than his amount of hits allowed (15) and went an unbeaten 2-0 in four starts.
“I’m just trusting myself, really, more than anything,” Kingham said. “I’m believing in my pitches and really trusting that it is right pitch to throw. I have full conviction in it and just going right at the hitter and attacking them.”
For Broadway, the former Indians utility player has advanced from area scout in 2010, to Pittsburgh’s Area Scouting Supervisor of the four-corners area of the United Sates (AZ, CO, NM, UT) from 2010-11, to his current role as the Pirates Director of Minor League Operations, which he’s held since Sept. 16, 2011.
In his current role, Broadway oversees the day-to-day minor league operations, including Pittsburgh’s seven affiliates in the U.S. and the organization’s Academy in the Dominican Republic
Prior to the 2014 season, Broadway’s farm system was ranked No. 1 overall in “organizational talent rankings” by Baseball America, the Pirates’ first No. 1 ranking in the Baseball America Prospect Handbook publication history.
“(The success) starts with a vision from the general manager, and then it’s delivered by the scouting department and then our player development system,” Broadway said. “The vision is carried through with the daily work and efforts to deliver what we want. The commitment to that process at all levels, to hold true and commit to it, our guys have done a good job of that.”
The first time the two met, Kingham was introduced to a slight changing of the guard of the Pittsburgh Pirates front office and a new direction of Pirates baseball. The then-18-year-old, back at his home in Las Vegas, didn’t throw a pitch one-on-one for Broadway before receiving a proper introduction.
“[Broadway] took over scouting in my area, so he came to the house and introduced himself at the front door,” Kingham said of the interaction occurring long before their respective routes to the current season. “(My family and I) never really got anything other than he’s my scout, and then two years later he was promoted.”
Kingham followed suit as the former high-school prospect is now headlining a starting rotation for a minor league system that recently graduated the likes of Jeff Locke and Gerrit Cole. While following in those footsteps, Kingham has validated the Pirates’ vote of confidence by holding opponents without an earned run in four of his first six starts at the Triple-A level. He flirted with a perfecto in his most recent Indians start during the front end of a doubleheader on July 10, and concluded the win ranked first in the IL in WHIP (0.85), third in ERA (1.62) and fifth in average against (.197) since his debut.
And the person overseeing his development along the way? Kingham’s original scout from 2010, Larry Broadway.
The same one that, unbeknownst to Kingham at the time, discovered the soon-to-be prospect at a small, 60-player showcase in a Bat-R-Up warehouse in January of that year.
“It’s a little different relationship than everybody else (with the Farm Director beginning as his original scout),” Kingham said. “But at the same time it’s all business and professionalism.”
Odds & Ends
• Kingham currently looks toward former Pirates pitcher A.J. Burnett as a model for his game…“Just being a lot like (Burnett) and establishing fastball and trying to put the ball wherever I want,” Kingham noted.
• Growing up, Kingham’s father “absolutely” played a big role in his development and love for baseball….“He’s my biggest fan, next to my mom,” Kingham said…“He’s the biggest critic of me and we talk after every game. He’s still a huge influence on my game.”
• Regarding Harper – the prospect that helped Kingham and Broadway cross paths – Kingham said the two haven’t faced one another in “about a decade.”…Kingham said they last competed against each other when they were close to 11 or 12 years old…However, the two did play on a summer team together after Kingham’s freshman year of high school.
1. SI – http://kidstake.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/bryce-harper-sports-illustrated.jpg
2. Broadway – Pirates Media Guide
3. PNC Park – http://mlb.mlb.com/pit/images/ballpark/pncpark_480x200.jpg
4. Sprint Training – http://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/mysuncoast.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/a/63/a633b17a-94f8-11e3-9aba-001a4bcf6878/52fd3deb63338.preview-300.jpg
5. Kingham Indians pictures – Bill Gentry/Indianapolis Indians